Fight to Win!



NOVEMBER 12, 2006

I don’t have a clue who the woman was, but apart from my wife, she was the only other person at the event that I’m still able to remember. Aside from that woman communicating just “three short words” I can’t recall anything else spoken that morning, even by the annual well known key note speaker, whoever it may have been. Today, a good twenty five years later, memories of the respect I had for that young woman still keep popping into my mind.

Although my wife and I were seated way up front, both of us, along with a few hundred other attendees, could hear the commotion at the right rear entrance to the hotel ballroom. It was loud enough to catch everyone’s attention. Then it ended as suddenly as it had begun when a man’s voice with an authoritative tone to it drowned out the others and said: “Stop it and let her in!” That brief commotion was followed by what seemed like a deafening silence.

Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the location where the disturbance was coming from. At first glance, nothing seemed unusual. And then, the silence was broken by several gasps and an occasional subdued murmur. Finally I spotted a large poster attached to a long stick which was gripped by both of the young woman’s hands. The poster was bobbing up and down as she slowly made her way down to the end the isle. Then she turned and crossed across the front and turned once more, and then, ever so slowly, made her way up the other isle and out the exit.

She was a slender plainly dressed thirty something woman a little over five feet tall. There was nothing special about her or of how she was dressed. She didn’t use makeup or earrings. Her long auburn hair was tied up into a neat simple bun. She appeared to be nervous. Her facial expression was somber, and although she never said a word, her eyes seemed to be pleading; “Listen to me! You people have it all wrong!”

I was reminded of that woman by something one of you folks said to me about a recent sermon in which I was critical of Christians I referred to as often being bystanders in the journey of life. One example I had given were of Christians who, although they know they should, don’t always share the Gospel when they have an opportunity. I promised the person I intended to deal with that issue soon. So here goes.

Many Christians are somewhat hesitant in sharing the Gospel with their coworkers, classmates, neighbors and others. It isn’t that they don’t care about the eternal destiny of those non-Christians, because they really do. They’re constantly lifting them up in fervent sincere heart-felt prayer. It’s just that their God given personality is such that they are uncomfortable confronting other people about such matters.

Although everyone gathered in the hotel ballroom that morning strongly disagreed with her, that lone woman had the guts to crash the annual “Vermont Right to Life Convention” carrying a sign that said: “Keep Abortion Legal.” She had demonstrated the courage to act on her convictions. It’s sad to say, but exhibiting boldness concerning their faith in the Risen Savior is something all too many of today’s Christians lack.

Now I’m not suggesting that we need to go and do as that woman did. God didn’t give everyone a temperament which is naturally inclined towards witnessing the truth by barging into a Planned Parenthood convention armed with a sign that says: “Abortion Stops a Bleeding Heart.” But He will give each follower of Christ the strength to humbly speak the truth in love boldly and fearlessly, whenever He gives us the opportunity; even if by nature we are an introverted bashful person.

The Apostle James puts it this way: “Remember, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him or her it is sin” (James 4:17). God hates sin and will do everything necessary to help His children resist the devil and overcome every temptation to commit it, including the one of not warning those non-Christians He has brought into their life of the grave danger those people are in.

However, to succeed we must have a sound Biblical plan and then put it into practice whenever the devil tempts us not to do something we know deep down in our hearts God definitely wants us to do, or not do whatever it is  which we know without a doubt God doesn’t want us to do. Often all He’s asking His most deeply hurting child to do is to just sit still and meditate on the fact that He is God, and that He loves them with an indescribable love, and then for His child to show Him their love for Him by trusting Him regardless of their divinely ordained circumstances.

The Bible describes such a plan about how we can resist the devil whenever he tempts us. It’s foolproof, and it’s guaranteed to work each and every time we implement it, providing we follow it exactly as He tells us to. In other words, we must train ourselves to habitually struggle to do every thing the way He wants us to.

In the same chapter of his letter to the early Christians, James, the brother of Jesus[1] warned those people about specific sins some of them were committing; you and I can apply his divinely inspired instructions on how to overcome any sin including that of saying nothing about the perilous state all non-Christians are in. Leading up to the particular verse I want to focus on this morning, we read James asking and answering his own questions in that fourth chapter.

James 4:1-10 (AMP) 1 WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? 2 You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask.

3 [Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures. 4 You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.

5 Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love? 6 But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). 7 So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.

