A Whimsical Dictionary: V is for Victory

A Whimsical Dictionary: V is for Victory

A Whimsical Dictionary of Surprising Influences.

V is for Victory –

One of my favorite gospel songs goes like this: “Victory is mine; Victory is mine; Victory today is mine; I told ol’ Satan, get thee behind; Victory today is mine.” That’s right, spiritual victory is assured, mission accomplished. As Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 15:54,57: “Death has been swallowed up in victory… Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But we live in an already-not yet world. Spiritual victory is assured, yet in another sense victory is promised to come. We have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. All is in scripture. Victory is in the past sense, and the future sense.

We can also experience victory in the present tense. We can experience some victories, for examples,

over worldly temptations: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4);

over difficult troubles: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37)

over Satanic powers: “Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.” (Ps. 44:5); “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” (Ps. 60:12)

over ignorance of the Truth: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphant procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

But we’re still in the middle of already and not yet, and the so-called victorious Christian life gets a little complicated. Through our faith, we believe that Christ has secured spiritual victory. But life is still hard, still has its ups and downs. There is such a thing as good victory and bad victory, good success and bad success. An athlete who wins and is humbled and thankful has experienced good success. If the athletic winner only became more self-absorbed and entitled, that is bad success. If a politician outvotes her opponent and fulfills her campaign promises for the common good, that is good success. If she starts taking bribes or forgetting the people who voted for her, she has had bad success.

Spiritual life can be an interesting parallel to that. If wonderful answers to prayer have puffed up your ego and you think you deserve it, that’s bad success. If the answers to prayer have bonded you further to God and His mercy, good success. If your dramatic defeat of a nasty habit increases your sense of self-importance, bad victory. If it has been liberating and has increased your union with God, good victory.

The converse is also true in life’s roller-coaster ride. If losing your job has actually deepened your dependence on God, that’s a good setback. If you become embittered and wallow in self-pity, that’s a bad setback. If you fail a test and it only motivates you to work harder and become a better student, that’s a good failure. If you merely give up and stop studying altogether, bad failure.

During these in-between times, look beneath the surface of daily life experiences. Appearances can be deceiving. But there’s no doubt about our victory assured in the past, and our promised victory in the future. At the end of St. Paul’s life, and among his last recorded words, we hear him say victoriously: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). We can all get a taste of that victory as we approach the finish line.