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When Christ promises us an abundant life (Jn.10:10) some people look for a trouble-free life or a healthy and prosperous life. But He has also warned us as that long as we are in this world there would be trouble (Jn.16:33). It will only be in eternity that we will be free from pain, sorrow and sin. Here on earth we will keep facing different types of struggles including persecution sometimes (2Tim.3:12).
Under the old covenant, victory was mostly external – victory over enemies, evil people, lack, debt, barrenness, etc. But that is not what is promised under the new covenant (Mk.10:29,30). “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance” (Rom.5:3). “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer” (Rom.12:12). “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev.1:9). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Jas.1:2,3). “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (1Pet.1:6). “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1Pet.4:14). What was promised under the old covenant was a land flowing with milk and honey where they could enjoy a materially abundant life. Under the new covenant we are promised the nature of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The external forms of victory that people were promised under the old covenant were earth-based, and therefore not eternal. But if we partake of the divine nature, that will be our asset through eternity. It is through temptations that we make a choice between God’s nature and our sinful nature and to partake of His nature or to continue with our old nature. So the greatest victory under the new covenant is victory over sin in temptations.
When we are tempted, what is essentially being tested is our faith. Our faith involves our trust in God and what He says, and that really decides our priorities in life. Our faith is what helps us to continue to trust in God and His word when external circumstances put pressure on us to do something sinful, ungodly or against God’s revealed will.
What we see from the example of Job is how he was tempted to leave God in the face of all the calamities which he faced for which he did not have a theological explanation. He was confused and said things in his agony but he continued to trust in God. That was his victory. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tempted to disobey God and bow down to an image. Their victory was that they chose to obey God even if it meant death. These are giant examples of the temptations we too face every day. Our situations may not be as bad as Job’s or as threatening as that of three men. But we too are tempted to disobey God in order to gain some temporary pleasure or advantage for ourselves.
Some Christians think of victory as conquering different lusts in their flesh after which they expect not to be troubled by those lusts any more. This is like conquering different cities in Canaan by driving out the Canaanites and occupying the land, after which they could enjoy peace there. But this analogy cannot be pushed beyond a point when it comes to our practical life. It is true that when we get victory over sins that have held us like slaves in the past, those lusts lose their power over us. Then we have rest in those areas. God’s plan is that we should experience victory in increasingly more aspects of our life just like conquering more and more areas of Canaan. But what happens in actual life is that some of the Canaanites escape from getting destroyed by hiding in secret places. It happened with the people of Israel that in reality they did not manage to drive out all the Canaanites from the region (Josh.17:13). In our terms what we observe is that we do not get to see every lust that is in the flesh at once when we seek to conquer them. As we get to see some of them and get victory over them we become aware of some more lusts which we were not aware of before! And so this process of sanctification goes on and on.
Let us say we want victory over our temper. When we start the battle in this area we may be people who get very violent and hurt others physically. Then God helps us to stop doing that, and for us it is a major victory. But then we notice that even though we have stopped physical violence our words still uncontrolled and full of anger, and we renew our battle. Our words are coming more under control, but we notice that sometimes even when we are not saying anything we are still fuming inside. This way of getting deeper and deeper to the roots goes on. When can we say we have victory over anger?
Also, after we have victory, if we become proud God can withdraw His grace over us and we can fall again (Jas.4:6). If we become careless and stop watching and praying, we may slip back into slavery again (Matt.26:41). If we become careless we may go back to shouting and even violence! Therefore God warns us not to take for granted that we have victory lest we fail again (1Cor.10:12). Victory is the birth right of every Christian even though it looks as if many have not even heard that it is possible. Sin need not have any power over us because God’s grace is enough to help us to overcome (Rom.5:14). It is not that because we have come into the grace of God sin will automatically disappear from our lives. This is not automatic in our experience but God’s grace can help us to conquer temptations (Tit.2:11,12).
Finally, even if we fall into sin after we have received victory it is not the end of the world for us. We can get back to the battle without giving up.
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