I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7
WE are here invited to contemplate the Christian in the character of a conqueror. The battle consists of a moral conflict with inward and outward enemies, all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added—what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church—a war of external suffering, in which penury, persecution, and martyrdom constituted the dark and essential elements.
Now it will be instructive to observe in what way Christ provides for the holy warrior’s passage through this fiery contest. It will be perceived that it is not by flight, but by battle; not by retreat, but by advance; not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field, and conducted them to heaven, without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. They shall have privations, and distress, and suffering, of every kind; yet while beneath the pressure, and in the very heat of the battle, victory shall crown their arms, and a glorious triumph shall heighten the splendor of their victory. And what spiritual eye does not clearly see, that in conducting His people across the battle-field, the Lord wins to Himself more renown than though He had led them to their eternal rest with entire exemption from conflict and distress?
But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Spirit obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within the believer. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important warfare, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. In the first place, there is the conquest of faith.
Where do the annals of war present such a succession of victories so brilliant, achieved by a weapon so single and simple, as is recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? And what was the grace that won those spiritual and glorious victories? It was the grace of faith! “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith.” Faith in the truth of God’s word faith in the veracity of God’s character—faith in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander and Leader—faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation.
Then there is the triumph of patience. “That you do not be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” “And so, after he had patiently endured, He obtained the promise.” Oh, is it no real victory of the Holy Spirit in the believer, when beneath the pressure of great affliction, passing through a discipline the most painful and humiliating, the suffering Christian is enabled to cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him”? “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it”? “Not my will, but your, be done”? Suffering child of God, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
And then there is the conquest of joy. “Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations,” or trials. Why is trial an occasion of joy? Because it is the triumph of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And does not Christ say, “You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy”? Who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy?—not only assuaging our griefs, alleviating our sufferings, and tempering the furnace-flame, but actually making our deepest, darkest sorrows the occasion of the deepest gladness, praise, and thanksgiving.
Oh, yes! it is a glorious victory of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the soul, when it can enable the believer to adopt the words of the suffering apostle, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Suffering reader! Jesus knows how to turn your sorrow into joy. Confide your grief to Him, and He will cause it sweetly to sing.