By Adam Burton | October 8, 2023
Church, if I were to ask you to picture an Olympic athlete, who is it that comes to your mind? Maybe it’s a swimmer like Michael Phelps, or a track star like Jesse Owens. But have you ever considered what victory truly means in the grand scheme of things?
I want to introduce you to an underdog named Eric Musambini. Imagine the deafening cheer of 17,000 spectators, the intense glares of countless cameras, the vast expanse of an Olympic pool shimmering beneath the Sydney sun in 2000. Now toss in an underdog named Eric Musambini. Eric wasn’t your typical swimmer. No, in fact, just 12 months before this moment, he hadn’t even swum in a pool that matched the Olympic standards.
But here’s where God’s humor meets human spirit. Due to a series of events, Eric was swimming alone in the 100-meter freestyle qualifying heat. The audience watched with bated breath, some in amusement, some with just sheer anticipation. His time, the slowest in Olympic history. But here’s the kicker. It was his personal best. Eric said later, I felt like I had won a medal. You know what? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, he had.
Oh, his spirit, his resolve, it speaks to every one of us, reminding us that victory isn’t always about coming first. But it’s about giving our best. Have you ever felt like an underdog in your spiritual journey? Swimming alone against the currents of life? Why am I telling you this? It’s because, friends, much like Eric, our journey as believers isn’t about setting world records. It’s about knowing our position in Christ. Giving our absolute best and recognizing that in Christ, our best is always enough.
Throughout this series of rise above, winning the spiritual battles, we have explored the landscape of our spiritual battles from the battles that rage within our families to the battles for our health. We’ve talked about standing strong and the power of united prayer. Today, as we tie it all together in conclusion, let’s dive deep, pun intended, into living in victory, our position in Christ.
On the back page of your bulletin is an outline to help you to follow along. With Eric’s story in mind, I want us to go with this understanding of our unique position in Christ, which is not about worldly accolades, but about divine purpose. We see first point that we are positioned with purpose, seated with Christ. Positioned with purpose, seated with Christ.
I. Positioned with Purpose: Seated with Christ
Imagine stepping into the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome, which I had the privilege to do last year. Your eyes are immediately drawn upwards to the ceiling, captivated by the breathtaking frescoes painted by Michelangelo. Now, if you’re familiar with the painter Michelangelo, as opposed to the Ninja Turtle Michelangelo, you will know that he was not primarily a painter. He was a sculptor.
Yet he dedicated four painstaking years to this masterpiece, often lying on his back, painting a vast ceiling above him. You know, this act of looking upwards, of Michelangelo elevating his gaze and ours, mirrors our position in Christ. For just as Michelangelo was more accustomed to sculpting, stretched beyond his comfort zone to depict God’s glory, we too are called to rise above our earthly limitations.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. You know, like Michelangelo, who, despite being grounded, could visually elevate those who viewed his work, we too, though a little lower than the angels, are raised in Christ, called to reflect God’s glory.
All these intricate details of the Sistine Chapel, from the creation of Adam to the Last Judgment, not only showcase Michelangelo’s dedication, but also the grand narrative of God’s interaction with his humanity. And in a similar vein, our lives, too, are intricately woven by the Creator. We are meant to showcase His glory, His love, and His redemptive plan.
But how often do we elevate our gaze? How often do we recognize our elevated position in Christ, especially when it’s uncomfortable or challenging? Paul writes in Ephesians 2, 6, for He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
Now, at first glance, this Scripture can feel a little abstract because the imagery of being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms might make us think of images of us floating around on fluffy clouds, maybe even strumming a harp or two. But let’s dig deeper because this isn’t about literal seating arrangements. It’s about a spiritual position and authority.
One, we see that we are elevated by grace. For just as Michelangelo’s dedication led him to create a masterpiece that elevates our gaze, we, too, have undergone a significant transition. Before Christ, every one of us was spiritually dead, drowned in our sin, in our trespasses. But God, in His immense love and mercy, not only gave us life, but He elevated us. He raised us from spiritual death to life.
