The Long Victory
I must confess, I didn’t always enjoy reading. In fact, I’m the type of person who gets aggravated when others declare, “That movie was good, but it was nothing like the book!” Personally, I enjoy the visual experience of a film over that of reading a book. However, in the last few years, reading and studying have become my favorite pastime. Perhaps it’s what I’m reading, or rather, who I’m reading and studying about.
Believe it or not, the last “secular” books I read for mere pleasure’s sake were Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The tale that Tolkien tells is so visceral and emotional that it’s impossible not be swept up entirely into the world of Middle-Earth.
But there’s an intriguing line in The Fellowship of the Ring, in which the elf-queen Galadriel speaks of her Lord Celeborn: “I have dwelt with him years uncounted… and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat (Tolkien, 348).”
Allow me to explain this passage briefly.
In Tolkien’s mythology, ever since the great ring was found by Bilbo, the malicious Lord Sauron has been moving and stirring, knowing that if he were ever to be reunited with the One Ring, it would mean certain annihilation of all who oppose him. Now, with this ring re-surfacing and the quest to destroy it standing “upon the edge of a knife,” the heroes know that hope is thin and defeat imminent, one even admitting, “There never was much hope… Just a fool’s hope (Tolkien, The Return of the King, 83).”
Sometimes, that’s precisely how we view our Christianity.
We know, or maybe you’ve come to know, that the Christian life is one of struggle, often great struggle. One of the reasons for this is that in our pursuit of God, a darkness remains inside us that desires only to bring us down. The spiritual life of the Christian is one of conflict: it’s a battle in your soul between what your old nature wants and what your new nature wants. The “work” and “effort,” then, is to consistently and constantly yield ourselves to those new desires (Col. 3:1-4, 12-17) and strangle the former ones (Col. 3:5-11).
This struggle weighs us down; it is an internal war that often demoralizes us into thinking that what we’re doing is worthless, and that we’re just engaged in “the long defeat.” I know that, for me, whenever Satan gets the victory and I stumble, the thought races through my head: “Why am I doing this? This struggle is stupid; I’ll never be able to defeat Satan! I’m just going to give up.”
Sometimes, in the midst of our own sanctification, we can get caught in a routine of “two steps forward, one step back,” or maybe even “one step forward, two steps back,” where it seems as though our old self is getting the better of us. But these thoughts are false and deadly to the life of a believer. They don’t come from Jesus, but from the devil, who seeks only to destroy us, and make us worthless vessels for the gospel.
Remember, we can say about the future, as if looking back at history, that Jesus wins; and therefore we, His rescued sons and daughters, are merely waiting for the consummation of that victory.
Christian, don’t give up hope, for it rests in Christ, your Savior, Redeemer, and Rescuer – He who has already delivered you and assured you of final victory. We’re not engaged in “the long defeat,” but the long victory. Death has no dominion and Satan has no power; he is but a declawed and defanged lion with nothing left to impose upon God’s people but lies and regrets.
Believer, let your hope, confidence, and joy rest in this: Jesus has established and secured your victory, once for all (Heb. 10:9-10; Rom. 6:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:18)! We must embrace this glorious fight, not out of any strength or fortitude of our own, but solely from the knowledge that life in and under the gospel of Jesus’ grace enables and empowers us to be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
This is the idea that Paul was urging upon the Corinthians when he wrote: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
Don’t stop short in the race (Heb. 12:2); don’t relent in the battle—be steadfast, knowing that your life of faith stands upon a Firm Foundation, a Solid Rock, a risen Savior!
“Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, therefore what we do is not done for a dead Christ. We are not fighting for a dead man’s cause; we are not contending for an effete dynasty, or a name to conjure by, but we have a living captain, a reigning king, one who is able both to occupy the throne and to lead on our hosts to battle. Oh, by the Christ in glory, I beseech you, brethren, be ye stedfast!” (Spurgeon).
Dear readers, remember the gospel, remember the cross, that place of glorious triumph where Jesus utterly canceled your debt and thoroughly defeated every one of His foes (Col. 3:14-15). You’re not fighting “the long defeat,” but a long and glorious victory, whereby God’s magnificence, grace, love, and power get all the glory.
Embrace the struggle; engage in the conflict; and live for Jesus. “All for Jesus, always for Jesus, everywhere for Jesus” (1).
(1) Taken from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “Motives for Steadfastness”: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1111.htm