This is Part 5 of 7 parts answering the question, “Can a believer be victorious while God allows suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Part 6 will be posted tomorrow.
Faith Is The Victory In Suffering
The world considers a gold medal or a Vince Lombardi trophy as the ultimate sign of victory. The Lord Jesus, however, upholds a different kind of victory – the believer’s increased faith as he undergoes suffering. Mark Bailey links suffering to hope for the victory,
The ultimate miracle was the resurrection of Jesus. The New Testament links the suffering and hope of the believer with the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The interplay between the two shows that for neither of them is suffering meaningless. Meaning in suffering is best understood in light of the suffering of Jesus.2
Hope is the strongest strand of the “rope” the believer can hold onto in order to be victorious. That hope will overflow, because God is a God of hope, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13 NKJ) When experiencing victory through his suffering, the Christian can be a source of hope to others who will be encouraged to look to the Lord Jesus. In fact, the future joy of being transformed to the imminent resurrection body is a great hope of victory over death,
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:54-57 NKJ)
The true Christian sees death as an enemy, but merely the door to the resurrection unto life. That will be the ultimate triumph for him, for he will no longer will be bonded to his body of sin. Through Christ, he will have the victory!
This victory by faith is seen in two phases of the Christian life – first at salvation and then moment by moment through life. The apostle John noted these two phases when he wrote,
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5 NKJ)
Verse four notes the first phase that comes to pass at the moment of salvation. The believer has overcome the world that is vying for his attention, worship and possession. Through faith, he has broken free from the worldly bondage! Verse five explains that he can have victory on a moment by moment basis – every second of the rest of his life!
This concept is a little difficult to understand in the English version, so let me amplify verse five from the Greek. In an expanded translation, it would read, “Who is he who keeps on overcoming the world, but he who keeps on believing that Jesus is the Son of God?” Do you see the difference? The text from the New King James version causes us to think that this is a one-time decision and the believer is therefore an overcomer – because he has believed that Jesus is the Son of God. But the original Greek records two verbs as present participles – “overcomes” and “believes.” The present participle is just like the English use of something that is ongoing or a continuous action. For example, “John is running to the store, because he is believing that he can get there before the hammers on sale run out.” “Running” and “believing” are both present participles, which describe an ongoing or continuous action. The same is true in 1 John 5:5.
A genuine believer is not automatically an overcomer because he has trusted in the Lord Jesus for salvation. He continues to be an overcomer only as he continues to depend by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is keeping his eyes on Him. Paul would say that he continues to be filled with the Spirit. When your eyes are not on Christ and trusting in Him, you do not and will not have victory over sin! You have overcome the world as a genuine believer, but you are not an overcomer during that time of not trusting Him. The solution is to confess your sin of independence (or disobedience) and resume your dependence on the filling of the Holy Spirit.
When suffering, continuous faith in the Lord Jesus will enable continuous victory or “overcomer” status.
Part 6 will be posted tomorrow.