Dying from exhaustion, he fell before a stunned audience whispering only one word—the last he ever spoke.

What message was so important that hills and valleys couldn’t deter Pheidippides that day in 490 BC.? Why did he wear himself out on the 26-mile road from Marathon to Athens? What one word was sacred enough, vital enough, and glorious enough to claim his life? “Victory.”

The mythic legend of Pheidippides inspired the modern marathon, but his message inspires the soul.

Victory over Sin

Facing insurmountable six-to-one odds, the citizen soldiers of Athens did the unthinkable—they forced the stronger Persian army to retreat. A messenger carried the news back to Athens to prepare the city from a possible Persian assault from the south.

Today another vicious war rages. Paul deemed it “the good fight,” alluding to its innate moral goodness (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). It’s the fight of Good versus Evil. In this war, Christians have been assured victory over sin through Christ. His power erupts with the force of a million nuclear bombs and the enemy carries unloaded Daisy BB guns—an unfair fight to be sure, but it promises a clear and decisive victory.

Victory over Self

To stay on Christ’s team, Christians must win another victory. This battle is the most difficult we’ll ever face. It requires us to look in the mirror of his word (Jas. 1:25) and make a judgment about who we see. Does it reflect an image of Jesus? Or does it show us a reprobate reveling in iniquity (2 Cor. 13:5)?

We must fight our own lusts and desires. James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (Jas. 1:13-14). Jesus overcame our sin, and he will continue to do so if—if we walk in the light (1 John 1:7) by trusting him completely.

Through Jesus we win. We conquer our mind and receive his mind (Phi. 2:5). We defeat our will and take up his will (Phi. 1:21). We lose our life and put on his life (Gal. 2:20). Gaining victory over ourselves requires introspection, honesty, and self-discipline.

Victory over Death

Jesus gives us is the victory over death. During this life our bodies continually lose the battle of health. Physicists call it entropy, but Paul called it decaying or wasting away, “Though our outer nature is wasting away” (2 Cor. 4:16). Solomon called it the “difficult days” (Ecc. 12:1-5). Today we call it growing old.

This earth and carnality pull our bodies to the grave. Thankfully, Jesus offers a way out of the devil’s death grip. God first untied the sufferings of death for Jesus (Acts 2:24). Now through Jesus, he offers us the same escape from death.

Paul demonstrates his confidence in victory over death:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Over two thousand years ago, Pheidippides sacrificed his life to spread the word of victory. It was one win in one battle in one war in one age. Since his marathon, many wars have raged, with no lasting peace. Five hundred years later, Jesus walked the road to Calvary and sacrificed his life to spread true victory. It is the ultimate triumph in the ultimate war for all ages. It inspires the heart and saves the soul. Victory!

-Sam Dilbeck


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