And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12
How do we fight the good fight of faith!? Jesus told us that it would not be easy and that it would require us to exert a force in the direction of God’s Kingdom. To possess God’s promises for us, we not only need to believe them, but we also need to act on them and live them out!
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to pray that they would not be led in temptation but to be delivered from evil. If we are going to take possession of what God has already bought for us through the precious blood of Jesus, we need to remain alert to the enemy’s devices. If we fall into temptations or offenses, we open the door to the enemy, and we lose the territory that belongs to us. The enemy is after derailing God’s people by causing shame, guilt, and accusation.
Joseph had dreams about God’s purpose in his life, but for many years everything looked opposite of what he had seen in his dreams. He could have grown bitter, resentful, and disobedient to those who ruled over him. To the contrary, Joseph fought the good fight of faith by remaining diligent, pure, obedient, and free from offense. This prevented him from not being baited by the enemy nor to be derailed from God’s purpose in his life.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12
Paul gives another glimpse of how to fight the good fight of faith. He describes that we are to live with godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. These qualities allow a believer to lay hold of the Kingdom of God and bring it to earth. Furthermore, others get to see, taste, and experience the Kingdom of God through those who live their lives this way.
Today, as we remember the work and the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, we see a man of God who fought the good fight of faith in pursuit of truth, dignity, and justice! He exerted force and brought violence against the kingdom of darkness, hatred, and racism, but he fought this battle with faith, love, courage, and patience. While taking action, his hope was ultimately in the Lord his redeemer, which brings us to the next point in Paul’s exhortation.
Paul also stresses to lay hold on eternal life! This is an important aspect of fighting the good fight of faith. Jesus bought eternal life for every person who confesses their sin and recognizes Jesus’ work on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus did not just die, so we can have a good life on this earth, but He died to give us the hope and expectation of an eternal life with our savior and Lord. If people live their lives as if this life is all there is, then they will live their lives with frustration, anger, compulsion, and restlessness. It is the hope of eternal life that allows God’s children to live with contentment, peace, and joy in this unstable world!
We live in a world where the enemy wants to draw every person, including the believers, into the bait of hatred, division, and animosity. As God’s people, we are called to do it differently! How do you fight the good fight of faith? Do you recognize the enemy’s schemes in derailing you from God’s purpose!? Are you ruled by God’s character in your life even when things don’t go your way? Do you have the hope of eternal life?
Hearing God’s voice is not easy but it is a necessity for us as God’s children as we navigate through life. How do we know if we heard the Lord instead of hearing ourselves or the enemy? The scriptures give us direction on this important issue.
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
When the word of the Lord (through the angel) came to Mary, she was not expecting it. The message given to her was not something that she would have conjured up or thought of. The message was God’s idea, and it would have cost Mary something. When we live our lives in simplicity of faith and walk with God, the Lord has access to speak to us and to download what He desires in our lives. The voice of the Lord does not boost our ego, but it settles our identity in God. It allows us to remain dependent on the Lord and look to Him as He takes us through the journey. Mary and Joseph had to continue to look to the Lord in this process and be led by Him in order to protect the baby and raise Jesus for the purpose God had for Him.
Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” 1 Samuel 23:2
Seek God and Remain Neutral
King David inquired of the Lord frequently, especially, as it related to going to wars with other nations. The beauty of David’s inquiry is that David did not allow his emotions to justify going to battle. His ego was not involved in trying to prove his might and his strength. He didn’t presume because Israel is God’s special people that it meant God was going to give them success in every battle. Instead, David put himself in a neutral position and allowed the Lord to speak to him. In some instances, the Lord told him to go to war and in other situations, He told him not to. David followed the Lord’s instructions and God gave Him success!
Sometimes, we are so focused on reaching our goals that hearing God takes a backseat to our agenda. The truth is that any path we take, we may experience some bumps on the road. If we have arrived there by our the strength of our will, then the difficulties along the way will challenge our decision. On the other hand, if we have heard the Lord before moving in a certain direction, then we know that this is God’s will and we can fight the spiritual battle with God’s strength.
God’s Answer in His Timing
One of the important things in hearing the voice of God is that we cannot make it happen in our timing. If we strive in the flesh to hear God’s voice, we will eventually hear something, but it won’t be the voice of God. We may end up hearing our own desires or the enemy’s deception. We can’t force God to speak to us when we expect to hear from Him. We need to be willing to wait and yield our will. God is going to speak when He knows it’s the right time to speak. Our job is to abide in Him, look to Him, and wait on Him.
Do you hear the voice of the Lord unexpectedly? When you need an answer, can you place aside your emotions and opinions and remain in a neutral position? Are you able to wait to hear Him speak?
In the last few devotionals, I shared about the life of Moses, Joseph, and Jesus and their wilderness experiences. In each of their lives, their wilderness journey had a different purpose.
