Struggle in Faith
For some it appears quite a struggle to come to faith. People may think, As soon as I genuinely start to believe, I will have overcome the struggle.
Indeed, the first struggle. But another battle follows, which is no less intense. God’s Word also tells us about this battle. Children of God are continually called to persevere in this battle of faith. Whoever endures to the end, we read, will be saved.
Actually, as a Christian you don’t always want to fight. A truce seems so much more attractive. A break in the fighting would at least be convenient. But that is just how it is: you are part of the army of warriors. You see others fighting, but you yourself are also called to battle.
For there are enemies of God and his church. They have become your enemies because you have come to faith. Sometimes even fierce enemies, so that you “taste” the enmity at your work and even in the church. You may even discover enmity in your own life, as you discover that you are opposed to living from grace.
Let’s look closely at that last sentence. Paul portrayed Christ before the eyes of the Galatians, as he expressely tells this church. By a miracle of God they have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, with all the joy that accompanies that fact.
But what is happening? False teachers have come who allege that it is not enough to believe in him alone. You yourself need to do something too. In this way the focus on the one Saviour is diminished, and Christians try to save themselves. Note the apostle’s indignation: “Who has bewitched you!”
Time and again believers discover that they want to do something for their salvation. Especially before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper there may be times that they scrape together whatever they can to have something to contribute of their own. Outside of Christ, it must be said.
So you have to engage in the battle against yourself. No longer I, but him, Paul writes to precisely these Galatians. That is why the struggle against unbelief, because that is what it is fundamentally, is an uphill battle.
No less so is the struggle against your own sin. Through faith in Christ you may share in the forgiveness of your sins, and you may hear and see the promise repeated time and again: for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.
And yet, those sins in you, how they can fester. Fighting against others is easier for us than the fight against yourself, the fight against your own sins. Samson could handle anyone except himself!
One person has this problem to deal with in his life, the other that. But there is not a child of God who has risen above the struggle. Each day again you need to pray: forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. That means you also need to fight against irreconcilability with your neighbour, who has done so much to you. You need to pray against the hatred in your heart, against your continual obsession with the evil of the other person. It is of vital importance that you fight daily against each sin that lives in you, so as not to fall victim to your own desires, your own feelings, and your own thoughts.
Bring these all under obedience to Christ!
How difficult is the battle, Lord,
each and every day;
My Saviour, will you guide
and lead me in your way.
That is how it is put into words in a song.
In a previous article it was pointed out how Satan can rage against you when you want to come to faith. He initiates no less activity in the life of the believer to make him fall. You only need to open your Bible to see this taking place, both in the Old and the New Testament. We need only to think of what happened in the lives of David and Peter.
Not for nothing did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one!”
It is a heavy struggle to fight against the devil, because he is a cunning deceiver and the father of lies, to name but a few. He is always ready to throw a wedge between the believer and his God, and between believers themselves. He is and remains a “snake.”
Especially the author of the epistle to the Hebrews has shown that God’s children have to fight. Let us go to the throne of God, let us meet faithfully as congregation, let us fix our eyes on the founder and perfecter of our faith, and let us go to him, bearing his reproach.
Strive to show God’s image, as a readable letter from him. Follow him wherever he leads us. Strive to be willing, to exercise patience. Strive not to hit back, and not to take the law into your own hands, but to surrender everything to God who judges righteously.
As the apostle Paul teaches the Ephesians, in our fight of faith we need to put on the full armor of God. That is quite something. That keeps you very busy, to be armed and to fight against all the enemies of God and his Christ.
Also to remain standing in this difficult struggle. The more meticulous you are in arming yourself, the less vulnerable you will be. For the enemy knows your weak spots. And that is why you need to put on the full armor, so you can stand.
The more a Christian lives out of Christ, the more there will be a life of sanctification.
Out of the love for the Lord, more love will grow to live in accordance with God’s commandments.
In the New Testament believers are called explicitly to walk in a new life.
At the end of this struggle Paul can state: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. And the crown of victory is ready for me.
The Lord promises: he who conquers in the spiritual battle will inherit everything!