"Take That, Jesus is Better": How Trust-Soaked Obedience Gives Us Victory Over the World
Christians know the daily grind: We live in a world which is vying for our affections and actions, wrestling us and trying to make us forget God and live for self. It's governed by the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), influenced by those who "do not honor God as God nor give a to him" (Romans 1:21), and filled with people living for money, sex, and power. And as we all know well, we ourselves still are struggling sinners, tempted in all directions, prone to wander, in need of daily grace.
It's frustrating to live in this atmosphere. In the midst of the grind, we know we're not at home. We're "sojourners and exiles" who are striving, for the glory of God, "to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against [our] soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
Small but Substantial Triumphs
But there's daily victory. Life is full of small but substantial triumphs. We have moments of success which prove that we do love God, that we're made for a better home, that Jesus is better than anything the world can offer. The world—ruled and influenced by darkness and flooded with ungodliness—wants us to give in. Every day we feel the pull—the desire of lust, the dazzling of materialism, the draw of self. But we as Christians have continual victory over such an assault.
How? Through our trust in Christ and obedience. Here's how the apostle John explains it:
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:2-4).
In other words, in the midst of the world's smog, we see clearly (although not as clearly as we wished) that Christ is real, that he loves us, and we love him. And then, we willingly seek to obey our Lord ("his commandments are not burdensome "), striving to overcome the assault by following Christ and not the ways of the world.
Victory in Trust
But our victory isn't mainly obedience. In the above quote, the Bible does not say, "And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our obedience." We do obey in victory, and if we don't strive to live lives of obedience, we might be proving that we aren't Christians (Luke 6:43-44). But our obedience is not the emphasis. Our obedience isn't our victory, as important as obedience is. Rather, our victory is in our faith. "This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (1 John 5:4).
Here's what this means: amongst the world's onslaught, the greatest triumph is we trust Christ. We know who he is, we believe what he said, and we know that he offers greater treasure. We believe his gospel, we trust him to instruct us, and we look to him to lead us to greater pastures than the world can provide.
So, because we trust Christ we don't live for the world's treasures. We follow him. We obey him. And in that trust-soaked obedience, there's victory over the world.
A Punch Back
With Christ on our side, then, and with our trust in him, we can be courageous in the fight. Such small but substantial daily victories of trust and obedience are a punch back to the world that wages war against our souls.
We are surrounded by the world's lure: enticements to selfishness, lust, power, money, materialism, pride. Some of these allurements are clear and obvious, some are subtle and seductive; some come screaming, some whispering; some attack you but not others, some attack all alike; some come because of our pride, some because of our insecurity. Yet no matter what unique form the war takes for each, it's an onslaught for us all.
But when we trust Christ and obey, we overcome. We win, through him. Our trust-soaked obedience is a slap in the world's face. It's a punch back, avoiding the world's uppercut and landing a satisfying blow. We essentially say, "Take that, world—Jesus is better."
In such faith-filled obedience, we triumph over temptation and win over the world. Let's live in such satisfying victory.