The Joy of Defeat

The joy of victory, the agony of defeat. For Christians, that typical juxtaposition is a bit different. Christian joy is found in our defeat under Jesus’ victory.

We bear the cross to gain our souls (Luke 9:23-25). We suffer with Him to be joint heirs with Him in glory (Rom 8:17). Christians endure affliction for obedience, crying:

Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us [as captives] in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Cor 2:14).

(To understand why 2 Cor 2:14 means Jesus leads Christians as captives, see Omnis Traductor Traditor!). God is glorified in the world, everywhere, as Christians are led in defeat by the victorious Jesus Christ.

In his well-done commentary, 2 Corinthians, Scott Hafemann has discerned 5 questions that arise from this text in order to diagnose our spiritual condition before God in Christ:


  1. Do we show a growing trust in Gods sovereignty over the circumstances of life?
  2. o

  3. Do we increasingly reflect the peace and praise that come from understanding the role of suffering in the lives of Christians
  4. o

  5. Do we progressively demonstrate the kind of loving actions that flow from a willingness to give up our rights for the sake of others?
  6. o

  7. Do we give evidence of the transforming work of the Spirit in our willingness to stand for the truth as Gods people?
  8. o

  9. Do our lives model for others what it means to imitate Christ?

Answering these questions will help expose ourselves and what we really mean when we say “I’m a Christian.” It’s good to be honest in the sight of God (2 Cor 2:17), asking Him to search us and know our heart (Ps 139:23).

We can get more help with the nature of the Christian life as defeat by knowing how other Christians have walked as captives behind Jesus. This is why Christian biographies are so helpful. Two recent autobiographies have reminded me that being defeated by Jesus was not just a metaphor of Pauls life, but the Christian life:

Rosaria Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Rosaria was an outspoken lesbian activist and tenured English professor of Queer Theory at Syracuse University, when she was confronted by Christ! Now, she is a pastors wife who homeschools their adopted children.

Her conversion was not clean or neat, as she writes:

This word conversion is simply too tame and to refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God. I know of only one word to describe this time-released encounter: impact. Impact is, I believe, the space between the multiple care crash and the body count.

Mez McConnell, Is There Anybody Out There? Mez grew up in the schemes (projects) of Scotland, early in life into drugs, violence and incarcerated. Now, hes a missionary and the founder of the church-planting group, 20Schemes. That too was no easy journey. He writes:

Jesus was right when he said that the cost would be high if we follow him Ive clung to the cross, sometimes by my fingernails, and God has helped me to persevere through difficult times Im consumed by serving my Lord and Saviour. Im consumed with Jesus Christ. I dont skip down the road every morning whistling a tune whilst the birds sing in the trees because thats not real life Im not a recovering anything. Im a new creation and all because of the power of God.

If our summer was spent praying through each of those 5 questions, above, along with as reading these two autobiographies, our joy in defeat would only increase.

It’s immeasurably better to be a POW in the Kingdom of God than a prince in the domain of darkness (Col 1:13). Thanks be to God!