Victory in Christ. It’s what many Christians want. It’s what we’ve been promised by Christ himself. But a number of questions come to my mind, questions like: “Why don’t we see more victory in Christ?” or “Why don’t I have more victory in Christ myself?” Theologian J. P. Moreland made a very disturbing statement: “It is possible for 95 percent of Christians in any generation to have their conceptualization of what Christianity is be fundamentally flawed.”? For example, if we had been alive during the Crusades, most “good Christians” would have been certain that they could earn admission to heaven by going to fight in the Holy Land. All this to say, it is sometimes difficult to separate what God has told us is true from what we simply assume is true because everyone around us says or believes it is.
At one time, I assumed that “victory in Christ”—or living a victorious Christian life in the middle of our sinful, messed-up world—meant having victory in my own life, as I chose to define it. Because of my culture, I thought that having victory in Christ meant that I had to become increasingly self-sufficient. Americans are known for our independence, self-reliance, and willingness to “go it on our own.” These qualities are tremendously helpful when homesteading or inventing the cotton gin or even starting up a business, but they are not great assets when trying to find true victory in Christ. For me, this independent spirit has actually kept me in a sort of spiritual stasis.
In 1 John 5:34, we read, “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” (NIV). So I believe that in order for me to become victorious, I need to grow in my love for and obedience to Christ. I want to be like Him—and He was not an island. He was not a maverick who did whatever He wanted. In John 8:28, Jesus said,
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”
Jesus lived in total dependence on God. He chose to live in dependence on the kindness of others, and He depended on the disciples to spread His message after He was gone. That’s a lot of dependence. I realize I need to be increasingly more dependent on God, and what I’m now learning is that I need to be more dependent on the Christians around me too. If I allow my life to become intertwined with theirs—to let them know my weaknesses and failures, my struggles and hopes, and to understand theirs—I am following Jesus’s example and He will be honored. As I do this, I grow. My Christian friends tell me things that I would not come up with on my own. Some of them are embarrassing, and some hurt. But sometimes my soul is encouraged and refreshed in ways it would never be otherwise.
Responding well to these kinds of blessings—the ones that hurt and the ones that refresh—are one part of what “victory in Christ” looks like. They only come from a concerted pursuit of dependence. But even though this idea is contradictory to my culture and to my own instinct at times, pursuing this victory in Christ is more surprising and wonderful than I expected.