We’ve looked at our enemy and how he attacks us as believers; now we’re going to shift our focus to God’s expectations of us in regard to spiritual conflict. Knowing that we are under attack, how should we respond? God’s Word contains both attitudes and actions that will enable us to experience victory and growth in every trial and temptation. Today I’m going to take a look specifically at some attitudes that should be the present in our hearts as warriors. As we put on these attitudes, we will be prepared for obedient action!
We need to have at attitude of expectation– trials are coming and there’s going to be battle. This doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? Yet all through the New Testament, we are told that we are going to suffer and be tried and tested. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised when it happens!
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
If we are not experiencing trials and testing, that is a problem. That is unexpected and surprising. In John 16:33 Jesus Himself said “you will have trials.” We need to face them, because it is in the times of testing and trial that God refines us.
I confess that I still get surprised and a little angry sometimes when I find myself in a hard time. We want to think that walking with Jesus should be easy and fun, like we should be skipping hand in hand through fields of daisies while yellow sunlight bathes us in its golden glow. Friend, that day will come– the day when we lay all our burdens down and have no sorrow or pain or trouble, just Jesus Himself in all His sweet perfection. But, to quote my friend Aragorn– “It is not this day. This day we FIGHT!”
Can I challenge you a bit today? Friend, if you are not experiencing trials and hardships in your spiritual walk, something is wrong. Not that we should go looking for trouble, but when we are walking earnestly with God, trouble finds us. And this is a good thing, as Peter demonstrates in our next attitude.
Yeah, this just sounds crazy, I’m not going to lie. But the testimony of Scripture is that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and that it is the testing and trying of our faith– the battles we fight– that grow us to be more like Jesus. Look at 1 Peter 4:13–
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Each walk through trial and temptation is an opportunity to experience life in Christ in a new and deeper way. I had this brought out very clearly to me at a conference we attended last summer– I am forever praying that I want to be like Jesus, but I hate trials. But here’s the thing–the way to be like Jesus is to walk the way He walked in the places where He walked. And where did He walk? Basically, His journey was one long, hard road to Calvary. He suffered. And I cannot really know Him if I refuse to suffer for His sake. That’s why Paul considered suffering such a privilege:
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.
It has been granted to us. Like, a special gift. And Paul knew what it was to suffer, friends. He spoke from experience, and he considered suffering for the sake of Jesus to be a privilege. In Philippians 3 he expresses this more thoroughly–
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
Paul lost everything and didn’t care because all He wanted was to know Jesus. He recognized that in coming to know Jesus, He would also become like Jesus, and that was His goal. Christ’s worth far surpasses everything we must give up, my friends. And as we suffer for His sake, for the sake of knowing Him and glorifying Him, we are changed to be more like Him. Isn’t that what humanity has always wanted, since the garden? To be like God? We think it’s about exaltation and greatness, but we are given the opportunity to be like God when we humble ourselves and walk through suffering and count it all joy.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
When we think of soldiers, we often think of “the few, the proud”– of the natural pride that comes from fighting for a cause. But spiritual battle is different, and it requires humility. The truth is that none of us can fight our spiritual battles in our own strength; we will fail every time. James teaches us the attitude to have as we face our enemy:
He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
As we humbly submit to God, drawing near to Him, we are able to resist the devil in the strength of our Mighty God. When we draw ourselves up in pride, puffing out our chests, we are also pulling ourselves away from the One who is our Strength and our Shield. So draw near with a humble heart, and remember that you were not chosen for your strength or wisdom. You were chosen to allow God’s glory to shine more brightly through your weakness!
This attitude is found in the form of a command in John 16:33 and is the word of Christ Himself.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Our courage comes from Christ, and there is no better place for it to be founded. When we face spiritual battle, temptation, trial, and painful circumstances, we are called to remember that Christ has already won our victory. We are in Him. There is nothing that anyone– not Satan, not even we ourselves– can do to remove us from His hand or separate us from His love. Even when we fail miserably, we can have the courage and the strength to stand up and try again, because we have already been named victorious.
My friend, Satan will tell you again and again that if you fall you might as well stay down. He will lie to your heart, shaming you, shooting darts of doubt (“there can’t be enough grace for me; I keep falling into this same sin again and again”) and defeat (“there is no point in even trying; I will just fail again”). Do not believe his lies. There is hope and freedom, unending strength and forgiveness, and there is victory promised to every believer. Keep fighting for it. Take heart.
We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Next time we will look at the actions God commands us to take with regards to our enemy and our spiritual battles. Until then, expect– rejoice– humble yourself– and take heart! Your trials and sufferings and battles are never without good purpose in your life.
You are beloved!