Does the way seem weary as you travel on? Be strong in the Lord;
If your strength is failing and your courage gone, Be strong in the Lord.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, Be strong, be strong.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, And the power of His might;
If the cross is heavy and your heart is weak,
If for help you’re crying and for strength you seek;
Hear the words of scripture as to you they speak, Be strong, Be strong.
(by Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., published in The Gospel Message in 1915)
We are in a Christian conflict. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29-30). In Ephesians 6:10-11 we are encouraged to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
The battle wages between the flesh and the Spirit. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:17). The only ones exempt from this inward struggle are the spiritually dead. Since the spirit is dead, there exists no conflict. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
Paul speaks of this contention in Romans 7. He desired to do right, but he said,” “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). If the apostle Paul had this problem, what can we do? He concludes this chapter by saying, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:24-25). God does give us a way of deliverance.
Our warfare is not with flesh and blood. We have an unseen foe with many allies. The devil seeks to devour us. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
What can we do? (1) Resist him. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). How can I resist an unseen enemy? By saying no to the temptations with which he entices me.
When I worked in Wheaton, Illinois, one of my co-workers said, “You don’t have to go to work.” I should have ignored his suggestion. Instead I played hookey from work and lost my job.
(2) Exercise restrain. Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). Even some preachers have fallen into this trap. Consequently, this ruins their ministry. God says, “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). Sexual sin is against one’s own body. One girl says she doesn’t know how many boys have trapped her in this sin.
It pays also to guard all our appetites: for food, drink, drugs, whatever. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Doctors today warn about the danger of obesity. The television set has gotten our nation’s children into this trap. It does not make a good babysitter.
On the other hand teenagers seek to become ultra-thin and now medics give names to this. Neither being too fat nor too thin is healthy. We cannot serve God well with a unhealthy body. Beware of these traps!
(3) Remain on guard against the enemy. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). With the believer who seeks to serve God faithfully, one of the devil’s favorite methods is the sneak attack.
Once I dealt with a bondswoman and paid for a man to be bonded out of jail. He failed to show up for his trial. I could have lost my car, perhaps even my home. Fortunately, a lawyer found a loophole and bailed me out. Now I know it pays to read all the fine print. This tactic catches us unawares.
Since we cannot see him, where does this vile character wage his attacks? The battleground is our minds. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). All sin begins in our thoughts. The mind is the stronghold of Satan.
When the devil sneaks up on me, and I forget to pray, I am not leaning on my Stronghold, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who is our Captain? The Lord Himself. After Moses died, God chose Joshua to lead His people. He prepared to enter the battlefield when he saw a man standing against him with a drawn sword. Joshua discovered this man was the Captain of the Lord’s army, the Lord Himself (Josh. 5:13-15). The prophet Nahum speaks of this.: “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him” (Nah. 1:7).
This fight requires a renewed mind. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). As human beings we want our own way; God calls upon us to yield ourselves wholly to Him that we may be transformed by a renewed mind and do His will. Are we willing?
Then we can shout the battle cry, “Victory!” A huge army from three different countries joined forces and marched against Judah. It made King Jehoshaphat afraid. How did he react? He “set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chron. 20:3). Then he stood before his people and prayed, “and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?” (2 Chron. 20:6 )
God sent the prophet Jahaziel. “And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's” (2 Chron. 20:15). Jehoshaphat did not organize a big army. He appointed singers unto the Lord to praise the beauty of holiness.
The Lord launched a surprise attack upon the alien army. The children of Ammon and Moab destroyed those of Edom. Then they destroyed each other. Judah did not have to fight. “Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies” (2 Chron. 20:27). God had given them the victory.
Whose battle is it? “The battle is the LORD’s” just as in Jehoshaphat’s day. How can we win? “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Are we trusting in the Lord?
You have a great article. It expresses how seriously we need to take the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves. I think you did a wonderful job of discussing the key areas necessary to fight this battle. I am especially glad that you included the component of having a renewed mind. Thanks
JOHN LIVINGSTON CLARK,
author of GOD'S HEALING HOPE:BREAKING THE STRONGHOLDS OF WRONG THINKING