Central Truth: When we “fight the good fight of faith,” we can step out of the narrow place of failure into the boundless power of God.
Our lesson today discusses the Christian’s “good fight of faith,” as referred to in our text in I Timothy 6:12. I have sometimes heard folk say that they are going to fight the devil. I don’t know why, because in the first place they are no match for him. Secondly, Jesus has already defeated the devil for us. Jesus was our substitute. I have also heard folk say that they are going to fight sin. But I am not going to fight sin. I’m going to preach the cure for sin. Jesus is the cure.
The only fight that the believer is called upon to fight is the “good fight of faith.” And if there is a fight, then there must be enemies or hindrances to faith. If there were no enemies to faith, there would be no fight to it. In this lesson we deal with six enemies to faith.
Enemy No. 1 – Failure to Understand What It Means to Be a New Creature in Christ
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. -II Corinthians 5:17
A lack of understanding of what it means to be a new creature hinders our faith life. Many people do not realize that they are actually new creatures; they think that when they were saved God just forgave them of their sins. But it would do little good if this were all the sinner received, for he is a child of the devil and would still go to hell. He has to be born again. He has to become a new creature, putting off his old sinful ways. No, we are not just forgiven sinners. We are not barely-getting-along church members. We are not living at the end of the block on Struggling-to-get-to-heaven Street next to Grumble Alley. That’s not for us. We are new creatures, created by God in Christ Jesus with the very life and nature of God in our spirits. We are children of God, sons of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus.
Enemy No. 2 – Failure to Understand Our Place in Christ
Everywhere I go I suggest that Christians go through the New Testament, particularly the epistles, and write down the phrases, “in Christ,” “in whom,” and “in Him.” Writing them down will help you to remember them. There are 133 such expressions in the New Testament. If you will read and meditate on these scriptures until they become a part of you, life will be different for you. As you read these verses, say to yourself, “This is who I am. This is what I have in Christ Jesus.”
In one church where I visited, there was a woman who the pastor described as one of the most outstanding Christian workers he had ever known. She was graduated from a leading seminary with a degree in Christian education, and she gave her services to the church free of charge. During our revival there I urged the people to begin memorizing and claiming these verses. After awhile this woman came to me and said that she had written down twenty-five of these scriptures and had begun to confess them. She said that since she had been doing this, she had become an entirely new and different person. She had found that she didn’t worry any more. She said that she thought and acted differently. She felt differently. She was amazed at herself and couldn’t help but say sometimes, “Is this really me?” I told her that she was just now beginning to walk in the light of what she had all the time. She, just as many other Christians, didn’t have an understanding of what Christ is in her life, and this hinders faith. Getting this understanding cured this woman of her worry habit.
Enemy No. 3 – Failure to Understand Righteousness
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. -II Corinthians 5:21
The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7) and therefore by the new birth we become a righteous new creature. We know that God did not make any unrighteous new creature. We are created by God in Christ Jesus. He made a righteous new creature. We are sons and daughters of God as though we had never sinned. We can stand in His presence without sin-consciousness, without any feelings of guilt or shame. We don’t have to be tongue-tied because of fear. We can come into God’s presence because we belong there. When we were born again, our sins were remitted because our past life stopped existing. God said that He would not remember our transgressions (Jeremiah 31:34). And if He doesn’t remember them, why should we?
“But I have committed sins since becoming a Christian. How can I be righteous?” some may ask. The answer to this question is found in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When the believer who has sinned confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness, the Lord does two things: First, He forgives him. Second, He cleanses him from all unrighteousness.
When we have sinned, we feel guilty and have a sense of unrighteousness. We feel unworthy to come into God’s presence. But when we confess our sin, He forgives and He also cleanses. We regain our right standing with Him.
The word “unrighteousness” is just the word “righteousness” with the prefix “un” in front of it meaning “not” or “non-righteousness.” If we are cleansed from “nonrighteousness,” then we are righteous again.
Enemy No. 4 – Failure to Understand Our Right To Use the Name of Jesus
23 … Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.- John 16:23, 24
When we fully realize the power of Jesus’ name, when we understand what that name will do, then we can defeat Satan and enjoy victory.
