“Victory is not something that depends upon chance; it is entirely in the hands of God and, through Him, also in our hands. Anyone who has failed in this struggle was simply lacking in a will to conquer. The kindness of our Leader has never failed anyone. If you but listen to His call and do your part, you will be assured of victory…” (Erasmus of Rotterdam, Enchiridion, or Handbook of the Christian Soldier, ).
If the Scriptures teach us anything, they teach us that apart from Christ we can do nothing. The ultimate victory in our moral and spiritual struggle depends upon our utter dependence upon the Lord. And yet this implies two essential and complementary ingredients: God’s power and care, and our own efforts and concern.
Divine Assurance of Victory. The Psalmist said, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Ps. 118:8). Christians can be assured that if we will trust in the Lord, we can have success, just as he led the Israelites in victory into the Promised Land of Canaan. The promise of our Lord’s abiding presence turns our fears into confidence, our despair into hope, “so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid’” (Heb. 13:5-6). “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
The first step in our spiritual victory is to know that we cannot direct our own steps. Without God, we are not only in a helpless position regarding our lost souls (Rom. 5:6), we will also continue to be in a helpless position regarding living the Christian life (Tit. 2:11-12). The grace of our Lord has been made available, manifested in so many wonderful ways—in the death of Christ, in the guidance of his word, in the promise of answered prayers. What an assuring thought! What a marvelous promise! “If God is for us, who is against us?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:31, 35, 37). Those who do not follow His guidance are destined to defeat. Those who do not believe his grand promises are doomed to despair.
Human Responsibility. And furthermore, if we do not recognize and admit the need for our own personal preparation and participation in our spiritual warfare, then we have overlooked the essential corollary to our trust in God’s provisions. For we are instructed to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” We cannot hope to survive his attacks unprotected by the knowledge of God and his word. By “prayer and supplication” the Lord will take care of our needs; by perseverance and vigilance we will be enabled to endure patiently to the end (Eph. 6:11-18).
Living the Christian life requires all the physical, mental, and emotional strength we can muster. Every intellectual and spiritual power at our disposal must be deployed in a conflict with the highest stakes. In so doing we can be assured the Lord will be beside us every step of the way. When we stumble, he will pick us up. When we are weak, he will strengthen us. When we turn away, he will chasten us. When we ask him, He will forgive us. And when we are victorious, he will be glorified.
As David said to Goliath moments before his victory, so we can say to our adversary the devil: “For the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand” (1 Sam. 17:47).