Fight the Good Fight

Fight the good fight of the faith. (I Timothy 6:12a, NIV)

There are many fights: against injustice; against false information; against illness and disease; against undesirable laws and policies; against corruption; and many more. Joining one or more fight can grow us in far more life. Or it can drain the life out of us. Or pull us away from far more life. How do we choose which fight or fights are good to join?

There was a lot of fighting in the Old Testament era. Sometimes God clearly instructed the Israelites not to fight (Deuteronomy 1:42, Judges 2:15) but there were many more times when God supported the people in their fights (Deuteronomy 3:22, Judges 11:32, I Chronicles 5:20, Nehemiah 4:14, Jeremiah 1:19). The latter fights were often for physical land God had promised His people:

I will give you every place where you set your foot…Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life…you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (Joshua 1:3-6, NIV)

The good fight was clear to the Israelites because God gave very specific orders and named specific enemies. But today God has called us to a spiritual battle:

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. (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world… (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, NIV)

Our good fight is a fight of faith. It is not against people, rather it is against evil, spiritual darkness, sin, and Satan’s plans. The good fight strives to be like Jesus and live as His representative on planet earth. It takes place on many fronts, and not all spiritual soldiers are called to the same front.

Every person who has accepted Christ is a soldier in this battle. But some do not realize the importance or prevalence of this fight. In fact, one of Satan’s tactics is to distract us from the good fight with side skirmishes.

When I was in lower elementary school I received a watch as a gift. I was very proud of that watch — and my ability to tell time. One day after school I got into an argument with an older boy about the time. There was no easy way to check Standard Time while we were on the bus, but I was adamant my watch was right and his was wrong. Later I was embarrassed for fighting about such an unimportant thing. But at the time it felt like a very good fight.

Satan knows that when we are engaged in unimportant battles, we lack the energy and awareness needed to join the good fight. When Satan convinces us to battle against other Christians on which day to worship Him, what clothing or activities are most righteous, or what translation of the Bible is best, then we are not able to unite and join the good fight against him. When Satan convinces us to battle unbelievers on matters of righteousness, priorities, and current issues, then we cannot fight the good fight by sharing the love and hope of Christ with them and inviting them into God’s family.

Since we are imperfect, there are times when we abandon the good fight and join lesser battles. When we recognize our mistake, we have the opportunity to admit it, rejoin the good fight, and enjoy far more life. These verses warn us that temptation to stay in the lesser battle is Satan’s attempt to keep us out of the good fight:

…With God’s message stirring and directing you, fight the good fight, armed with faith and a good conscience. Some have tried to silence their consciences, wrecking their lives and ruining their faiths. (I Timothy 1:18-19, VOICE)

Thankfully our identity remains secure in Christ, even when we engage in the wrong battle. We may forfeit far more life for a time, but our relationship with God remains intact and we are readily accepted back into the good fight. We are reminded of God’s perspective:

Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession… (I Timothy 6:12b, NIV)

Sometimes the good fight is exhausting. I appreciate the following pep talk from Jeremiah. When written, it referred to a physical city that was protected from physical enemies. Today God’s Spirit inside of each of His daughters makes us a spiritual city that is protected from spiritual enemies:

“Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:18-19, NIV)

Satan and his forces will not overcome us because God is with us! Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us far more life by rescuing us from the penalty of sin. The Holy Spirit living inside of us gives us far more life by rescuing us from the power that Satan used to hold over us. And one day God will send Jesus back to earth to secure the final victory, rescue us from the presence of evil, and usher us into the ultimate experience of far more life. As we wait for that glorious day, Lord, help us fight the good fight!

Sisters,
How would you describe the good fight of faith?
What lesser battles tempt or distract you?
What barriers keep you from rejoining the good battle when you stray?

How do you remain strong over time?
Thank Jesus for the security of far more life and the promise of final victory!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Imitate Their Faith

I recently attended a celebration of life service for a woman who lived far more life. Despite facing three occurrences of cancer within six years she focused on Jesus and lived far more life to the end. She loved Him with her whole heart and trusted Him with not just her life, but also her death. It was both encouraging and humbling to hear testimonies of the impact she had on others, simply because she loved and obeyed Jesus to the best of her ability every day she remained on earth. I was starting to compare myself to her — and feel guilty about how short I fell — when her pastor shared this verse:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7, NIV)

Remember your leaders. Leaders are people of influence in your life. This is definitely referring to those with spiritual authority over us (pastors, etc.). But I think many of us have additional “leaders” in our lives who do not hold an official title or role. They lead through their example and influence.

Who spoke the word of God to you. Good spiritual leaders rely on God’s Word for their wisdom and direction. They apply it in their own life and lovingly share it with others. Their goal is to help you better understand and follow God so you have far more life.

Consider the outcome of their way of life. Do not simply trust a leader’s words or blindly follow because of their title or personality traits. Look at the results in their lives. Are they consistently modeling far more life? Does their personal life honor God? Are they respected by their leaders, peers, and followers? Do you want the same results in your own life?

Imitate their faith. We are not instructed to imitate a leader’s specific actions or choices. Rather we are instructed to imitate the faith of those who live far more life. Faith looks different in each of our lives. But we can learn from those whose faith has grown through facing challenges with God. We can recognize areas where they have far more life, ask how their faith developed in that area, and apply ourselves to growing, too.

Why is this important?