In the sixteenth chapter of Mark, Jesus told His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe … (Mark 16:15-17).
To them that believe the gospel these signs shall follow them – not just the Early Church, not just the apostles, not just the preachers. All believers can cast out devils in His name. Every believer has authority over demons and evil spirits in the name of Jesus. In His name they will speak with new tongues. In His name they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. [Note: But the scripture also says: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure” (I Timothy 5:22). You can only cast out demons where you have the approval of the person prayed for, and it is dangerous to be presumptuous about this. We should be specifically instructed by God. However, when it comes to ourselves, our family, and those for whom we are spiritually responsible, we have this authority].
The name of Jesus has authority and power today, and that name belongs to us.
Enemy No. 5 – Failure To Act Upon the Word
If we know that God’s Word is true, and we act as though it is true, then it becomes a reality in our lives. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). All that is necessary for us to ask is, “What does God’s Word say?”
People often ask me why they don’t receive healing. They quote scriptures such as “… Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17), and “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24). They tell me they believe these scriptures. Then I ask them, “But have you ever acted like these verses of scripture are true?”
At the age of forty-six, Dr. A.B. Simpson, a Presbyterian minister who later founded the Christian Missionary Alliance, was told he was dying of a heart condition and had only six months to live. He took a leave of absence from his church and went to his farm where he could spend time studying the Word of God. At the end of two weeks he wrote, “After searching the Word of God for two weeks, I am convinced the Bible teaches us that divine healing is for us today. And, I this day accept Jesus Christ as my healer and declare that I am now healed from heart trouble and I’m well. I promise God to use this new-found strength and life and energy entirely for His purpose and to further the gospel. I promise God I’ll share this truth of healing with others and will help them.”
Simpson went to a luncheon where he was the speaker. All that came to him to speak was one word “himself” in Matthew 8:17. So he opened his Bible, read the verse and told the audience he wanted to focus his attention on that word. Then he gave his testimony about how he had been searching the Bible and had come to the conclusion that Jesus still heals today.
After the luncheon he was invited to go mountain climbing by the men to whom he had spoken. His first reaction was that he couldn’t because of his heart condition. Then he remembered he had declared his healing, so he accepted their invitation and went. Up to this point he had not really felt his healing but had just declared it. He battled all the way up the mountain. Every time he got his mind off the scripture, he began to feel pain. But he overcame these feelings of doubt, and as he claimed his healing again all the symptoms would go away. He fought this battle all the way to the top of the mountain, but he walked away victorious. He went on to lead an active, energetic life in God’s service with no more symptoms whatsoever.
Real faith is the child of the knowledge of God’s Word. Simpson acted on the Word and got real faith from it. Instead of trying to believe, he acted upon the Word.
Enemy No. 6 – Failure To Hold Fast to Our Confession of Faith
10 For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. -Romans 10:10
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them. -Mark 11:23, 24
A young minister in St. Louis once said to me, “I am thirty-two and the doctors have said it is impossible for my wife to have children. Will you talk and pray with us?” As we talked and prayed together, his wife said she would confess that they would have a child. In the past she had always said that she would like to have a child. Now she would say that they would have a child. Twelve months later I received a letter saying that they had a bouncing baby girl. All they needed was to act upon the Word.
Faith is measured by our confession. Our usefulness in the Lord is measured by our confession. Eventually we become what we confess, whether for good or bad. There is a confession of our hearts and a confession of our lips, and when these two harmonize, we become mighty in our prayer life. The reason that so many are defeated is that they have a negative confession. They are talking of their weaknesses and failures, and invariably they go down to the level of their confession.
There is a scriptural law that I discovered from the lips of Jesus in Mark 11:23, 24, which is quoted above. This is that our confessions rule us. We are what we say. The woman with the issue of blood, whose story we find in Mark 5:25-34, said, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” Jesus said, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” What she said was her faith speaking, and it came to pass.
When we “fight the good fight of faith,” as the Apostle Paul admonishes us, we can step out of the narrow place of failure and weakness in which we live into the boundless power of God.
Memory Text: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12).
Faith in Action: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only ….” (James 1:22).