Triumph without Victory?

Jan Antonsson


The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

May 24, 2015

Neosho, MO

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith”  (I John 5:4, NIV).

The difference between triumph and victory may seem like splitting hairs, but the Spirit has been showing me something shimmering off in the distance like a mirage that draws me deeper into what He has in mind.  The dictionary definition of the two words is as follows:

Triumph: 1) To be victorious or successful; win. 2) To rejoice over a success or victory; exult  3) To receive honors upon return from a victory.  Used especially of generals in ancient Rome.

Victory: 1) A defeat of any enemy or opponent. 2) A success in a struggle against difficulties or an obstacle: a victory over his greatest fear.  3) a.  The state or fact of having defeated an opponent or of having achieved success. b. Exultation or celebration or accomplishing something.

The battle between good and evil has been raging since Adam ate the poisoned fruit of the forbidden tree.  The Old Testament is a dynamic record of how human beings sometimes won, but mostly lost such battles.  Only when Yahweh intervened in the affairs of men did the children of Israel prevail.  Otherwise, they lost everything.  It seems to me that this is still true of God’s children.  It often takes a lifetime of trying and failing on our own steam for us to understand this, or at least, that’s been my experience.

There’s a genre of movies out there about Super Heros: Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Wolverine, X-Men, Captain America and Wonder Woman, to name a few.  These remarkable humans possess superhuman powers with which they battle an ever more formidable array of bad guys as they attempt to eradicate evil in the world.  There’s no indication that these heros attribute their prowess to God, but rather to some act of DNA manipulation, beloved of Science Fiction writers and devotees alike, that gives them the edge over their enemies.

Then there’s the TV Crime Drama Detective, whose super powers consist of science and ingenuity rather than some amalgamation of nuclear infusion into the DNA of the hero.  These hero crime fighters pursue the wrongdoers from a myriad of motivations, but their success depends upon strengths they pull up out of themselves: intuition honed to a cutting edge, superior intelligence, and the willingness to never give up until they put the cuffs on their man.

Where am I going with this?  Only that super human effort even when fueled by some science fiction type strength, cunning, or genius may triumph and win the battle, but clearly, they do not gain the victory because bad people just keep showing up with even more evil plots and savage hearts.  Yes, I know that this battle between good and evil sells crime novels, blockbuster movies featuring super heros, and it lines the pockets of novelists and movie producers alike, but the fact is that movies and books merely reflect what’s in the minds and hearts of readers and movie goers. I suppose people go to movies to see someone win the war they themselves usually do not.

I receive a Daily Reflection from the Seminary Students and graduates of Notre Dame University.  In one this week, the writer was pondering how Jesus could be so enthusiastic about the glory to be revealed in Him as He was preparing the Disciples for His miserable death on the cross and departure from this world.  As He sat at table with them celebrating Passover, he prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son now so that he may bring glory to you, for you have given him authority over all men to give eternal life to all that you have given to him.  And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. “I have brought you honor upon earth, I have completed the task which you gave me to do. Now, Father, honor me in your own presence with the glory that I knew with you before the world was made” (Jn 17: 1-5, Phillips).

The writer of this reflection made this observation which is on my heart as I write this essay:

“I would suggest that he (Christ) knows that in his suffering is the dramatic showdown between the violence of the world and the love of God.  Jesus hopes that we might finally see what has happened since the dawn of society and still happens: the world employs violence to deal with discord and to construct a (false) sense of unity.  Sometimes it seems to work, but Jesus’ discourse reminds his disciples, then and now that this is not real peace.” End Quote.

Jesus knew that the world may speak of peace, may fight wars in a futile attempt to attain peace, but there is no peace to be found there.  One of the most incongruous things in the world is the prevailing opinion that you have to wage war to achieve peace, and yet though you may triumph in long remembered battles, yet you have not won the victory. We probably remember that WWI was to be, “The war to end all wars.”  It didn’t work out that way, clearly, because He said, “ me you may have peace.  In the world, you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It seems to me that this verse takes on new meaning as we grow into His wisdom and grace.

Peace means something different to me now than it did when I was young.  Then, I perceived peace as the absence of war or battles or hostilities between people or countries.  Now, I realize that even though these battles still play out, sadly even in families, nevertheless the real battles we need peace from are those which rage within ourselves Once He has given us victory over those, and only HE can do it for us, in us and through us, then we have peace within and without.  It is how He was able to fall asleep even though a fierce storm had blown up on the Sea of Galilee.  He ordered it to cease, and it did.  Perhaps that’s because the storm inside Him, had long been stilled by His Father’s voice.  When we can hear the voice of God in the midst of the storm, we indeed have peace.

Jesus was and is the only One who can still the storm, calm the troubled heart, and bring love where hate and hostility rule the hearts of men and women.  The Middle East is a seething mass of such violent emotional conflict that we despair of ever finding an end to it.  I don’t believe we are capable of ending the conflict there, brother against brother, religious sect against religious sect.  Only Christ can do that, and it is my fervent prayer that it may happen soon.

Preparing His beloved disciples for his impending death and departure, He prayed for them, and for us as well: “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.  I made our name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26, RSV, Catholic Version).

How amazing it is that we carry within us the same quality and intensity of love that the Father has for Christ, and in fact, we carry the Spirit of Christ Himself within us.  When the Spirit brings that to my mind, He stills the strife and storms of anxiety and other neurotic stuff which sometimes rob me of my sleep at 3:00 a.m.  Each time a little battle is won, I hope the war is over within me, but so far, that hasn’t proved to be true.  Yet, each time, He digs a little deeper, He gives me more insight into myself and what He is bringing to pass in me.  I have finally come to the place where I can say about most things that trouble me, “Go, God, Go!”

Father, you have given us the ultimate Victory over all things great and small in Christ Jesus our Lord, and for that we are eternally grateful.  Empower us to make known Your unconditional love and unending grace to those who do not know You, and when we have finished the race you set before us to run, it will be our honor and privilege to join those who surround your throne, singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.  Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to received power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”  (Rev. 4:8; 5:12, RSV).  So, say we all, “Amen.”  Jan Antonsson

Jan Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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