We have reached the fifth and final installment in the Christian hero’s journey series. Throughout this series, we’ve been looking at the Christian journey through the lens of the hero’s journey, using the latter as a framework to better understand the Christian life.
In part one, we looked at the gospel call where a person hears the gospel message and has the opportunity to respond to it. Part two addressed discipleship, specifically mentorship, and how a Christian is (or should be) guided by a more mature believer to know, show, and share the gospel of Jesus. Next, we look at struggle in part three, learning that hardship, persecution, and tribulations are part of the Christian life. In part four, we learned that the struggle is not in vain, but that it is used by God to help us grow in faith and become more mature, equipping us to help those around us.
This brings us to today’s topic: victory.
The Christian Hero’s Victory is Actually Jesus’ Victory
Victory in the traditional hero’s journey differs greatly from victory in the Christian’s journey. In the hero’s journey, victory occurs at the end after the hero has grown in strength and maturity and thus returns to defeat the enemy or antagonist. As such, in the traditional hero’s journey, victory is something the person earns or wins through their efforts.
For a Christian, however, victory isn’t something that merely comes at the end of the journey: victory is something that we begin to experience from the moment we are saved. Additionally, the victory we experience isn’t something that we win or we achieve through our efforts
We don’t earn this victory; we don’t do good works and achieve it. The only way to experience Jesus’ victory is by putting our faith in Jesus alone. It is a gift of grace alone received by faith alone in Jesus alone.
Jesus has already won the victory! By shedding his blood for the forgiveness of sins, he defeated sin. By physically coming back to life and raising from the dead on the third day, he defeated death. Jesus has already won the victory, and it is his victory in which Christians participate.
However, we don’t experience Jesus’ victory in its fullness on this side of eternity. Rather, in this temporary, earthly life, we experience it to a limited extent. Those who have put their faith in Jesus, however, will participate in Jesus’ victory in his wholeness in eternity. This is what theologians call the “almost-not yet” scenario: we experience something only partially now, but we will experience it fully later.
When I think of Jesus’ victory, I’m reminded of that classic hymn “Victory In Jesus,” whose chorus goes like this:
O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood;
he loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him.
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
As a kid, that was actually one of my favorite hymns growing up (probably because the pianist used a rockabilly-style of playing for this song). I love the message in the lyrics that it is Jesus’ victory that we participate in as Christians. The question now is: what does that victory look like?
False Teachings of Christian Victory
Before discussing what Jesus’ victory looks like, I first must address some of the heresies and false teachings that you may have heard regarding Christian victory.
Lie 1: Christian victory mean being physically healthy.
You may have heard someone say that Christian victory means being physically healthy and free of all diseases, ailments, or handicaps in this life. The reality is even Christians will get sick; Jesus; followers will suffer illnesses and other physical handicaps or ailments, including physical death (a consequence of sin, see Genesis 3:19 and Romans 6:23).
Being free of disease in this life is not a promise found in Scripture. Rather, because of our fallen nature (and other reasons), Christians must deal with sickness and disease.
Christians wear glasses because their vision is impaired. Christians take prescription medicines to regulate things like hypertension and cholesterol. Christians catch the flu and, sadly, Coronavirus. Christians physically suffer and die.
Lie 2: Christian victory means having material wealth.
You may have heard that Christian victory means being prosperous financially and materially. That is a heresy known as the “prosperity gospel.” Reject anyone who teaches that lie because they are exploiting your desperation and/or greed, often in order to increase their own personal wealth. As Paul warns us, they are “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Tit 1:11).
Being a Christian is not a guarantee or a promise that in this world you will have riches and lots of material things. Rather, poverty and financial struggle are part of a Christian life. There are many faithful Christians all around the world who struggle financially and don’t have many (or any) possessions. Just because a believer is poor does not mean they are less victorious or that they are not living in Jesus’ victory as much as they could. Remember Paul’s admonition to the Philippian believers:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Lie 3: Christian victory means never struggling.
You may have heard that walking in Christian victory means having the perfect, struggle-free life. This one is related to the previous two lies, but goes beyond just health and wealth. This false doctrine teaches that Christian victory means never struggling in any capacity. This is an utter lie! Since I already discussed struggle in the Christian journey, I won’t spend much time on it here. You can watch the video or read the article about it.
