April 28, 1998
Napoleon once said, “Battles are won, not by men, but by a man.” Considering his reputation for arrogance, he must have said that before Waterloo.
Winning a battle against many takes more than one man, even a man like Napoleon. However, he was partly correct; some battles are won by one person.
In struggles to overcome bad habits, lose weight or conquer an addiction, one person does most of the fighting. Family and friends offer encouragement but the ultimate decisions belong to that one person. Winning depends mostly on their determination. No one can do it for them.
Socially, the struggle against moral decay is also fought by individuals. The person who wants to maintain a virtuous life in a moral pigpen fights a serious enemy. Although he or she may have support from others, the decision to try to live a clean life is made alone.
In that moral and spiritual realm, we may agree about how to live and group effort is helpful. Nevertheless, an enduring victory eludes us unless we rely on the one person who has already won the battle for us. He calls us, not to do our own fighting but to join Him in celebrating His victory.
To illustrate this, the Bible uses a scene common to the readers of that day. If a leader went out to war and defeated his enemies, he displayed his victory by returning home, leading those he captured in a triumphal parade. With that celebration in mind, the Apostle Paul describes how God won our battle against sin and moral failure. He says, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. . . .”
Picture Jesus as the conquering hero. He defeated the power of sin (He never sinned) and sin’s punishment, death (He rose from the dead). In that battle, He not only destroyed sin and death but also “the power of the Devil who held people in bondage through their fear of death.”
Jesus won the war. He is leading His spoils of war toward their eternal home and an everlasting celebration. The spoils are His people, set free from the bondage of sin and its ultimate outcome, death. No longer do we fear dying or being separated from God forever. We now belong to Christ and are the evidence of His enduring victory.
The illustration show how one man, the God-man, won the battle for us. No longer in the grip of sin, Satan and fear, we are truly free, even as His captives. This freedom is not the same as being able to do whatever we please. That would bring us back into the bondage of sin. True freedom is being released from the tyranny of selfishness to be cared for by God, to become all He intended when He created us, and to follow Him home.
With this hope and in this freedom, we share in His victory parade. As a child at a football game can jump up and down shouting “We’ve won, we’ve won!” — we too can rejoice in a victory with which we associate ourselves. We did not have to overcome our enemy. All we needed to win was to put our faith in the One who won it for us.
As we commit ourselves to Him in love and gratitude, we more fully realize what He did for us nearly 2,000 years ago and with joy, we can also shout, “We’ve won, we’ve won!”