Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the new year began, you immediately recognize this picture as the 2016 Clemson Tigers National Championship parade. On Saturday January 14, 2017 the Clemson Tigers proceeded through the streets of Clemson, SC in a celebration which terminated at Clemson Memorial Stadium referred to as “Death Valley” by fans.
Reports tell us there were over 65,000 people including fans, current and former players, coaches, and members of CU who filled the lower portion of the stadium that Saturday morning prepared to celebrate a rare but awesome victory.
This monumental event is reminiscent of a similar historical occasion which sometimes occurred in the lifetime of an ancient Roman general. It’s the called the Roman triumph and was a procession through the streets of Rome to honor a triumphant general, victorious over a foreign adversary. Use your imagination now and picture how elaborate this scene might have looked – A train of humiliated prisoners, bound in chains and shuffling their feet down Roman streets, were sandwiched between state senators, trumpeters, and other happy “cheerleaders” standing by in drunken celebration! At the tail came the triumphant Roman general himself, standing in a chariot drawn by four horses, waving and blowing kisses to the crowds. The sweetest of fragrances would fill the air as crushed flowers were strewn under horses’ hooves and the strong, sweet smell of incense rose from censers carried by certain priests.
It's this colorful event the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the churches in Corinth saying, But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place (2Corinthians 2:14). Those Corinthian Christians who lived under Roman jurisdiction and influence knew exactly what the apostle was thinking.
You see, those first century believers needed significant encouragement. They needed to know how they too could find triumph in Christ though they were being harassed by their cultural system, the temptations of their flesh, and the devil disguised as charismatic human influences. They were under attack and falling to deception. Because of their bleak and oppressing circumstances, those sincere Christians believed they were anything but triumphant and were beginning to experience doubt and defeat.
If I were a betting man, I would guess you too would have a hard time describing your life as one long “parade.” Maybe you’re being harassed by meddlesome people, critics, or even feel bound up and captive to emotional tangles or other relational, chemical, or circumstantial affliction leading you to despair even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8)
We have a saying around Crossway that “If you don’t feel, then you won’t heal.” It’s ok for us to feel our feelings, but we must go further and appropriate God’s truth that sets us free (John 8:32). You see, Paul was able to give thanks, not for his trials but in his trials nevertheless. How, you ask? We win every time by knowing we’re led by a sovereign God all the time.
Paul could celebrate through every trial when he quit looking to his circumstances for comfort, joy and encouragement, but turned to the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). Endurance is based on our ability to look beyond the physical to the spiritual; beyond the present to the future, and beyond the visible to the invisible. The cure for our discouragement is a thankful heart and the knowledge that Christ is the general and universal conqueror, who when He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives (Ephesians 4:8)
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross (Colossians 2:15).
Through His crucifixion and resurrection Christ conquered Satan and death, and in triumph returned to God those who were once sinners and prisoners of Satan. Paul was starting to see Jesus marching in triumph throughout the world and himself in that conquering train. Are you there too? Are you in the parade?
Maybe your Christian experience feels more like defeat than triumphant. If so, we at Crossway can help you “get in the parade!” Call us today to speak with one of our experienced staff.