In studying through Ephesians 6 a couple of years ago I ran across something that Warren Wiersbe had said in his commentary and it has stuck with me ever since. With regard to this idea of “spiritual warfare” Wiersbe simply said, “As Christians we do not fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory.” Its not a hard thing to remember, which is likely why I can still recall it.
Though a simple expression, it is worth considering. Far too often we think that we are trying to “take new ground” as we struggle and wrestle against temptations, or personal points of weakness, or even larger issues where “darkness” seems to have a profound upper hand on us. The truth of the matter, for the believer in Christ, is that the things we wrestle with are things that we have already been given, not things that are on the “other side” of some invisible, spiritual line.
Hebrews says this about Jesus’ work on the cross:
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
There is no work left to be done with regard to acquisition. However, there is work to be done for us to occupy. In any war there is a lag between the declaration of victory and the actual end of fighting. Often the defeated army will continue volleying fire with the declared victors despite the fact that their leadership has already waved the flag of surrender.
Similarly, the moment an individual is reborn by the power of the cross there is a declaration of victory. But there are those spiritual insurgents that must be eradicated despite the reality of their position. When we do the hard work of sanctification, dealing with the dark places that seem to pester us and jab at us despite our experience of life change, we are not fighting to somehow redefine the victory, we are fighting to fully acknowledge what has already been done.
If we ever retreat, if we ever stop fighting those evil outposts, we engage in the most ridiculous strategy that an army has ever undertaken: relinquishing victory to a surrendered opponent. Hebrews again tells us that we are “forward people”, not because we are so strong, but because in Christ we are already victorious, even when it doesn’t seem like the fight is any different.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
I heard Os Guiness say one time, regarding the chief work of the church, that our most prominent task is to “christianize Christians”. What he was saying is simple. Our most important struggle as believers, as those who have been found under the banner of Christ’s powerful work, is to daily become more and more like who we already are. We are not called to change in the way that some think, such as to become something completely different. The message of the Gospel is that we have already been made different by the work of the Spirit in our hearts, and now we begin working to see what it looks like to live the life we’ve been freely given.
This is our story. The twists and turns of our plot are all important, because the ending of a story isn’t an isolated event, it is the result of the rest of the tale. May we live as if we have already been made alive…because we have. May we fight from victory, and not for it. May we today become a little more what we have already been made to be. And may we take courage that when we see our Captain face to face, we will find out what it means to be completely like we actually are. Like Him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3 ESV