Lie 4: Christian victory means all your dreams come true.
Yes, I’ve actually heard preachers say that if you have faith (and often give a financial “seed” to their ministry), then God will make all your dreams come true.
I’m sorry, but that teaching comes from Disney, not Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some pretty wild dreams as I grew up, and looking back, they are all centered on this world and my own life. Thank Jesus that those dreams did not come true. If they had, I never would have married my wonderful wife, Olivia, nor had our three precious children! Today, I still have dreams, but I pray that God keeps one dream at the top: to know, serve, and glorify him.
Lie 5: Christian victory means having your best life now.
One of the most popular heresies (thanks to Joel Osteen): Christian victory means having your best life right now! This idea focuses on the world and the things of this world. It convinces people that Christian victory is about happiness in this world, success in this world, and ultimately about satisfying ourselves in this world.
The Apostle John, however, warned us against such things:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17
We also see this same warning against desiring the in Matthew 6:30-33, Colossians 3:2, and Titus 2:11-12.
Christians are to desire God above all else (Ps 27:4; 73:25)) and to store up spiritual treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-24; see also 1 Tim 1:5). The reason is because our best life will never be in this fallen word with its struggles, hardships, and hurts. Rather, our best life is our life in Christ in the eternity!
Now that we know what Christian victory is not, we can now describe what it actually does look like.
What Christian Victory Really Means
As I wrote earlier, there are two aspects of Christian victory: there’s the partial victory that we experience in the here-and-now, and there’s the total victory that we will experience on the other side of eternity.
Victory in This World
As Christians, we are united to Christ in both his death and in his resurrection, and so we do experience a portion of Jesus’ victory in this world. Some of the ways we experience victory include:
- We are no longer condemned as slaves to sin (Eph 2:1-9; Rom 6:16-18).
- In the midst of our struggle, we have a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:5-7).
- We can have contentment in any situation (2 Cor 12:10; Phil 4:10-13).
- We receive comfort from God and from other believers when we’re hurting (2 Cor 1:3-4; Gal 6:1-2; at least, as Christians, we should be comforting one another; if we’re not it’s time to start).
- We receive strength from God to endure life’s hardships (Isa 40:28-31; 1 Pet 5:10).
- We have a growing, personal relationship with Jesus (John 15:4-5).
- We’re able to serve others in Christian love (Lev 19:18; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
- And we’re able to share the good news of Jesus with others (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-47).
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of everything related to Christ’s victory that a Christian experiences in this life. It is, though, some of the beautiful, wonderful things that are part of the victory in Jesus that we have as Christians.
Victory in Eternity
As stated, along with these here-and-now victories, we will experience Jesus’ victory in its fullness once we leave this fallen world and enter God’s glory in eternity. Some of those victories include:
- No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, and no more sickness (Rev 21:4).
- There will be no more sin and no more death, neither physical death nor spiritual death (Rev 20:13-14).
- We will spend forever in God’s full glory (Rev 21:22-23).
- We will spend forever worshiping God (Rev 4:9-11; 7:11-12; 11:16; 22:3).
In short, we will spend forever fellowshipping with God in his goodness, glory, and grace (1 John 1:1-3; Rev 21:3).
Bringing It Home
Unlike the person in the traditional hero’s journey, Christians don’t have to wait until the end of their journey to experience victory. Rather, we experience victory from the moment we’re saved all the way through eternity. Even better, it’s not our victory that we have to win; it is Jesus’ victory that he’s already won through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave.
As Christians, we experience it in part in the here-and-now, and we’ll experience it in its fullness in the afterlife. This should give us hope and encouragement in this life because, as the hymn says, we have “victory in Jesus!”
I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the first-century believers in Corinth:
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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 Corinthians 15:50-58
Those who put their faith in Jesus alone participate in Jesus’ victory now and forever. I hope you’ve done that today. If you haven’t, put your faith in Jesus today. If you have, walk in victory knowing that Jesus is with you and it is Jesus’ victory that you’re experiencing and you’re walking in.