7. Led in Triumph - Always
The certainty of victory here and now is where faith lives. Complete and absolute victory, first in the little things, and then in the larger issues of life and death that God has placed before us, with the defeat of and complete victory over death being the purpose for which God has given us the Holy Spirit, and the full manifestation of all the life of Jesus inside us right here in this earth. This is the imminent reality of victory that God always leads us in the celebration of right now!
7. Led in Triumph - Always
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14
Many translations and pastors rephrase the line, “always leads us in triumph” to “always causes us to win.” There is nothing wrong with that, since it is God in us who does cause us to win. But being led in triumph is far more audacious than causing us to win and is, in fact, a more incredible place in which we live.
First, it is God who leads us in this way. And second this is ALWAYS how God leads us. If there is any question of doubt or fear or discouragement, or timidity before the throne of God, or any concern about being “presumptuous,” we can with all confidence determine that is not coming out of our Father and immediately reject it. But it is not we who are parading ourselves in triumph, no, we are caught in the wonder of a Father who is doing something dramatic and unexpected with us and we are simply along for the ride.
To win is to defeat the enemy, to taste and to see with our eyes victory over death, to cast down the accuser: that is winning. And God does cause us to win. But being led in triumph is something different.
The phrase refers to the procession of glory in ancient Rome, when a conquering hero has returned to the city and the emperor sponsors a huge celebration and parade. All the people of the city were lined up, there was a great procession of banners and whatever the Romans did in a celebration parade. The defeated enemy was driven down the street in chains. But at the center of all that, Caesar himself led the victorious general through the cheering crowds as they chanted and celebrated the names of both in unison.
God ALWAYS leads us in this way.
Now think of that. We have not yet seen the victory that is ours. It is imminent; it is upon us, but it is not yet. However, God is right now leading us in the celebration of our imminent victory. Can I dance in joy in the certainty that I will overcome and defeat all things and please the Father in every way? If I can’t, God is not leading me.
Most of us have been too timid to ‘presume’ so upon God. “How do you know you’re going to ‘make it’”? But extraordinarily, to those who don’t want to presume on God’s goodness, God says, “Why do you treat Me like dirt?” (Numbers 14 - The Message). But of the one who runs with all tenacity into the Holiest of All where he has no business being (David), who grabs hold of God’s goodness with every fiber of his being, determined that he will not live anywhere else – even, and especially, when he was caught in sin, of that one God says, “Look there, that is a man after My own heart.”
We are caught, at all times, in the grip of this preposterous One who is determined to show us off to all the universe in the celebration of a victory we have not yet won! This is where we live.
Think of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Read the account of how they danced and celebrated after they had passed through the Red Sea, fully delivered from Egypt, and had turned and watched the Egyptian army destroyed by God. You will find it at the end of Exodus 14 and through chapter 15.
Now, take that same celebration, with all the certainty of a seen and fulfilled victory filling the hearts of all the people, and place that same celebration in Exodus 14, verses 10-12. What an incredible difference! Yet the two moments are fewer than 24 hours apart.
God always leads us in that way, to dance and shout in the celebration of and the certain expectation that you and I will please the Father and that we will win the victory in all difficulties that He takes us through, to celebrate in this way before we see it with our eyes.
To celebrate that victory as something that will take place in heaven in the sweet by and by means nothing. There is no faith in ideas about heaven.
The certainty of victory here and now is where faith lives. Complete and absolute victory, first in the little things, and then in the larger issues of life and death that God has placed before us, with the defeat of and complete victory over death being the purpose for which God has given us the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5, 1 Corinthians 15) and the full manifestation of all the life of Jesus inside us right here in this earth (Romans 8:18-23). This is the imminent reality of victory that God always leads us in the celebration of right now!
But the celebration and dance and shouting and wonder that we are caught in by a God who always seems to be too much, is for and must start with all the little things as well. God always leads us to celebrate imminent and certain victory in all things – our family life, our relationships with others, in sickness, for those we love, in our finances, in our work – in all things.
Being able to celebrate a future victory in “heaven,” and even getting excited about defeating and removing the scourge of death from this planet, but being unable to celebrate an imminent victory in our finances shows us something is not quite right in our thinking.
Do not ever be afraid to “presume” upon God. On the contrary, let’s live our lives right now in a dance of celebration that expects His goodness upon us and in us and through us and around us in all things at all times.
According to Paul in 2 Corinthians 2, God always leads us in a celebration of full and total victory in all things before we see any such victory with our eyes.
