Whenever you win in the flesh, count your losses spiritually; name them one by one.
Who does not like the story of David killing Goliath with a sling and a stone? Who is not impressed by the walls of Jericho falling down flat? Who would not get excited about Elijah calling down fire from heaven against his opponents? But all that is old wine. Jesus proffers in the New Testament a completely different approach. That approach is the way of the cross. It is the way of laying down one’s life (Matthew 16:25).
Victory in Defeat
The story of Jesus does not make an Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of movie. At the end of this film, the great protagonist is not standing victorious. He is hanging dead on a cross. Okay, so he resurrected after three days. But only a select few knew about it. Would it not have been more appropriate for Jesus to have paid a visit to Pilate on his resurrection and said: “Remember me?” The man might just have died of a heart attack. How about having him knock on the door of some of those skeptical Pharisees again and say: “Check it out. Did you really think you could kill the Son of God?” It would have been great to see them begging for mercy.
So why did Jesus allow himself to be arrested when they could not even arrest Elijah? Why did the flogging, jeering and taunting not provoke a glorious and majestic display of overwhelming divine power? Why did the Saviour of the world fail so woefully to save his own life?
The answer is that Jesus came to give us a radical re-definition of victory. This victory is godly and is therefore not achieved by the sword. It does not come vaingloriously by killing Goliaths. It is not achieved by power or by might. It comes by total submission to the will of God. It comes by turning the other cheek; even in the face of intense provocation and certain death.
A Pyrrhic Victory
Mohammed Ali was a wonderful boxer. In my youth, he was my hero. Ali told his opponents the precise round he was going to knock them out beforehand, and then did it in style in that very round. But many of the people Ali knocked out are now far healthier than him. Today, Ali cannot stand still; his hands shake continually from Parkinson’s disease. So I ask myself now: “Did Ali really win those fights in the past for which he was celebrated?”
The man won the fight, but please what did he lose? He won the fight but lost the battle. He won the fight but lost his eye. He won the fight but lost his faith. He won the battle but lost the war. Whenever you win in the flesh, count your losses spiritually; name them one by one.
Jesus teaches that a true believer does not boast of carnal victories. Instead, he is someone who overcomes the world (John 16:33). He is that man whose children die, and he remains steadfast in the faith. He is the one who gets paralysed in an accident, and yet still testifies to the love of God. He is that unfortunate man whose house is burnt down; whose family perishes; whose business fails and still he sings: “It is well, with my soul.”
How do you gain victory over poverty? You don’t do so by coming into riches. You do so by making poverty inconsequential. If a man “makes it” by winning the lottery, he does not overcome poverty. He simply becomes rich. And if he becomes rich, he can just as easily become poor again. But when a man truly overcomes poverty, he can never be poor again. When he overcomes poverty, he does not have to be rich. When he overcomes poverty, it means poverty no longer has an effect on him. He can be as poor as a church rat, and yet be as happy as a king.
Meaning of the Cross
The Lord told me a story. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by armed robbers. They stripped him of his belongings and beat him black and blue. They beat him until he slumped and died. Then the Lord asked me a question. He said, “Femi, what happened after the man died?” I did not know the answer so I asked the Holy Spirit. He said: “They stopped beating him.” Then he said to me: “Femi, if they are still beating you, it is because you are not dead yet. Once you are dead, the beating will stop.”
The vital principle of the crucifixion is that Jesus used death to overcome life. He died to self.