Two weeks ago, we were challenged to see people prophetically. We found that nearly every single person that God ever chose for leadership and greatness were people that would normally be overlooked by us. They were people with serious flaws and sin and with plenty of excuses not to follow God’s calling. God saw them not only as they were, but also as He created them to be. They chose to trust God and that enabled the ordinary to be used to achieve the extraordinary!

When the choice was made to follow God, things changed. We like to think that making the choice to follow God’s plans and purposes for our lives is the moment when the dark clouds clear and life becomes all sunshine, rainbows, and roses for us. We like to think that choosing to follow Jesus is the moment when our pothole and thorn filled path is changed into a smooth highway and life becomes easy. From my own personal experience, and from what we find in the Bible, this simply isn’t the truth. And oh, how I wish it were!

Truthfully, it is easier for us to stay in our sin and keep living life the way that we want. Sure, there are difficult consequences, often losing all that we love, but to stay in that place doesn’t require much effort on our part. It’s a rough road full of hurt and sorrow, but it is easy to stay on. It’s easy to keep lying to people, keep shooting up, keep cheating, keep drinking or whatever your struggle might be. It’s hard to live life by the Holy Spirit’s lead and away from the desires of our flesh! When we choose God’s ways over our own, that is when the fight is on!

The fight may be on, but the prize of victory is well worth every sacrifice! Your marriage is worth the fight, your freedom is worth the fight, your family is worth the fight, your healing is worth the fight, your community is worth the fight, your destiny is worth the fight! When you receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, you are not only transformed into a new creation, adopted into His family as God’s very own child, but you are also enlisted as a soldier in a war of good versus evil. You used to be a mindless drone doing whatever the devil desired, but now you’ve been empowered to choose! You’ve been enabled to overcome! You’ve been raised from death to life!

Ephesians 2:1-5
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
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.

Though the forces of darkness may rise up against you, though it once may have taken you captive to do its will, it can no longer overcome the light that God has placed within you when you chose to follows Jesus. Don’t allow the army of darkness to convince you to put that light under a bowl and ashamedly hide it because of your weaknesses and sin, Jesus said that let your light shine brightly so that all may see! In fact, the apostle Paul said that he would actually boast all the more about his weaknesses because in his weaknesses, God was strong!

The things that Paul could not do on his own, Jesus empowered him to do through the Holy Spirit. He was weak, but God’s strength overcame that weakness. The things that Paul knew that he should not do, those things he kept on doing. The things that Paul knew that he should do, those things he did not do. Like each of us, he fought a battle of the Spirit within Him versus the flesh he lived in prone to sin that he was wrapped in. According to his own words found in Romans chapter 7, he overcame in this battle only through the strength of Jesus Christ, his deliverer! Praise be to Jesus, we can also overcome in the fight!

Last week, we were encouraged to engage in the fight and to stand firm. We were strengthened in seven different areas of how to stand together firmly rooted in Jesus, our Rock and firm foundation. There is nothing more critical in the fight than this, to stand firm. As Ephesians 6 reminds us, we are to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand our ground and after we have done everything else, to stand. This is the victory; to stand firmly in the fight and to watch your enemy flee!

When we choose to follow Jesus, the fight is on, but the victory is worth the fight!

When Joseph was given a dream of God’s destiny for him to rule over his household, that is when he was thrown into a pit for death, sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, forgotten about by the same person that he freed from prison, all before his victory and the fulfillment of God’s promise. Joseph was raised up to be the second most powerful man on the face of the earth and delivered millions of people from famine.

When David was anointed king over Israel, that is when he bare-handedly fought the lion and bear, Goliath whom no one else would rise up against, the demons tormenting King Saul, the armies of Israel trying to take his life at Saul’s command, loneliness and abandonment, all before his victory and the fulfillment of God’s promise. David established Israel as a great nation as they overcome the nations around them.

When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, was blinded, sent to a people who feared and doubted him, was beaten and abused over and over again, left for dead on several occasions, shipwrecked on the open seas, imprisoned for his faith, and historians claim died by beheading because of his faith, all before his victory and the fulfillment of God’s promise. Paul lead countless people from many nations to faith in Jesus, healing and delivering countless people from the kingdom of darkness, and planting church after church to continue that work.

When Jesus began His ministry, that is when His own friends and family drove Him to a cliff planning to kill Him, the nation’s leaders tried to ensnare Him with questions, traded for a murderer named Barabbas, misunderstood and alone, familiar with misery and suffering, even Jesus struggled to follow His Father’s will in the garden of Gethsemane, wrongfully trialed and lied against, brutally beaten, and crucified, all before His victory and the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus was given the name above every name and was granted authority over everything in every realm.

I could go on and on about the fight that every single person of faith in the Bible endured. If you’ve heard it preached that choosing to follow Jesus is the beginning of your path of luxurious blessing and easy living, you’ve heard a false gospel. In fact, it seems to be a trend that the greater of an impact that one has for God’s kingdom, the greater the opposition that rises up to fight against them. The gospel is the good news that though the battle may be fierce, the victory far exceeds anything lost in battle. The victory is worth the fight!