There is always, in God’s leading, the full expectation and consciousness of His goodness and favor. If that confidence is lacking, we are still in God’s goodness, we just cannot know it.
Then we take that truth back to Exodus 14 and 15. Look again at the celebration of victory at the end of chapter 14 and through chapter 15. The children of Israel have watched with their eyes, in a grandstand view, the Egyptian army obliterated to the man. They can see, as they dance, thousands of dead bodies washed up on the shore. Their deliverance is complete, and they know it. They know it because they walked through it and they can see it now as they sing and dance. “The horse and the rider has He thrown into the sea.”
Now, freeze that seeing, that knowing, that celebration, and take it back fewer than 24 hours to chapter 14, verses 11 & 12. In fact, lets do that here. Exodus 14:10-12 (As it should have been)
And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were filled with faith, and the children of Israel saw the great work that God was about to do, since it was not possible for Him to abandon them now. And they sang this song to the Lord, standing between the fierce armies of Egypt and the seemingly impassible Red Sea. ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!’ They sang thus, even though none of it had yet happened, because they knew how mighty their God was, and that He was with them.
For years we sang the song, “Will you dance on this side of the sea? Will you dance before your eyes can see?” We sang it, but we could not believe it for our everyday lives because we also believed that to expect God’s favor in such dramatic ways was presumption. We could not expect such power on our behalf because we had not yet “proven full obedience.”
Yet, living in that unbelief is the very disobedience that alone can keep us separate from the victory of Christ in our own minds.
My family and I find ourselves standing in such a dilemma, between the Egyptian armies of debts and creditors and the Red Sea before us. Behind us is disaster, before us is an unknown and seemingly impassible way. Yet in this place, we stand in confidence in the mighty moving of God on our behalf. And that takes us to the next thing that is found in both Exodus 14 and 2 Corinthians 2.
Exodus 14:31 says, “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord . . “ At the same time, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
God deliberately went out of His way to set up the dramatically terrible situation that the children of Israel found themselves in between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. God set them up, and He did it with great finesse.
God put them in that impossible place for the express purpose of showing His stuff. God likes to prove Himself; to demonstrate His great power on behalf of His people. And He does that so they will dance in celebration of victory the next time they are looking death in the face. Why? Because that very confidence in God is the thing God is after in our lives.
Then, we see the same thing in Paul’s statement. The whole purpose of God putting us who believe in Jesus into impossible situations is so He can demonstrate through us the fragrance of Jesus – His power and favor surrounding us.
In the Old Testament, God showed His mighty arm. In the New Testament, He shows His Son. They are the same thing.
God sets us up. He puts us in impossible situations so that He might show Himself mighty on our behalf. The difference between now and Old Testament times is that He does so in us, through us, and as us, not in some separate way while we watch.
The purpose of God in this whole thing called creation and the vanity this earth is subjected to is so that God, through it, can have the many sons, just like Jesus, that He is determined to have. The thing that produces those sons is this very confidence in God’s imminent and present victory while we stand in present affliction and suffering.
In Exodus, God said, “Stand still and see the mighty salvation of God.” But in Joshua, at the crossing of the Jordan, God told the next generation of Israel to walk forward into the waters while the river was still flowing at the flood stage. It was not until they were stepping forward in the water that the river parted before them.
We do both. We stand still and see the salvation of God, and we go forward in the path He has set before us, knowing that the waters will part.
It is the absolute certainty that we hold in our hearts, that God is with us, He is in us, we walk in complete union with Him at all times without regard to what we “feel” like. The absolute expectation that He is in our hand, in our feet, in our way. That His favor surrounds as at all times. The mighty demonstration of His power goes before us; His mercy and goodness follows after us. We are filled with all the fullness of God; His presence surrounds us like a mighty fortress wall. Every dark or difficult thing we face serves one purpose alone, and that is so that we and God and God and we can shout the victory beforehand and then turn and show to others the mighty power of Christ after the difficulty we just walked out of is defeated and gone as if it never was.
It is this way of walking and thinking that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and that transforms us into His image.
“He loves me, He loves me not.” “He will favor me in this, He won’t favor me in that.” “Is this His will, is this not His will?” This back and forth vacillation is the very thing God speaks against through the Bible. It dishonors Him.
But when we allow God Himself to lead us in the celebration of triumph even though our natural eyes see great difficulty and impossibility, when we speak, out loud, our confidence in His favor, God gets to do the very thing He has always wanted to do so very much. He gets to show forth the fragrance and glory of Jesus through us.
I know. You give God an opening like that and there is no way you will slow Him down.