And if that wasn’t enough, oh, He elevated our position to be seated with His Son. Oh, we have moved from the deepest of valleys to the highest peak all because of Christ. But we also have authority in Christ. And when we think of a seat, especially in the context of the Near Eastern culture, it denotes a place of authority. Kings sat on thrones, judges sat to pronounce verdicts, and teachers sat to instruct.
By saying that we are seated with Christ, Paul is emphasizing here our newfound authority in Christ. Now, this authority means that we are no longer slaves to sin. The chains that once bound us have been shattered, and we now have the authority to resist the devil, to overcome temptations, and to declare God’s truth over our lives.
But it also gives us a heavenly perspective. For seated with Christ means that we adopt a heavenly perspective. Just as an athlete standing on a podium gets advantage of the audience, seated with Christ gives us a unique vantage point. We begin to see life from God’s viewpoint.
Temporary setbacks, challenges, even spiritual battles no longer discourage us the way they once did. Why? Because from our seat with Christ, we get to see the bigger picture.
Consider the life of Abraham Lincoln. Today he is celebrated as one of the greatest American presidents. Yet his journey to the White House was riddled with failures. He lost his job in 1832, defeated in his run for the state legislature in 1832, failed in business in 1833. His fiancé died in 1835. He had a nervous breakdown in 1836, lost the congressional race in 1843, 1848, and again in 1855, lost the senatorial race in 1855.
And he was defeated in his efforts to become vice president in 1856. And if that wasn’t enough, he again lost the senatorial race in 1858. Abraham Lincoln was a loser, but did any of these stop him? No. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States, and from the seat of his presidency, those failures were just mere steps, refining moments leading him to his destiny.
But next we see our unchanging position. See the beauty of this truth is that our seating with Christ is not just a one-time event. It is continuous. Just as an Olympic champion doesn’t stop being a champion after the medal ceremony, our position with Christ remains unchanged. It’s not based on our performances, our failures, or our successes, because we remain seated with Christ because of his unchanging love and his finished work on the cross.
Oh church, as we navigate the waters of our spiritual journey, let us remember our position. Just like Michelangelo painted the grand narrative of God’s glory on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we too are a part of God’s grand narrative. We aren’t merely swimmers navigating the waters of life. We are victors seated with Christ, and every stroke we take is a testament to our victorious position in him. A position that grants us authority and a heavenly perspective.
So the next race you face, remember, remember where you’re seated. With Christ. And from that position, victory isn’t just a possibility, it is a promise.
Having explored our elevated position with Christ, now let’s dive into the confidence that this position instills in us. It’s a confidence that is rooted deeply in our faith. Which brings us to our second point. Confidence through conviction. Victory in faith.
II. Confidence through Conviction: Victory in Faith
Our elevated position with Christ, it’s not just a title. It’s a reality that fuels our confidence for every challenge we face, every doubt that we conquer. It’s a testament to our unwavering faith and our victorious position in him.
Imagine an athlete just about to jump into the pool. How they approach that race speaks volumes. Their head is held high. The gaze is fixed on the finish line. Body is tensed in readiness. This posture is not just born from physical training, but it comes from an inner confidence. For us as believers, this confidence springs from our faith in Christ.
What does our spiritual posture look when we are faced with life’s challenges? Are we poised with confidence? Or are we weighed down by doubt?
Now let’s journey to a different kind of setting. Picture the icy, treacherous landscapes of Antarctica. Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew embarked on an expedition in 1914, aiming to cross the continent from sea to sea. However, their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice and it was eventually crushed. Facing insurmountable odds, these freezing temperatures and dwindling supplies, Shackleton’s unwavering leadership and the crew’s faith in their leader led to survival.
They journeyed across ice flows, sailed treacherous waters in small lifeboats, and trekked across uncharted lands, all with the hope of rescue. Their story is one of resilience, of determination, and an unyielding belief in their mission.
Oh, John says it eloquently in 1st John chapter 5 verse 4, for every child of God defeats this evil world and we are this victory and we achieve this victory through our faith.
