*This article was originally written in November 2005. Due to God working in my life largely through a sermon series at Perimeter Church called Grace In Motion: The Road to Freedom, I have begun to look at the subject differently. The changes are noted at the end of the article.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Heb 12:4
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith...2 Ti 4:7
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Cor. 10:13
I'm a peaceful, easy-going guy, so the idea of fighting is a little foreign to me. Yet there is still something inside of me that wants come out of an intense struggle the winner. The lyric "fight with the devil and go down swinging" is cool, but if I fight with the devil, want to come out wounded, but the winner.
Although the desire to fight is there, it doesn't seem like it's very strong. As much as Christians talk about how wonderful the Christian life is, it's a fight. Christ didn't come to bring us a "Leave It to Beaver" world. He never claimed to. And, I'm not too sure that it wouldn't be a boring life if he did. This life is as much about a fight as it is anything else. For the Christian, the fight is against his old self, the person he was. Fighting against the sins that he used to enjoy. I want to fight, to stand up, and to resist to the point of shedding blood, but most of the time I fail. I want to prove that I am strong enough to win. I have worked hard to gain as much physical strength as I can, but I want that physical strength to be transferred to spiritual strength. Can it be? Can I resist to the point of shedding blood? Can I fight and come out the winner? Can I stand up under incredible pressure? No, I can't. I don't have the strength. But Paul talks about "struggling with all [Christ's] energy, which so powerfully works in me" (Col. 1:29). So I can tap into Christ's strength and power for these battles? If that's the case, how? I don't know. But next time I'm faced with a battle, I pray I'll stand up with all the strength I have, fight with all the violence in me, and struggle until all my blood is gone. Giving all I have is my only hope in getting all God has.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph 6:10-18
Update: October 2006
The Perimeter Church sermon series Grace in Motion: The Road to Freedom has largely changed my viewpoint on this subject. Although I still believe what I have written above, I think I can more clearly see the meaning of what I wrote.
When looking at this fight with sin in my imagination, I always imagined victory looking glamorous. I could see myself emerging from the battle with muscles bulging, battered and bruised, tattered and torn--in the same way the Gladiator emerges from the battle; however, most of the time I wouldn't emerge from the battle at all. I would just be lying wounded on the field, wondering why God promises freedom from sin, yet I still felt so much bondage. Out of Romans 6 and 7, God began to realign my thinking.
Everyday I present myself to God asking him to fill me with His Spirit, and saying, "God, I've already lost if you don't win for me. I can't fight." This has done amazing things in my life. I am experiencing victory like never before over the flesh. What is disappointing though, is the man I see emerging from the battle is not the man I had envisioned. I wanted to see a muscle-bound man emerging with plenty of bruises and scars from the battle (Chicks dig scars right?); however, the man I see emerging from the battle is much different than I expected. He is not the muscle-bound, bruised but victorious challenger. Rather, he is puny--a skinny guy who obviously knows nothing about fighting. What's worse, he isn't even sweating. When he showed up to the fight, God had confused the enemy, and they had all killed each other before he got there. He didn't do anything but show up late. I now see more clearly than ever that the fight is God's, not mine, so the glory I imagined is not obtained, but the life I longed for is realized.
I'm not sure why God works this way. It makes me kind of angry that I can't
share in the glory, but ultimately, I do believe it's better to emerge from the fight than to lay
dead on the field.