Last week, we dealt with the false gospel that necessarily follows from an attitude of triumphalism. Today, we deal with the exact opposite: the false gospel that follows from a person with an attitude of defeatism.
Let’s be honest—we all know this person. She is public about her Christianity, but has nothing but negative things to say. She envies the promiscuous lifestyle of those who live seemingly unbound from God’s eternal directives.
She plays the victim—always waiting for the next person to complain to or about. She will tell anyone who listens to her problems! She is a Christian defeatist. She is a person who believes there is a God, but believes that belief in God is a limitation—not a liberation.
We might call this a sort of “woe is me” Christianity.
There are many reasons to resist this sort of thinking. Here are just a few:
- It’s not characteristic of the gospel.
- Jesus came to triumph over the ultimate form of defeat—death itself.
- Christians can live victoriously in virtue of the price Jesus paid.
- There is dangerous potential to push unbelievers further away from the gospel.
I’ll give you some practical tips for overcoming this in your own life at the end of this post, but first I want to dive deep into three specific reasons why we, as Christians, should not live with a defeatist attitude.
1. With God, There is Purpose
As you can probably imagine, I have many conversations with unbelievers of all stripes on a regular basis—atheists, agnostics, etc.
One of the more pragmatic reasons to believe that there is a God is that there seems to be a purpose to this life. “Why are we here?”—that’s usually how this particular “big question” is framed.
It’s a valid concern. Is there really no plan—no purpose? Nothing to live for past the “nasty now and now”? No “sweet by and by” to look forward to? I think this thinking strikes directly against human intuition.
There is often temptation to look past the obvious when defending one’s philosophical position, but the old axiom is still true: It’s often the simplest definition that ends up being the right one. For the millions of people who intuitively believe in some sort of spiritual “force”—God, the universe, etc.—it seems obvious that there is more to this world than mere material.
In fact, on materialism, the scientific ending is rather uninteresting at best—pure torment to even think of, in reality. Once all of the useable energy in the universe is gone, the universe will die what is called a “heat death.” Essentially, there will be nothing left. Just the lifeless, material remnants of a universe with no more energy to sustain itself, floating in the deep, dark recesses of space.
What life there has been will cease to be—never, in the best estimation of modern cosmology—for there to be any more.
The naturalistic materialist may try to create purpose for himself, but indeed, this purpose is illusory. This is not the sort of objective purpose available on Christianity. Of course, while “there is purpose to life” may not be an argument, per se, for the existence of God, it sure is a characteristic of Christian belief that fits better with the human conception of reality.
In other words, our experience is exactly what we would expect if the biblical history of the world is correct.
If there is a God, there is a purpose! As one popular catechism states it, our purpose is to “know God and enjoy Him forever.”
This is perhaps stated most clearly in the words of Paul, found in Romans 8:28 — “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
This is a constant theme throughout the biblical revelation. God told Jeremiah that He knew him, even before he was formed in his mother’s womb, for the purpose of becoming a prophet unto the nations.
God declares in Isaiah 43:7 that God has created us for His own glory. In Ephesians 1:11, we find that God has predestinated us “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will…”
How can we be characterized by defeatism when we know we were created for a purpose—to do something for the Creator of the cosmos? To become a “son” of the King of all glory? To be conformed to the image of God’s very Son, Jesus Christ?
We have been redeemed—indeed, “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have purpose, because there is a God.
2. With Grace, There is Power
Many have summed up the entirety of the biblical revelation in just one word: redemption.
This is a good assessment, in my opinion. But the question then becomes, “what is the nature of redemption?”
And that, I believe, can be summed up in yet another single word: grace.
Every major theme in the Bible bucks against the idea of “works”, or working our way to God. There is an inseparable gulf between the sin-shackled unbeliever and the transcendent God of Israel.
In order for redemption to be accomplished, it must be accomplished via the vehicle of grace—free grace, given by God, because the sin we are bound with has left us spiritually dead.
I do not hold to the soteriological system known as Calvinism, but I do agree with one fundamental tenant: we are bound by sin. We cannot choose God in virtue of our own power.
I hold to the ROSES model of Molinism1. One of my good friends, Pastor Brian Chilton, describes the Molinist rendering of “overcoming grace” this way: “Overcoming grace replaces [the] irresistible grace [of calvinism]. Rather than holding that a person cannot respond to God’s grace, Molinists hold that God’s grace is able to overcome the depraved human condition leading to a place where the person can respond positively or negatively to God’s free offer of grace.”
Notice how this reflects back on my title for this section: with grace, there is power. What power, you ask?
The power to respond to God’s grace. The power to choose. The power to decide that you will submit to God, and act in accordance with His will. This not God forcing someone to choose Him, but rather, enabling them to do so.
We have the power—due to God’s will working within us—to overcome sin. With such power, how can be we so defeated! How can we let the enemy win?
God has created us; therefore, we have purpose. Part of that purpose is to know God. He has made His own existence so obvious (see Romans 1) that one day every person will stand before Him without excuse.
In virtue of God’s revelation to us (in nature, in Scripture, and in the Person of Jesus Christ), we have the grace to respond to God’s gift of salvation. Only some will act on that grace. But for those of who have, we have eternal life to spend with the One who created life.
That is no reason to be defeated—but every reason to be victorious! Will we be faced with trials? Yes. This is precisely why we must have balance. Triumphalism must not overtake us, but neither must defeatism.
3. With Gratitude, There is Praise
We are now faced with a final question. We know there is a God. We know He has given us grace to escape our sinful condition. What then should be our response?
It is, again, found in a one-word answer: gratitude.
And a heart of gratitude will manifest a life of praise.
What is a praise? Simply, it is thankfulness toward God for the past, and hopeful expectation towards our divinely-directed future.
The person who lives the life of contentment and gratitude, and who is thankful to God for his many blessings, simply cannot live a life marked by defeatism. It’s impossible.
Of course, it goes almost without saying that there is much scriptural support for this posture of gratitude toward God.
Consider the following:
Psalms 118:24 – This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Colossians 3:17 – And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Psalms 136:1 – O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Ephesians 1:16 – Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Hebrews 12:28 – Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
Colossians 3:15 – And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Colossians 3:15-20 – And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Psalms 107:1 – O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalms 50:23 – Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Psalms 100:1-5 – (A Psalm of praise.) Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Thoughtful meditation on these Scriptures (and many others) will help you to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” towards your Heavenly Father.
And when you do that, defeatism will fade into blackness. It will not even be an option. As the songwriter said, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Although I’ve said all that I felt necessary to say, I think there are some practical measures that to be taken daily in your life to help you achieve balance.
Here are a few practical, yet powerful ways to achieve balance and overcome both triumphalism and defeatism:
- Glory in the grace of God.
- Reflect on past victories.
- Speak good things about God, yourself, and others.
- Find positive and encouraging influences.
- Rid your life of bad and improper thinking.
- Resist the devil and the temptation to sin.
- Spend more intentional time in study and spiritual growth.
- Become more concerned with doctrine than with selfish desires.
Regular practice and application of the above will not only change your spiritual posture toward God and your relational posture toward others, but will help you to achieve the balance necessary, in your own life, to become all that you were created to be for Christ’s sake.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!
P.S. Would you prayerfully consider becoming a Partner of our ministry? Click here to learn more!
- One should take note that Molinism itself is not a soteriological position, but the ROSES model is made in application to that end.