First, we are rooted with Christ. Rooted in Christ. See, our faith isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s rooted in the person and the work of Jesus Christ. For just as Shackleton’s confidence was rooted in his experience, his determination, and leadership, our spiritual confidence is founded on God’s promises, on his character, and the historical reality of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
Look, friends, our faith isn’t blind. It’s rooted in evidence and experience. It’s also in overcoming obstacles. The scripture in 1st John underscores a profound truth, that our faith grants us a victory over the world.
Shackleton and his crew faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, yet their faith in their mission and each other allowed them to overcome. Similarly, our faith equips us to overcome the challenges of the world.
We also see our faith’s transformation. See, here is the beautiful facet of faith. With true faith, it transforms us. Just as the challenges of the Antarctic expedition molded the character of Shackleton’s crew, our faith molds our character, making us more like Christ.
But we also see the community’s role. For faith, while personal, thrives in community. Shackleton’s crew survived because they worked together. They supported each other and they shared a common goal.
In our spiritual journey, the church community plays a similar role, bolstering our faith, helping us to overcome challenges. Remember the previous sermons in this series, particularly when last week united, we pray. Prayer, especially when done in unity, is a powerful exercise of faith, for it not only connects us with God, but it strengthens our bonds within the spiritual family.
But we also see the everyday triumphs. Oh, every day, in every moment, our faith reminds us of our victorious position in Christ. Whether it’s in the monumental challenges or the everyday tasks, we stand firm, knowing that we are more than conquerors in him.
Oh, church, as we move forward, may we wear our faith like a medal of honor. It’s the mark of our identity, the source of our strength, and the promise of our victory. Oh, whether today finds you on the mountaintop or down in the valley, let your heart resound with this truth. Through faith, in Christ, we are more than conquerors.
And just as an athlete finds strength in the cheers of the crowd, oh, may we find our strength in the promises of God and in the unity of our church community.
So with this newfound confidence in our faith, it is essential for us to understand that our victory isn’t just for us to cherish. Oh, no, it is a ray of hope meant to be shared with the world.
Brings us our third point, radiating hope, sharing our victory.
III. Radiating Hope: Sharing Our Victory
See, our journey in understanding our spiritual victory isn’t complete if it remains with us. See, the good news of the gospel was never meant to be hoarded. It’s meant to be shared. As we bask in the light of our triumph in Christ, we are entrusted with the task to spread that light to the world. So how are we, as believers, shining our light to guide others to the hope and victory found in Christ?
Consider the phenomenon of the Star of Bethlehem. I shared with the kids earlier, right, this celestial event described in the Gospel of Matthew guided the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus. Look, in a world filled with darkness, this single bright star led them to the source of ultimate hope, the Savior.
Similarly, in today’s world, filled with all of the challenges and despair, Christians, us, we are rooted in our position in Christ, are called to be like that guiding star. We are to shine our lights brightly, leading others toward hope, toward love and salvation. Just as the magi followed the star to find Jesus, people today can find hope and salvation by following the example set by believers who live out their faith.
Now look, this isn’t just about evangelism, although that’s a huge part of it. How do we live out our ordinary lives? Are we living a life that resonates with the joy, the peace and the confidence of our victory in Christ?
Look what Matthew says in Matthew chapter 5. You are the light of the world like a city on a hilltop cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, the lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
We see that the victory’s responsibility. For having received freely, we are called to give freely. Our victory isn’t just a personal experience, but it’s a communal responsibility. For every time that we share our story of triumph, of hope and of faith, we are lighting that path for someone else like footprints in the sand.
Think of it this way. Every testimony shared is a ray of hope to someone who is navigating their storm. We also see them as living testimonies. For sharing our victory isn’t confined to big platforms or mission trips. It’s in the everyday nuances of our lives. It’s in the patience that we exhibit in our trials, the love how we show to the unlovable, the joy that we radiate in the midst of adversity and the peace that we display in chaos. Our life becomes a living epistle, readable by all who cross our path.
