We live in an age of great agitation–including political polarization, turning away” from Judeo-Christian values in the Western World, tremors of global economic problems and even threats of nuclear war.
At the same time, God is exploding His Kingdom all over the earth as multitudes put their faith in Jesus–especially in the two-thirds Majority World nations (in Africa, Latin America and Asia).
You could say it’s the “best of times and worst of times.” In light of these grave dangers and amazing possibilities, what can we do to find stability in our faith?
Here are some secrets to fighting the good fight.
The longer I live and teach, the more I declare that character is destiny. The most important thing that each of us must pursue is to be “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Godly character is the key to contentment in hard times, to success in our callings and vocation, to fruitfulness in our ministries and to making it into eternal life (Romans 5: 1-5).
Since Jesus Christ–the fullness of God–is the Rock of reality, the more of his stone we possess the more secure our lives will be.
That’s easy to say, but not so easy to practice.
I ran across a teaching recently that spoke to this issue. It comes from Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice-President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. He is the author of several books, including Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor, and Nobodies for Jesus,
Dr. Lawless has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring. His teaching that caught my eye focuses on “Characteristics of Believers Who Don’t Give Up.”
We know that living for Christ is hard, sometimes so hard we’re tempted to wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice. It is, of course, but difficulties can cloud that truth. Based on his years of studying spiritual warfare, Dr. Lawless mentions eight characteristics of believers who don’t give up in the battle.
I will support his points by giving commentary out of my own experience.
Characteristics of Believers Who Don’t Give Up
1. They’re solidly connected to a local church.
I know many people, including some missionaries, who believe in the “Church” and understand its importance, but don’t really stay connected in a meaningful way. Some take Sundays off, make the Sabbath just another day of the week, and have bought into the religious consumerism of the day without strong commitment to the Bride of Christ.
Despite being a traveling missionary, I committed myself years ago to love and stay tied to the local church. With regularity and desire I join in worship, teach classes, and have served in eldership. The Church is easy to criticize but more important to love. She is my eternal family, the reason Jesus died, and the people He wants to perfect.
Don’t judge or be apathetic toward God’s Bride. She remains the apple of his eye, the love of his heart, and will reign and rule with Him forever.
2. They have a devotional life, even if it’s not perfect.
It’s concerning that many professing believers practice poor devotional habits. I’m personally grateful that a band of godly men and women in New Zealand taught me years ago to set aside a “quiet time” or date with God every day of my life.
I started out in a garage–then any place that would work. Today, I get up each morning and go downstairs to my office where a Bible and Jesus await me. I begin by worshipping and thanking Him for another day of life. Then I read and meditate on the Scriptures (from cover to cover each year). I end this refreshing spiritual “shower’ with a time of prayer and intercession.
Then, I’m ready for the day. I also try to read a Psalm or Proverb midday and have a prayer time before bed. Being with God re-charges our batteries with His goodness and grace.
Don’t rationalize a weak devotional life. Practice it with longing desire and teach others the same.
3. They have somebody to walk with them.
This stage of my life brims with discipleship and mentoring. When I was young, I thought I knew better and didn’t need others as much. The older I get, the more I understand we were built for crucially needed relationships. In fact, the more the better. We need advisers to give us fresh points of view and friends need our input to stay on God’s path.
My largest tab in Google Mail is titled “Discipling/Friends.” Communication with the “wealth” of my life (friendships) lies there. Tonight I’m going to a weekly personal appointment with a businessman friend for mutual encouragement.
We must walk with Jesus and walk with others.
4. They choose to believe what the Bible says.
Shirley and I share devotions each morning following breakfast (a great habit and bond-strengthener in marriage). Today’s reading focused on the importance of God’s Word. I remarked what an incredible compass the Bible becomes to those who believe it.
Some folks who fall away from faith first fail to read then begin to doubt the wisdom of the Scriptures. Bad move. God’s wondrous library of 66 books written over 2000 years by forty different authors remains our prize possession in a world of lies. Read it. Believe it. Share it with others. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
5. They rehearse God’s care in the past.
There’s nothing like gratefulness toward God’s work in your life. No wonder the Psalmist cries out: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! . . Bless the Lord, and remember all his benefits!” (Psalm 103: 1,2).
To forget God’s miracles is to mentally shrivel and dry up. Remembering serves as light, fertilizer and food to a growing soul-life. We must intentionally think about, rehearse, and remind ourselves who God is and what He has done for us.
I have a new habit of ending each evening thinking and praying about today’s happenings–and also remembering past years. This Scripture guides my bed-time meditation: “I go over the days one by one. I ponder the years gone by. . . I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished and give a long loving look at your acts” (Psalm 77: 5-10 – The Message).
Such a rewarding habit for a God-blessed life.
6. They trust that when they are weak, God is their strength (2 Corinthians. 12:10).
This lesson is easier to miss when you’re young and think you have life by the tail. Older age accentuates the aches and pains and maladies of existence where we must learn to depend on God’s strength.
I received a crash course in trust during the late nineties when I went seven years with a painful throat condition. During that time, I “camped out” on 2 Corinthians 12:10 and let it seep deeply into my heart. Eventually, God brought physical healing, but the lesson of being “strong when I am weak” never left.
I hope it never does. It points the way to peace.
7. They understand the witness of faithfulness in the battle.
I cherish the word faithfulness–to God, to my wife, and to others. It means being full of faith toward the One who made and saved me and then applying that trust to others I love.
As to marriage, I’ve come to believe that, after living through the sexual revolution and now pornography explosion, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life is having had sexual intimacy with only one woman which began on our honeymoon night.
Faithfulness. It stands as a beacon of hope in a storm-tossed world.
8. They cry out to God. There’s no pretense in their praying.
We intercede because we desperately need his wisdom and guidance. We talk to God–all the time–not even needing to use religious words or pious phrases. We even yell if we want! He understands, hears, and responds back to those who seek Him.
I’m glad I can have an honest conversation with God. It’s convicting at times, but warming. The God of truth never steers me wrong. I can count on everything He says.
These eight actions serve as “Best Practices” for wise Jesus followers. They are essential characteristics. And remember: character is destiny. These wise principles stand out as secrets to fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).
Wage your war wisely.