Cheering during defeat?
In 1982, at Badger Stadium (Madison, WI), the Badgers were taking a serious beating from Michigan State. Over 60,000 fans were watching their beloved team get demolished on the field.
Yet, the most bizarre thing was happening. The more the Badgers fell behind, the more these loud cheers were reverberating throughout the stadium. What did these “Badger fans” find to cheer about in the midst of this humiliation? How can a loyal fan cheer during defeat?
It turns out that the World Series game three was being played at the same time. The Brewers, who would go on to win their only series in franchise history, were beating the Cardinals about seventy miles away.
These Wisconsin fans had brought their portable radios and were responding to something totally different than what was happening in front of them. In the middle of the difficult game, they had found a way to still celebrate victory! The Badgers may have been losing, but the Brewers were winning.
For believers, there is a parallel lesson. We are not slaves to our circumstances or environment. We have heard all the old clichés: “When life hands me lemons, I make lemonade!” Again, “I am building my house with the mud thrown at me!” Even better, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed…” (2 Corinthians 4.6).
For many of us, we know what’s it like to be broken. In those moments, the farthest thing from a carnal mind is a desire to cheer! Our flesh wants to nurse its wounds; to “fix” the problem; to remove the pain.
How is it even possible to cheer in the midst of humiliating, and at times even debilitating, circumstances? How can we maintain joy in a broken world? How can we love those that seek our harm? How can we walk through this world with a smile on our face and a pain in our heart at the same time?
The answers to all of these questions remain the same. We are not fighting to win the victory…we are fighting from a position where victory has already been won!
Read that statement again. It is a powerful truth that needs to become part of our thinking. I do not wake up each day with the intent of winning the victory. The victory has already been won. John reminded his followers of this truth on multiple occasions:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Jn 16.33
I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 1 Jn 2.13
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 1 Jn 4.4
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 Jn 5.4-5
John is not alone in his thinking. Paul, a great theologian to whom we owe much, would also teach that at the resurrection, Jesus spoiled His enemies and made a show of them publicly (Colossians 2). These apostles, writing under the authority of the Spirit of God, stressed that Jesus had already won the victory!
Moving from John’s premise, we see the practical application. Because Jesus has overcome the world – and because we are forever joined with Him – John taught that we’ve [already] overcome the wicked one (1 Jn 2.13, 4.4). This wasn’t a future event for John…It was a present comfort and possession.
Who are these overcomers? For John, they are simply those who have been born of God…those who have placed faith in Christ…those who have believed that Jesus is the Son of God. In short, John would teach that those who are “in Christ” are already overcomers – so live like it.
We’ll come back to the identity of these overcomers several times throughout this book. At those moments, we’ll dive into the text to prove what is being asserted here. Just in case there is any ambiguity, the assertion is that all believers are included in the promise given to the overcomers!
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