In the case of Moses, the Lord had to break Moses’ pride and natural strength and to teach him to rely on Him fully. Moses experienced his own wilderness before he could lead the Israelites through their wilderness for forty years! He was being prepared to represent the Lord before Gods’ people, and he had to be shaped through humility, consistency, and perseverance in the wilderness.
As for Joseph’s life, although he was loved dearly by his natural father, Jacob’s love was not enough to fulfill God’s plan for his life! Joseph learned to lean into the Lord when he was all alone, and he had no earthly love to draw upon. It was during this time that God gave him more than a dream but gave him interpretation to others’ dreams that opened the door to his destiny!
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. Luke 4:13-14
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
Jesus did not go into the wilderness because he had any sins or weaknesses in His life. Instead, the fasting and the wilderness experience allowed Him to come out full of power for what he was going to experience for the next three years of His life! He was being prepared for what was coming ahead as He was going to suffer on the cross for the sins of the world! He was also tempted in the wilderness in order to identify with our frailty and to be fully qualified as the High priest to intercede on our behalf before the Father. He remained strong and courageous when all the powers of hell broke lose against Him. He resisted every temptation and allowed the Lord to do His perfect will through His life!
What is beautiful and amazing about the stories of Moses, Joseph, and Jesus is that they were all gracious and forgiving towards those who mistreated them and falsely accused them! The wilderness had taught them to give up their rights to their own plans and to have a resolve for God’s will! They were willing to be the vessel that God wanted them to be in order to be used for the benefit of others! In the case of Jesus, His forgiveness opened the door for the entire humanity to have a chance to be saved from hell and darkness! The Bible shows us that many of God’s people experienced wilderness in their lives, and the Lord used the wilderness for His own purpose and for the benefit of His people.
If we are truly honest with ourselves thriving in the wilderness is a tough process! Many yearn to change the world but struggle greatly to allow the flesh to fully die in the wilderness! Why is wilderness so distasteful to most of us? Because there is nothing there to keep us busy or distracted. It’s boring! It feels like it will never end. We can’t set goals or make any progress. We are not in control! We don’t know what to do with ourselves, and we get fidgety looking around to get our hands busy with something. Our main focus becomes how to get out of the wilderness!
The wilderness experience is supposed to shape us for God’s glory and purpose! However, it is also full of temptations! Hence, it requires our attention, courage, and patience to be able to successfully persevere through it until such a time that the Lord gets us out of it! We don’t know how the Lord is going to do it, but we know that He is faithful and He will do it in time as we cooperate with Him!
I shared in the last devotional that Moses’s haste and sin caused him to remain in the wilderness for decades! He became a shepherd for his father-in-law and was out of the public eye for forty years, but ultimately God had a plan for him to shepherd His people out of slavery. Can you imagine how Moses’ interactions with Pharaoh would have looked like if he had not dealt with his temper!? He could have jeopardized his own life as well as the lives of his Hebrew brothers and sisters because of his impatience and anger. The Lord tempered Moses’ temper, so when he went before Pharaoh, he was a calm man who only desired to represent the Lord! In addition, as a leader, Moses was going to be faced with many oppositions some of which came from his own family!
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) Numbers 12: 1-3
Miraim and Aaron both were anointed by God to work under the leadership of Moses. However, they began to criticize Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman and felt as anointed as Moses! When we read further in Numbers chapter 12, two points stand out about Moses:
First, Moses did not defend himself before Miriam and Aaron. He had become a humble man, and his focus was to honor God. He had no need to explain, defend, or fight for his position. He did not use his authority as a leader to lash out at his brother and sister. Instead, he allowed God to fight his battle.
Second, Moses interceded for his sister when the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy. Moses had no ill will towards her or his brother for questioning his authority. Instead, he had a heart of love and compassion for them.
Many people hope for leadership positions in their lives, but they are overconfident about their abilities in times of pressure! Moses was a learned and skilled man, but it took forty years of wilderness for him to let go of his pride. He shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep for years before he was able to respond in humility to opposition. The truth is that this was just the beginning of many challenges and trials that Moses had to endure to lead the people of God!
Most of us like the call of God in our lives because it makes us feel significant and important in the Kingdom. However, we truly do not understand the weight of the call! Do we handle the criticism of our brothers and sisters as well as Moses did? Moses had to be processed and its fruit was patience with his family and with God’s people as they remained in the desert for forty years. Leadership requires humility, patience and compassion because God wants us to represent Him when we are leading.
Have you been in the wilderness for quite sometime? Has it been a humbling process for you? Does it feel like you are wasting good years being stuck in the desert? Praise God that nothing is wasted in the Lord’s hands! He knows what He is doing. Continue to surrender to God’s process even when it doesn’t make sense. Allow Him to remove the self-confidence that led you to the wilderness in the first place. He knows how to replace it with meekness and allow you to shine brightly in due season.