But it’s also encouraging the weary. Look, everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. As we’ve navigated our spiritual warfare, so are others. Sharing our victories can offer encouragement to others in their fights. By doing so, we are echoing the truth that Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1, verse 4, where God comforts us so that we can comfort others in the same comfort that we have received.
But we also have the ripple of inspiration. See, the beauty of sharing our victory is that it creates this ripple effect. A life touched by our testimony goes on to touch another, and that chain continues. Just like Eric’s story rippled out to inspire others across the globe, our shared stories of faith and victory can inspire us to an untold number.
But we also leave a legacy of faith. As we share our victories, we are not just impacting the present. We are shaping the future. Our shared stories become a legacy of faith, a testament of God’s faithfulness for the next generation, for your children, your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It’s a way to ensure that our spiritual lineage continues to walk in the victory that Christ has secured for them.
Oh, dear church, as our victory in Christ is both a gift and a mandate, a gift that assures us of our position with Christ, but a mandate to share and uplift and inspire, may our lives not just be a reflection of Christ’s light, but it may also be a conduit through which others find their way to him.
And as we shine our light of victory to the world, it’s equally crucial to fortify ourselves daily, ensuring that we remain steadfast in our spiritual battles. Much like the Great Wall of China stands resilient against invaders. Brings us to our last point, standing strong, victory in daily battles.
IV. Standing Strong: Victory in Daily Battles
The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic structures in the world. It was built over centuries to protect against invasions, spanning thousands of miles. It stands as a testament to the resilience, the strategic defense, and the determination of a people to safeguard what they hold dear. And much like the Great Wall, as believers, we are called to build and to maintain our spiritual defenses, ensuring that we stand strong against the invasions of the enemy. What walls or defenses are we building right now in our spiritual lives to guard against the invasions of doubt, of fear and temptation?
Paul writes in Romans 8, No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us. We can do this by discerning the battle. Just as the builders of the Great Wall recognized the external threats they faced, we must discern our spiritual battles. They often show up in physical realities through strained relationships, maybe health challenges, various life obstacles. It’s vital to remember that the true battle is spiritual. We must identify the real enemy, and when we do so, we are better positioned to stand firm and to not misdirect our energies.
We also must wear our daily armor. The Great Wall was equipped with watchtowers, with fortresses and barriers. Similarly, we need our daily armor. Look, a soldier wouldn’t step onto the battlefield without armor. Neither should we start our day without equipping ourselves. This involves immersing ourselves in the Word, constant communication with God through prayer, and surrounding ourselves with fellow believers that can uplift and support us.
But we must also remember our identity in Christ. For the strength of the Great Wall wasn’t just in the bricks and mortar, but in the identity and unity of those who built and guarded it. See, our identity as victors is not based on our feelings, or our circumstances, or the world’s opinions. I can’t emphasize that enough. No, our identity as victors is anchored in the finished work of Christ. No matter the storms we face, knowing who we are in Christ provides an unshakable foundation.
But it also includes mindful guarding. See, our mind is our watchtower. The stories we tell ourselves, the thoughts that we harbor, oh, they have a profound impact on our spiritual stance. So when we filter out our thoughts through the truth of Scripture, much like the guards scanning the horizon for threats, oh, we guard ourselves against lies and deceptions that seek to undermine our victory.
But we also must celebrate our triumphs. Just as the Great Wall stands tall, reminding us of past triumphs, our lives should stand as a testament to our victorious position in Christ. A position, oh no, we did not earn, but it was graciously given to us. Similarly, every day will not be a mountaintop experience for us. But look, there are small victories that should be celebrated daily. Recognizing and celebrating these moments reinforces our victor mentality.
But lastly, we must have vigilance in victory. The Great Wall required constant maintenance and vigilance. It’s easy to let our guard down during times of peace, but the Bible warns us to be vigilant. See, continual growth ensures that we’re not caught off guard when challenges arise. So as we journey through this life, let’s remember this, that every day is an opportunity to live out our victory. Each challenge faced, every temptation resisted, and every act of love shown is a testament to the victory won for us.