James was addressing some very unhappy Christians. In fact they were miserable people and it showed in the way they were living their lives. They had been doing a very poor job of resisting the devil if they even bothered to at all. They had become a disgrace to the One they professed to follow.

If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that some of the sinful characteristics the Apostle James described are often manifested in our own lives. And then, regardless of our knowledge of God’s hatred of such behavior we act surprised whenever He allows us to be constantly frustrated and disappointed or suffer various kinds of painful losses. God often uses unpleasant instruments to get His peoples attention and to incline them to come back and draw near to Him.[2]

You and I are familiar with the phrase “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But how do we go about doing this? Some of our more emotional fellow Christians claim it’s as simple as screaming at the devil and saying: “I rebuke you Satan. Shoo!” and they swear he takes off like a pussy cat that was rubbing against their leg. I feel like saying “yeah right” as I watch their lives continue to unravel almost before my eyes.

The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle James to tell those sinful Christians exactly what to they had to do. V8 Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. 9 [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins]. 10 Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].

Draw near to God and He will come close to you. You will sense His loving presence regardless of where you are or what difficulty you may be experiencing, such as those times you find yourself  sitting alone in your doctors office waiting for the doctor to come in and give you those test results, or when you are sharing your faith with that non-Christian He has brought into your life.

To draw near to God we must first draw ourselves away from the devil such as those times when we drew ourselves away from God and allowed ourselves to draw near to the devil.

Zechariah 1:3 (ESV) 3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

Do you have any reason to doubt this promise? Can you see it applying to your own life when you know have strayed from Him and need to return? I sure hope so because such a belief in and of itself is proof that He has already drawn near to you.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. We delight ourselves in Him by seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, and He will see to it that we lack no good thing. We delight ourselves in Him by constantly striving to make Him “Lord of our life” and by sincerely struggling to live our lives in such a way which will bring Him, and not ourselves, glory and honor and praise.

We must search the Scriptures to discover what it is that pleases Him and then ask Him to help us to do just that. There are tons of such passages. For instance:

Psalms 51:17 (AMP) 17 My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15 (AMP) 15 For thus says the high and lofty One—He Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, but with him also who is of a thoroughly penitent and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the thoroughly penitent [bruised with sorrow for [his or her] sin].

Isaiah 66:2 (AMP) 2 For all these things My hand has made, and so all these things have come into being [by and for Me], says the Lord. But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands.

Matthew 5:3-4 (NIV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Humble yourself under His mighty hand and he will lift you up in due time. Honor Him and He will honor you. Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and He will give you every good thing. Come close to God and He will come close to you.

You and I must resist the devil and not keep quiet when God gives us the opportunity to witness and share the Gospel. We must become bold even if by nature we are the exact opposite. Years ago there was a man who was used mightily by God to share his faith by writing letters. But when it came to actually doing it in person his bodily appearance was no more impressive than that gutsy woman with the poster I spoke about earlier and he certainly wasn’t eloquent like some other men. The great Apostle Paul suffered much ridicule.

2 Corinthians 10:10 (KJV) 10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

Paul realized he needed help to share the gospel with non-Christians. He couldn’t do it in his own strength. He needed to be as fearless and bold in person as he was in his letters and Paul needed God to enable and empower him. What’s he do? Well, after describing the nature of the devils unrelenting war against God and His children and how they can effectively fight the devil, Paul turns to his brothers and sisters in Christ and asks them to help him.

Ephesians 6:19-20 (AMP) 19 And [pray] also for me, that [freedom of] utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news (the Gospel), 20 For which I am an ambassador in a coupling chain [in prison. Pray] that I may declare it boldly and courageously, as I ought to do.

Paul knew what God wanted him to do and he wasn’t ashamed to ask for help. You and I will face many fierce spiritual battles before we complete our pilgrimage on this earth. But by the grace of God victory is guaranteed. However, we must engage in these battles and not fight them half heartedly. In total dependence upon Him for the strength and courage, we must give it our very best. We must become engaged and we must fight to win!

[1] Galatians 1:19 (ESV) 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. Matthew 13:55 (ESV) 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Mark 6:3 (ESV) 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. John 7:5 (ESV) 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

[2] Job 34:31-32 (ESV) 31 “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more; 32 teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’? Isaiah 10:20 (ESV) 20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. Ezekiel 14:10-11 (ESV) 10 And they shall bear their punishment —the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— 11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

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