The character of a person is sometimes measured by the difficulties he overcomes. The warrior by his battle victories, the runner by his long races, or the climber by the mountains he summits. Of course, we all fight battles, run races, and climb mountains in our own lives. Sometimes these are not physical, but mental, emotional or even spiritual.
Great victories are not accomplished overnight but require time, discipline and training. There’s a saying among warriors that you fight like you train. From that maxim comes the cliché, the more you sweat in training, the less you’ll bleed in battle. We all struggle in different arenas almost every day, so the concept of fighting should not be reduced to military combat or a boxing ring. The nurse’s ability to fight and save lives depends on her years of academic and practical training which prepared her for the conflicts she faces in the emergency room as sick and wounded come in for medical treatment. The lawyer’s ability to fight in the courtroom depends on the years of training she received in law school as well as the training she gleaned from years of personal experience in the courtroom itself.
Every Christian is born on a spiritual battlefield. It is the devil’s world, and Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The Christian is called to resist the devil by faith, trusting God at His Word (1 Pet. 5:9). This means learning God’s Word and consciously applying it to everyday situations. It is through everyday practice that the Christian becomes proficient in applying God’s Word to his life, as it addresses marriage, raising children, friendships, social issues, finances, law, and other aspects of human life and experience. We cannot always predict the difficulties we’ll face in life, and certainly we cannot always stop or avoid them, but we need not be overrun by them either, as we can be mentally prepared to stand firm in the faith. The daily practice of learning and living God’s Word prepares the Christian for challenges, in whatever form they take, whether prosperity or adversity (Phil. 4:11-13). I say prosperity or adversity, because one can destroy the Christian as easily as the other. The first is a pleasant distraction while the other a difficult one. Both can be used by Satan to get the believer to focus more on the things of this world rather than God. Spiritual victory demands focus on God and His Word, otherwise defeat is inevitable.
When confronted with a crisis, the mind can be shocked and want to shut down due to sensory overload, but this is the time when the Christian should be the thinking on Scripture. Failure to respond properly in a crisis can result in being a casualty rather than a victor. The repetition of daily reading and thinking on Scripture helps ingrain God’s Word for when the Christian needs it most during a trial. Constant exposure and repetition to Scripture is the key to learning, and we know we’ve truly learned something when we can apply it when under pressure. The time we spend reading the Bible, studying under a good Pastor-Teacher, reading good Christian books, and engaging in good theological discussions all prepare us for when the disaster strikes. I speak with certainty on this point, for if one lives long enough, trials will come. I know Christians who collapse under minor disturbances such as changes in the weather, burned food, or a flat tire. Because these Christians have failed to handle life’s little battles, they’ve set themselves up for major failure when the big storms of life come their way. This need not happen. The Christian can train his mind daily to think on Scripture and to apply it to the various situations that come his way. As we grow spiritually over time, our little faith will become big faith, and little victories will lead to bigger victories in the Lord.
The storms of life are inevitable, but how we face them is optional. As Christians, we have a choice to live by faith and apply God’s Word to our situations. We do not always have control over the things that happen to us, but neither do we have to be controlled by them. As Christians, we always want to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, [and] to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10). By faith we can face a conflict, an injustice, or a hurt done to us, and be the winner because we handled it in a way that pleases the Lord. The life of faith always pleases God (Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7-9; Heb. 11:6).
God is always with us. He never leaves or fails us. He is our Lord and He loves us more than we will ever know, even when the battle rages and it seems we are fighting longer than we can endure. We cannot fail, and the Lord will see us through us through it.
Dr. Steven R. Cook