No one was ever awarded a victory just because they fought well in the first few rounds and walked away. Victory, and the rich reward that accompanies it, is reserved for those who fight to the end and persevere to overcome all odds. The victory is worth the fight!

Anything in life worth having comes as a result of hard work and sacrifice. Even God’s blessing is most often a direct result of obedience. Marriages takes hard work. Breaking cycles of addiction takes hard work. Raising children takes hard work. Yes, God can work a miracle and go ahead of us and fight our battles for us as He has done in the past. However, the most joyous of celebrations and times of rejoicing happened when God empowered and enabled His people to run into the battle and earn their victory!

When someone is freely handed something, it isn’t valued or appreciated very much. This was the enabling force of the prodigal son, being freely handed an inheritance. He quickly squandered it away and it became his ruining. When someone works hard to achieve something, they value it much higher and work much harder to maintain it and guard it. If the prodigal had worked a lifetime to build up that same inheritance, I’m sure that he would have handled it differently. It then becomes a blessing and not a curse.

When someone works hard to obtain something, they find reason to celebrate. We find moments like these such as when David returned with the ark of God dancing with all of his might and embarrassing his wife by his extravagant worship and partying with the entire nation for what he achieved. The victory is worth the fight!

How do we fight and win?

1. Identify the enemy

In my opinion, the number one reason why we spend ourselves fighting and never getting closer to victory is because we never take the time to truly identify the enemy who we are fighting. Traditionally in battle, sides are well defined by flags and uniforms and battle boundaries are clearly drawn. Take a look at a football stadium or any historic battle of war and you can quickly see all of these things.

War, as if though it is not destructive enough on its own, can get very ugly very quickly. This happens when the enemy becomes unclear. When enemy soldiers disguise themselves in civilian’s clothing, when their bombs are ordinary cars driving down the street, when their weapons bunkers are homes within a village, then innocent people become casualties of war.

Unfortunately, our enemy, who is known by many names, the devil, Satan, the antichrist, the deceiver, the father of lies, the ruler of the kingdom of darkness, doesn’t fight fairly. He is a master of disguise and is willing to transform even the very places that God designed as refuges for us to become his battle grounds. If he can gain a stronghold or even a foothold, he will wreak whatever havoc he can against us. Thankfully, we are not unaware of his schemes. If he can work through our spouse or child or friend or coworker and get us to fight them, then we will never defeat our true enemy. We will, however, hurt those we love and destroy their lives; innocent casualties of war.

1 Peter 5:7-9
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
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.

The battle may be revealed in the flesh, but the true battle lies not in flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realms! This means that our spouse is not our enemy, our child is not our enemy, our co-worker is not our enemy, our true enemy is none other than Satan, the devil, himself. If we viewed the people we care about not as our enemies, but as captives of war, we would fight differently. We wouldn’t engage them as the enemy, but fight together with them against your common enemy.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
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.

We are on a rescue mission commissioned by Jesus to help people escape the trap of the devil. Beating them up for being in a trap isn’t going to get them one step closer to freedom. If they have even an inkling of a desire for freedom, then they already recognize that they are in a trap and they need your help to free them from it. We do this with gentleness, kindness, and instruction, not with fists, yelling, and rage. You can’t scream and push and shove the enemy out of someone’s life, but you can love them to freedom. You’ve been sent to demolish every stronghold and to break every chain of the enemy!

Ephesians 6:10-12
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.

This is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies; because they are not truly the enemies! Loving the unlovable is no easy task and I guarantee that it will cause you great amounts of pain and sorrow. However, it is the only path to their freedom. Loving someone held captive, doing the work of our enemy is no small calling, but it is the only way to victory for them. Look to Jesus, our example, allowing evil to beat Him beyond recognition as a man and then to hang Him on a cross for all to see. Yet, this was our victory!

Matthew 5:38-45
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jesus wasn’t preaching that we would be door mats who just let everyone walk all over us. Remember, this is the same Jesus that made a whip and drove out everyone who was profiting off of those coming to worship God. Again, it’s critically important that we correctly identify the true enemy and respond appropriately. We need to know when to rebuke and correct a person for their foolish behavior and when to extend loving-kindness to a person in order to cast an arrow into the chest of the enemy who is truly at fault. The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom into these things, but I’ve found that it is more often than not the fruits of the Spirit that set people free from the snare of the enemy and not the harshness of our words.

Identifying our true enemy is an important first step. It will keep us from attacking and hurting those who are actually for us and not against us. It will prevent some friendly fire, which is never all that friendly. It will help us to join together with those we care about and fight together with them against our common enemy and no longer against each other.

Now that we know who the true enemy is, how do we practically engage in the fight to ensure the victory? Are we alone in this fight, or do we have allies that can join with us? Well, join us next week and we’ll learn exactly that! After all, the victory is worth the fight!