So may we stand in the victory that Christ has secured for us. And as you stand, may your life be a ray of hope, pointing others to the one who assures us of the ultimate victory. I ask for musicians to come forward at this time.
You know, throughout this series, Rise Above, Winning Spiritual Battles, we’ve journeyed through the reality of spiritual warfare, the challenges and the triumphs of the battlefield, and the significance of our position with Christ. We’ve grappled with the threats to our families, to our health, and the imperative of standing strong, united in prayer. And like Eric the eel Musambini, who swam literally against all odds, our journey in Christ is marked by victories, both big and small. But our greatest victory is our position in Him, a position that assures us of triumph amidst life’s battles.
Look, it may not always be evident in our circumstances. There’s going to be days where we feel more defeated than victorious. But our feelings don’t change the fact. The cross stands as an eternal symbol of our triumph. Oh, in our spiritual races, do we focus on the challenges and the odds against us, or do we anchor ourselves in the unchanging truth of our victory in Christ?
I guess we reflect on our position in Christ. How do you actively live that out daily? Are we just merely spectators, or are we diving into the deep end, fully immersed in our faith? Oh, we are called to action. Faith is not just about hearing, but it’s about doing, about standing, living, and sharing in victory.
We stand in confidence for whatever battle you’re facing, whatever struggle that’s weighing you down. Remember that you are an overcomer in Christ. So plant your feet firmly in the truth of God’s Word and take a stand.
But we also live in assurance every day. Dress yourself in the armor of God, dive deep into the scripture, stay connected in prayer and fellowship with believers, and let these habits mold your daily existence and share your story. Every one of us has a testimony. Maybe it’s a story of healing, of redemption, provision, or maybe it’s just simply the daily grace to keep going. Whatever your story is, share it, because your story can become a ray of hope to someone else.
So as we conclude this series, Rise Above, my prayer for myself and for each one of you is that we don’t just hear these words, but that we allow them to take root in our hearts for the reality that Christ’s victory becomes the cornerstone of our life. And as we rise each day, may we echo the sentiments of Romans 8, 37, confidently declaring in all these things, I am more than a conqueror through Christ who loves me. Are you ready to conquer?
Church, as we have journeyed today through this landscape of our spiritual battles, the victory we have in Christ, I want to pause for just a moment to let us reflect deeply on this message. You know, it’s the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s simple, oh, but yet profound. Tells us this, that God in his infinite love sent his only son, Jesus, to this world, and Jesus lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again, conquering sin and death. Oh, it’s this love that offers us a way to be reconciled, to be made right with God, to have our sins forgiven, and to live in the hope of eternal life.
And so if you’re here this morning and you’ve never accepted this gift of salvation, I want to invite you to do so. Oh, it’s not about being perfect or having all of the answers. There’s no Bible quiz in order to find acceptance. No, it’s about recognizing our need for a savior and accepting the love and the sacrifice that Jesus offers. If you’re here this morning, you find that you’ve drifted away. Feels kind of like you’re swimming alone in a vast ocean of life. Remember that Jesus is always there. His arms are outstretched, and he’s waiting for you to return. Today can be a day of rededication, of recommitting your life to him.
For those who may be seeking spiritual family, a community to belong to, you know this church welcomes you. We will walk alongside of you in your journey of faith.
Just a moment. We’re going to bow our heads in prayer, and after this prayer, as the song, Footsteps of Jesus, fills this sanctuary, I’m going to be standing down here in front. If you feel that tug on your heart, the Holy Spirit convicting you to make a decision, whether it’s accepting Christ, rededicating your life, or joining our church family, I invite you to come forward. I’m here to pray with you, to support you, to celebrate the decisions that you make for Christ.
Would you pray with me? Heavenly Father, God, we thank you for the cross on which your son Jesus died to save us from our sins. Oh, we know. Through his sacrifice, we are victors. May we live in that victory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Well, let us stand as we sing. This is your time to respond.