As we continue in our study of Growing in Christ, we come to a section that I am going to call – ‘The Victorious Christian Life.’ Look with me at an important passage from 2 Timothy –
2 Timothy 2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
In this passage we see that Paul speaks of the Christian solider ‘enduring hardness.’ What does this mean?
1) Endure the hardships and troubles of life
One of the lessons we have to learn in order to be a faithful follower of Christ is how to stay strong during difficult times. Christians are not immune to trouble. Christians get sick. A Christian’s car breaks down. A Christian’s hot-water heater sometimes needs to be replaced. Christians experience trouble just like anyone else. That’s just life.
2) Endure the attacks of the evil one
This phrase can also mean to endure Satan’s attack upon your life. Actually this is most likely that this is what Paul was referring to. By calling Christians ‘soldiers’, Paul is implying that we are in some sort of a battle. Indeed we are. The moment we decided to turn from sin and to the Savior, we became engaged in a spiritual battle with the world, our fleshly nature and the devil.
Perhaps there is no greater passage in scripture to explain this than Ephesians 6.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
I. The Battles We Face
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Paul is not implying that Christians never have conflict with other individuals. Indeed we sometimes do. We have conflict in the world; conflict in the home; and sometimes even conflict in the church. Yet though we have conflict with other individuals, behind much of this conflict is an evil influence. Behind much of the conflict we face are the forces of hell. Paul refers to them as: principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Many have speculated about what these various groups of demons represent. Apparently within Satan’s kingdom of darkness are demons of various sorts with various roles and functions. There are demons that roam the heavens as well as demons who roam the earth. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul refers to Satan as ‘the god of this world.’ In Ephesians 2:2, Paul calls him – ‘the prince of the power of the air.’ Jesus made reference to ‘the devil and his angels.’ (Matthew 25:41) We learn from Revelation 12 that when Satan fell, he took with him 1/3 of the angels. From this we can conclude that Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness and at him disposal is an enormous amount of demons and devils, all organized and engage in spiritual warfare against God, God’s angels, and God’s children.
Many Christians do not realize that we are involved in a spiritual war. Yet by the very fact that we are followers of Christ, we can be sure that we are and that our battle with the Devil and his demons. Perhaps the reason many believers are not aware of their battle with Satan is because he has already gained a strong hold in their lives. Though a believer cannot be possessed by the devil, we can allow him to have authority over us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:32 to not ‘give place to the devil.’ By this he means – ‘do not give the devil an opportunity to work in your life. Do not allow him to have authority over you.’ Whether we realize it or not, whenever we give in to one of Satan’s schemes or temptations, we are allowing him to exercise authority over us.
What kind of battles do we face? As we will see over the next few weeks, we fight battles that involve lies, deception and half-truths. We fight battles that involve sexual immorality, pride, selfishness, jealousy, and greed. We fight battles that involve worry and doubt. We fight battles that involve fear and intimidation and that keep us from doing Gods’ will. We even fight battles that attack on our personal relationship with the Lord.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we fight battles with the very forces of hell. Yet the Lord has provided for us a way to find victory.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Sometimes we hear people say – “God will not give us more than we can bear.” That’s not totally correct. A better way of saying it would be – “God will not give us more than we can bear THROUGH HIM.” The Apostle Paul said it best – “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Paul did not say – “I can do all things by myself.” Instead he said – “I can do all things through Christ…”
Christ is with us in each and every battle and He will provide a way for us to win – if we are willing to be obedient to His commands. Over the next few weeks we are going to consider the various aspects of our spiritual battle and how we need to mature in our walk with the Lord in order to find victory.
II. Ways God Will Help Us Win the Battle
A. Our Victory is – ‘in Him’
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Paul refers to the believer ‘putting on the whole armour of God.’ A Roman solider was a predominant figure in the days Paul lived. Rome ruled much of the known world. We know from history that Roman soldiers were heavily clad in armour that covered them from head to foot. Paul used various pieces of this armament to help describe various parts of the believer’s life and spiritual walk.
In the passage we must read, Paul refers to ‘putting on the whole armour of God.’ Over the years I have heard many Christians refer to this spiritual armour as though they could actually strap on a belt, a sword and a shield. ‘Each morning I put on my armour’, they say. I am not discounting what they are doing, however, we need to realize that God does not give us some kind of mystical armour that we can hang up in the closet at night and then put on the next morning. There is not an actual belt of truth. There is not an actual shield of faith. The issue is not a belt and a helmet and a sword and a shield. The issue is truth, faith, God’s Word and His righteousness. Note how Paul explains the spiritual armor in –
Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Putting on our spiritual armor is another way of saying – ‘Let Christ rule and reign in your life.’ The first thing we need to learn is that victory over the devil and his tactics is found through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes people ask the Lord to give them more patience. Do you want more patience? Then you need a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Christ. Sometimes people will pray and ask the Lord to give them more strength. Do you want more strength? Then you need a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Christ. Sometimes people will ask for peace. Do you want more peace? Then you need a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Christ. The spiritual armour that God gives us is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ where He rules over every area of our life. Everything we have and everything we need as a believer is found in our relationship with Christ.
Paul had to learn this lesson in order to become a good soldier that could endure hardness.
2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Please note something very important – God allowed Satan to attack Paul. Would God allow something like that to happen? Would God actually allow the devil to attack us? God allowed the devil to attack Job. God allowed the devil to attack Simon Peter. God even allowed the devil to attack the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not shield us from the battle. God shields us in the battle.
Why would God allow Satan to attack a believer?
2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Why did God allow Satan to attack Paul? God did so in order to cause Paul to seek a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. Rather than allowing Paul to become filled with pride and arrogance and self-sufficiency, God allowed Satan to put a thorn in Paul’s flesh so that Paul would seek the grace of God. By all indications, Christ never removed that thorn. Christ allowed whatever it was that afflicting Paul to continue to afflict him the rest of his time here on earth. But notice what this did for Paul.
2 Corinthians 12:9 Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak , then am I strong.
Because of his struggle with suffering, Paul was forced to continuously seek Christ for strength and as a result, he was made into one of the greatest Christian soldiers this world has ever known. Through his battle with Satan, Paul was forced to seek shelter in Christ, and therefore he was clad with the whole armour of God.
B. Standing in His Truth
We’ve run out of time today and so next week we’ll pick back up where we left off. Next week we’ll study about the importance of ‘Standing in His Truth.’
In conclusion – how does today’s message relate to you? How real is your relationship with Christ? Are you in His Word daily? Do you have a prayer life that is helping you handle the problems in life?Are you winning the war or have you been taken prisoner?
Let me encourage you as we begin this section on the Victorious Christian life that you focus on your relationship with Christ. Victory is not something that God will give you a part from Himself. Victory over the devil come through victory in Jesus!