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, NIV)

Sisters, faith is the foundation of your relationship with God. Faith believes that God is real, powerful, and seeking you. Faith professes that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and saves you from eternal separation from God. Faith provides peace with God, which is your first taste of far more life. This faith is not blind; it usually follows an experience that proves God exists and loves you.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

Faith enables us to build a relationship with God. We can talk to Him, even ask Him for help, without fear. God has graciously made our faith an “all-access” pass to Him; He is available 24/7/365 and is eager to interact with us. As we look to Him through eyes of faith, we witness His work in and around us.

“But my righteous one will live by faith…” (Hebrews 10:38a, NIV)

As we grow our relationship with God, we live more and more by faith. We discover that following God’s instructions leads to far more life. The more we see the benefit of living by faith, the more willing we are to yield to Him.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17, NIV)

Faith changes our motives and actions. It prompts us to share God’s love with others because we believe His love is the best gift they could ever receive. Faith urges us to generously give our time, energy, and money to those who need it because we trust God to supply our needs. Acting by faith brings us far more life.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16, NIV)

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5:8, NIV)

Faith equips us for spiritual battle. Believing God’s word is true, powerful, and relevant is our defense against the lies that Satan hurls at us. Since our enemies are spiritual, our weapons must be spiritual as well (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10:4). As a follower of Christ, entering the battle is not optional. A growing faith will encounter spiritual opposition.

At each stage of our faith journey, looking at the examples of others who are further along can be helpful. We can learn from their victories and mistakes. Far more life is often the result of a hard-fought battle, but can also come through following God’s instruction to imitate the faith of our leaders.

Sisters,
Who are the leaders in your life?
What about their faith can you imitate?
Are you starting, building, learning to obey, or acting on your faith?
As you consider the spiritual battles you are facing, whose faith can you learn from?
Thank God for your leaders who are modeling far more life and joining you on your journey.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Trust Barriers

If trusting God is far more life, why is it so hard? That is a big, important question. And the answer goes way back…

When God created the earth, it was a paradise. Everything was perfect.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, NIV)

It’s hard for us to comprehend “very good” because the earth we walk today is not like that. “Very good” meant: no illness or disease; no natural disasters or severe weather; no thorns or thistles; no emotional hurts; no lying, stealing, or cheating; and there was no death of animals or people. “Very good” meant Adam and Eve trusted God. He provided all they needed: food; physical safety; companionship; and everything else. The pinnacle of “very good” was their friendship with God; He walked and talked with them, face to face.

But Satan introduced distrust. He suggested to Adam and Eve that God was not trustworthy, that He was withholding good from them. Sadly they listened and believed Satan’s lie. Their response led to physical changes on earth and a barrier between people and God. In addition, Satan has tempted every human since to mistrust God.

Why does Satan do this?

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him…He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:7-9, 12b, NIV)

There is a spiritual war between Satan’s family and God’s family. Before we enter a relationship with Jesus, we are part of Satan’s spiritual family. But once we accept Christ’s offer to forgive our sins, we join God’s spiritual family and become Satan’s enemy. Satan hates God. He hates us, too.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV)

The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10, PHILLIPS)

Our enemy, Satan, wants to destroy our trust in God. God always deserves our trust. He will never sin against us. Never be selfish, impatient, or angry. He will love us perfectly. But to our limited minds this seems impossible. We cannot understand God and His ways because He is unlike us and anyone we have ever met! So we sometimes misunderstand His words and actions or falsely accuse Him of wrong. Then Satan lies to us, saying God is not trustworthy, and it rings true. We pull away from God, doubting His character and intentions. Satan knows distrust will block us from far more life. But the truth is:

There is no one holy like the Lordthere is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (I Samuel 2:2, NIV)

Satan’s lies sometimes feel true because our experiences with people back them up. No person is perfect, so it is hard to understand God’s perfection. Even the most loving person we know has been selfish or impatient, took out their anger on us, or somehow sinned against us. Satan whispers to us that if we can’t trust these people — who we can see — how can we trust God — who we cannot see.  Trusting God — far more life — requires that we recognize Satan’s lies and choose to believe God, even when our own thoughts and experiences tempt us to distrust Him.

Direct attacks on our relationship with God are not Satan’s only tactic. Satan also works to isolate us from people who can help us trust God and find far more life in Him. He uses our friends, family, pastors, other Christians, authority figures, even complete strangers to hurt us. Sometimes these people sin against us and he capitalizes on that, telling us lies about ourselves that sound true to our hurting hearts and cause us to withdraw. Other times he whispers negative interpretations of their words and actions in our ear, interpretations that reinforce the beliefs that we are alone, unloved, not good enough, damaged beyond repair, worthless, and more. It feels like we need to pull away from people to be safe. But this is not true! We need to forgive and remember Satan’s scheme:

Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12, NLV)

It also helps to know God’s strategy and realize that He ultimately is victorious:

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:20, NIV)

It takes work to trust God, but it’s worth it! Keep looking for and fighting against Satan’s attack. Seek understanding. Forgive quickly. Remember examples of God’s trustworthiness. Take His promises to heart. Live far more life in Him.

Sisters,
In what ways have you believed Satan’s lies that God is not trustworthy?
How have you seen evidence of the spiritual battle?
If you are in God’s family, pray that He will open your eyes to see the battle and give you courage to choose to believe His truth.
If you are not in God’s family, examine the barriers keeping you from trusting Him. Are they real or is Satan lying to you?
Praise God that He will win the spiritual war and everyone in His family will be free from the battle forever and ever!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso