This week, we continue our message series, “Walking in the Favor of God.” Last week, we were reminded that we all face troubles and difficulties in this life. However, for the one who puts their trust in Jesus, there is a promise of victory to which we cling. We are more than conquerors, we are overcomers! Even as Jesus said:
32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We can take heart and have courage knowing that since Jesus suffered for a season, yet was raised in victory and given authority over all things. Since Jesus overcame all things, He will also empower us to overcome whatever troubles and difficulties come our way.
Though Jesus was honest about the persecution and difficulties people would face by choosing to follow Him, He spoke far more often about the fact that it would all be worth it.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Choosing to be salt and light can be challenging, however, it comes with a great reward! Choosing to be a true friend to the lost, to love the hard-to-love, to do good to those who curse us, to pray blessing for those who tear us down, to forgive those who wound us deeply, to reply with a gentle word when you feel like defending yourself… It is not easy, but it will be well worth it!
12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Jesus is our rewarder. He sees every victory both large and small. Every time that we overcome temptation, every time that we overcome evil with good, every sacrifice that we make. He sees it all and when He calls us home, He brings with Him our rich reward.
There is a war raging every day in our lives and there is no neutral ground for us to stand on. As with any war, sacrifices are made. Battles are won, battles are lost. There are allies, there are enemies. Things are gained and things are stolen. To the victor, however, belong the spoils of war, the booty, the things which the enemy stole and more!
The war that we face happens on two different fronts. The first is internal and the second external.
Internally, we face the battle of the mind and will. We’re a new creation through Christ, yet our old selves keeps wanting to resurrect back to life. Our enemy whispers lies into our thought life and if we don’t discern his voice, we just may believe those lies! For certain, in this internal battle, thoughts should often be stopped and forced to become prisoners of war!
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Paul described this internal battle this way:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Internally, the weapon with which we fight is the sword of the Spirit, the very word of God. The soldiers are our thoughts. They must be thoroughly vetted, tried, and tested, even better than refugees entering the United States. Our thoughts cannot be trusted and must be tested against the word of God. If they are in agreement, they are free to have their way in our lives, to grow and to be fruitful. If they are contradictory to it, they are captured as prisoners of war and silenced, all access to our lives denied.
Externally, the battles become far more complicated. First and foremost, we’re reminded that our battle is against our enemy and his schemes, not against flesh and blood.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Next, we’re reminded of the primary objective and mission of Satan versus the primary objective and mission of Jesus.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This helps bring some clarity to situations and to see the fingerprints of who is at work. It is also important to remember that God is the ultimate power and authority. Satan was the most beautiful of all creation, created by God. His wisdom simply became corrupt, which lead to his fall along with a third of the angels, who are now his demon minions. Any attack of the enemy is permitted by God as a test to grow and mature us. Even as Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 2:9-11
9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
The complicated part is that although our battle is always against our enemy in the spiritual realms, the fight often takes place in the natural world. The same people that Jesus gave His life for so that they might experience an abundant life, the same people that we are commanded to love and bless and lead to Christ, are often pawns of our enemy. Paul wrote to Timothy and warned him, along with us now, of this painful reality.
2 Timothy 2:23-26
23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
There are people out there who are literally prisoners of war of Satan. They are held captive by him and forced to do his will. All that we can do is pray for them and gently instruct them into God’s truth that brings freedom. Sometimes, even the people we are closest to and love the most become weapons used against us.
12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. 20 My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. 21 His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.
For sure, those we love the most can also hurt us the most… Unfortunately, our enemy is well aware of this and doesn’t play fair. Again, we remember that our battle is not against them, not against flesh and blood, but against the devil, himself.
In every war, there are losses and sacrifices, but there are also sweet victories. There are battles won and every victory comes with spoils. Our enemy might be a thief who steals, kills, and destroys, but when the thief’s day of accountability comes, he will repay.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
I’m reminded of Job of whom God allowed the enemy to steal everything from him sparing only his life. However, in the end, he was repaid double what had been stolen. Joseph and David who seemed to be at the losing end of the war for decades, but God eventually brought them to the top, giving them authority over kingdoms because of their unswerving trust in Him. This morning, God is here to bring healing, strength, and encouragement to us warriors.
The battle may be rough, the war may be heated, but the spoils of war are waiting for us on the other side of our victory. If we remain faithful to the Lord, never losing hope in Him, if we stay in the battle and keep fighting even when our fingers are frozen to our swords, the spoils of war will be ours! Today, we remember that the enemy will be forced to repay everything that he has stolen from us sevenfold! Don’t lose heart, and don’t give up!