"Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12)
We all have that little thorn in the flesh that decays and annoys. That something in our life that we know is not honorable and pleasing to our Lord and Savior, does not honor the name that we claim to be following in faith through this world, and bring shame to our witness and testimony of our Christian life. Even the Apostle Paul, perhaps the most spiritually mature among us cried out for that thorn in the flesh to be removed from him. "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. He knows our weakness and can empower us to overcome. No man in history that had greater thorns than the Son of God Jesus Christ, and yet He remained obedient and perfect in the righteousness of His Heavenly Father. Jesus overcame the world and the evilness and will give us that victory if we would but follow His lead and keep His commandments. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Jesus teaches us that sin is born of the heart of man. "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." (Matthew 15:18-19) What we place or allow into our heart will reveal itself in our thoughts and actions. We are bombarded every day with all sorts of evil, and for the most of it we pay it no mind. Our adversary seeks to find a weakness in the wall of our Temple and will exploit it to the fullest. He knows that which will entice us and ever places it into our path. If we fail to resist, negotiate or rationalize its acceptance, then it will spring forth from our heart, and we will give in to the temptation. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." (James 1:14-15)
Our own will power alone is not sufficient to overcome the wiles of the Devil, as we must truthfully admit that he is overpowering. My greatest battle has always been with myself, and very few are the times I carry the victory wreath. As it is the desires of the flesh that we inherited from the fall it is not a battle of the flesh. It is so much not even a battle of the mind, it is a battle of the heart, as the evil we have allowed into our heart will surely deceive us. "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
From our adversary’s point of view, it is a battle for the soul, and therefore it is not a battle of the flesh but a battle of the spirit. To fight the good fight we must identify the battlefield that we must conquer. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12) We must acknowledge that it is not a battle that we must win but a victory that we must accept. God sees us through the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Spirit’s sanctification, we are growing toward that mark. Therefore, we must not live in defeat but live in the victory the assuredness of the blood of our Lord and Savior. "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) By our acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and that He has justified us before the Father by our faith in Him we should each moment walk in that faith. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
The Christian has surrendered his life to Christ, he is following Christ in obedience to His commandments, and in this way, His way, we have been conquered by Christ. The evil that was born in our hearts and manifested in our flesh, by our acceptance of His sacrifice, has been crucified with Him on the cross of Calvary. We have died to our old sinful self and have Jesus living through us a life abundant. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) We accomplish this by following His Word and living upon it in faith.
Christian life flows from our faith in Jesus Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3) All the promises of God’s Word, all the empowerment from the gift of His Spirit, living in the eternal life that He has given unto us, all that God has prepared for us, and all the possibilities that are assured to us by our faith in Jesus Christ. "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
By growing into the image of our Lord, the Christian can have peace and hope. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13) He will give us His love that we will have a passion for others, and He sacrificed Himself for all men. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, and through Him we can have that victory. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith." (1 John 5:4) In the weakness of men by our faith in Jesus, we will have power over the Devil. "Taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16) And our faith will empower our obedience to His Word. "Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake." (Romans 1:5)
The problem is if we have a weakness and lack any of these blessings, it is not our will power or self-control, the problem is with our faith. It is our weak faith that denies us the blessings that are ours through our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. To have a strong faith we must step out in faith, walking in faith and not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7) and we must exercise our faith to strengthen it. The Christian of weak faith needs to turn to Jesus and trust Him to build within us a fighting faith. Faith is not something that we can do on our own, but it is something that Jesus can and will do for us. Start with a little faith in that.
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, August 23, 2015