The Journey to Spiritual Victory

In the years to come historians will comb through the actions, inactions and over-reactions to the current war in Iraq. They will analyze what was done, what could have been done, and what perhaps should have been done. Their goal will be to describe what was done and why. Military planners will also perform an analysis to determine what can be learned about how to defeat an insurgency or to prevent one from developing. Their goal will be to learn lessons so that in the future we can avoid conflicts, or if they are unavoidable, how to be victorious!

James, a disciple of Jesus Christ, writes in his letter in the New Testament about the need for spiritual victory in our lives. He reveals to us that we face a conflict and that we must choose sides. We will choose to be either a friend of the “world” (which is under the control of Satan) or a friend of God. The word “world” here is not used in the sense of our “planet,” but is used to represent a mindset which rejects God and focuses chiefly on the physical instead of the spiritual.

James then gives us directions in chapter 4 to guide us on our journey to spiritual victory. First, we must be willing to submit our selfish desires to God. Selfishness is what leads to conflict in your life, so he instructs us to turn it over to God.

Second, we must choose to pursue God rather than trying to fit into the mindset of the culture around us. If wefit in with the values of everyone around us, we will end up fighting against God! Instead, we must choose to follow God. Let Him guide us, coach us, instruct us in every part of our life. Read His message to us, the Bible, and do what He instructs us to do.

Third: Reject temptations! You will be tempted! Plan now to defeat them, instead of letting them defeat you! The best way to defeat temptations is to avoid them, if you can. We can’t avoid every temptation, but we can refuse to put ourselves into situations where we know we will be tempted. As Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “We can’t keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair!” When we reject temptations, the devil won’t stick around! But be prepared, he’ll be back!

Fourth, turn instead to God. Find ways to get closer to Him. This can include what I’ve already mentioned, reading your Bible, plus using spiritual growth tools such as prayer, meditation, silence, simplicity, helping others, spiritual growth groups, worship, fasting, confession, spiritual coaching, and celebration. (For more on this read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.) James reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to you.

Fifth, James calls us to wash our hands of sin (cf. 4:7). We are to choose to live lives of purity. We must therefore ask God’s forgiveness for the sins which we have already committed. Then we must choose to live clean!

Sixth, we are to seek purity of heart. James reminds us here that in the final analysis, sin is a matter of the heart. If your heart is still set on sin, asking for forgiveness of what you have already done will not produce a change in your patterns of behavior. To see true change take place, you need to have a change of heart. James calls us “double-minded” and says we need to purify our hearts. Many people say they want a great relationship with God, but they aren’t willing to quit doing the things that break God’s heart! Try that approach with your spouse and see how it works for you! We will need God’s help to purify our hearts. Pray the prayer that King David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

These steps are not easy to take. They call us to set aside our selfishness and focus instead on God and His purposes for us. But God’s response will make it worthwhile. As James puts it, “Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” That sounds like victory to me!

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