The Certainty of Victory:
It’s hard to be courageous when you know that you’re going to fail. How can a soldier charge the enemy’s lines if he knows that, not only will his life be spent in the endeavor, but the whole enterprise will end in disaster? If, however, the soldier has hope that, whether he lives or dies, maybe, just maybe, his actions, his sacrifice, will contribute to glorious victory, then he can be courageous. Because, in the end, courage is based upon hope. A person steps out to take the risks, the blows, the bullets, because he has hope that his actions will mean something.
As believers, we are called to be courageous in the fight (Deut. 31:23, 2Cor. 5:6, Phil. 1:20). And make no mistake, we are in a fight. Our enemies are not flesh and blood, but we have enemies nonetheless (and some of them use flesh and blood as their mouthpiece). Our enemies are sin, our flesh, and the Devil. Our enemies are all those vain philosophies that set themselves up against the gospel of our Lord. Our enemies come straight from the pit of Hell and they wield an awesome power.
With such fearsome enemies, who would not be tempted to shrink back? With such danger lurking around every corner, what person would not be tempted to throw up the white flag and become a prisoner of war? Surrender is a common temptation for the Christian, but it is not an option. It is not an option because our enemy takes no prisoners, it devours them. We cannot surrender and hope to have a civil relationship with the enemy until the war is over. To surrender to our sin, to cease our war against the lusts of the flesh, to refuse to speak truth to the lies of the Devil will bring no peace, only destruction.
Not only is it a non-option, it is the height of folly. The temptation to surrender comes from a lack of courage, and a lack of courage comes from a lack of hope. But Christians have more reason to hope than anyone. 2Cor. 3:12 “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” Our hope is in our Captain who has already won the victory. He has destroyed sin and death and has redeemed us from the power of the Devil. Sin no longer has the mastery over us, rather, we look to Christ as our master. And as Christ has destroyed the power of the evil one, He has ensured the expansion of His own kingdom.
His kingdom is the stone which crushes the kingdoms of the enemy and then grows into a mountain that covers the whole world (Daniel 2). As Luther confessed, His kingdom is forever and ever. Our Lord taught us that He would use His church as the means by which He would advance His kingdom (Matthew 28). And He has given us a remarkable promise in Matthew 16:18. The Lord tells us that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church. The gates of Hell will not be able to stand against God’s chosen instrument of kingdom expansion.
What we often miss in this text is the fact that gates are defensive weapons. I think we have tended to think of the victory of the Church over the kingdom of Satan as a long siege in which the Church will hold out against all the vicious attacks of Satan until at the very last minute, when victory seems impossible, she is saved at the coming of our Lord. But this is not what the text communicates. This is not a biblical eschatology. The Church is not in a losing battle, on the defensive, in retreat. Rather, the church is laying siege to the kingdom of Satan. The Church is on the offensive. The ladders are at the walls, the battering ram is at the gates, and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that those gates will not stand. A Christian victory is inevitable.
As I look at the landscape of American Evangelicalism, I see a disturbing lack of courage. Christians are unwilling to put sin to death, they are unwilling to speak out against sin and sinful ideologies that have taken root within and without the church. This is because, for so long we have viewed the church as a rag tag bunch of rebel fighters, always on the back foot against an enemy that is increasing in strength. But the Bible gives us the opposite picture. We are not the rebels, we are not weak, and the enemy is not growing in strength. We are loyal servants of the king, we have all of the strength of His Spirit within us, and our numbers are growing daily. The enemy can’t hold out for long.
We must be full of hope. Hope in the certainty of a Christian victory. Only then can we take courage and fight the battle as men and women of courage. With hope of victory in our eyes, we can lose our jobs with courage, we can say goodbye to friends with courage, we can spend our fortunes, our hours, our reputations, and our lives with courage for the sake of a kingdom which cannot fail. We see with the eyes of faith the gates of the enemy crashing down, so we charge at them, knowing that though we be taken out of the fight before we reach them, they will fall nonetheless.