Happy Resurrection Day, church! Today, in what is traditionally called “Easter” but what I like to call “Resurrection Day,” is the most significant day of Christianity. You could say that it is the “Super Bowl” of Christianity! And the good news is that we are on the winning team every time! Yes, we are always victorious in Christ Jesus. Therefore, we have every reason to celebrate today! Amen?
Friends, as important as the birth of Christ is and as important as the Cross of Christ is, if it were not for the Resurrection of Christ, our faith would be for naught and we would still be lost in sin (First Corinthians 15:17). This is why this day is the single most significant day for us Christians.
Now, of course, these other two days—His birth (Christmas) and the Cross (Good Friday)—were absolutely necessary for what God desired to accomplish for us. However, if Jesus would have just been born and even would have gone to the Cross, our faith would be futile. There had to be a resurrection!
Yes, in order for you and I to be born again, children of God, we must believe in the resurrection of Christ! This is why I like to say that you cannot be a Christian and not believe in miracles. It is because in order to become a Christian, you had to believe that a Man was raised from the dead. Amen.
But the best part of the Resurrection is that Jesus did not just rise from the dead Himself, but He was made alive so that we could live to. Yes, He indeed is risen, and because He is risen, we can be risen too! Because He lives, we can live also! This is the power of His resurrection!
Did you know that there are some very practical lessons that we can learn from Jesus’ resurrection? Yes, there are things we can learn from how Jesus Himself approached His resurrection and how He “believed” for it. Yes, like you and I are to believe for our miracle, Jesus actually believed for His resurrection! Let me explain:
In John 2:18-22, He boldly proclaimed to those Jews who asked Him for a sign that authorizes Him to do the things He did, “Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up!” (Now this will become important momentarily, but His resurrection was meant to be the sign.) In John 10:17-18, He described how He had both the power to lay His life down and to take it up.
These verses show us that not only did Jesus know of His death and resurrection, but He believed the power had been given to Him to raise Himself up. Now you could argue that He was speaking prophetically here; therefore, it was the Father speaking these words. Either way, He spoke as being the One who would take His body and raise it up again. Therefore, what we can take away from this is that the authority over our bodies experiencing the life of God is in our control because we are to be following Jesus’ example, amen? Just as we have the authority to lay it down—maybe through poor natural choices, such as abusing it with poor dieting, no exercise, etc.—we also have the authority to take it up through taking command of it, washing it with the water of the Word, etc. So, Jesus had an obvious part to play in experiencing His resurrection as we do as well. Amen?
You see, the Lord gave His covenant people the right to choose between life and death, blessing and cursing. We are told in Deuteronomy 30:19— “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Amen! Now it is noteworthy that He calls heaven and earth as a witness before them because this is a disputable issue and God wanted to make sure that this seemingly unbelievable truth that He has given us the ability to choose was confirmed in multiple witnesses.
Even the apostle Paul made the statement that he had the power to choose to live. Let’s look at some of the things he said concerning this: In Philippians 1:19-26 Paul was talking about his current imprisonment and in verse 19 he begins by saying, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance…”
Now these words “turn out” literally mean in the Greek language to go “out and up.” Friends, we can be confident that God wants us to go out and up every time! Hallelujah! But notice how Paul was so confident of God’s deliverance. Again, he knew that even in this situation, that He was going to go “out and up” and be delivered.
But now notice verses 21-22: Paul begins to describe the options of both life and death and then he ends up telling them, “yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.” Did Paul really have a choice between dying through this current sentence he was serving or living through his deliverance? Apparently, he did.
And this element of choice is much more critical than most of us realize. Have you ever noticed that when someone loses their will to live that they go soon thereafter? You hear of those stories of people fighting through certain sicknesses and diseases and winning but then you hear of those who maybe lose a spouse of many decades and then they soon follow them. Well, that is generally because they lose the will to live because of their lost loved one. For example, you can see how when one spouse precedes the other, and then the one left behind loses their purpose, joy, and desire to continue living apart from their deceased mate that they soon follow them. I believe that the reason for this is because they, in essence, “choose” death. They might not consciously admit that this is what they want, but in their heart of hearts, they are choosing not to live. Therefore, our will (or, desire) to live is so, super important. We must want to live this long and satisfying life and then choose it through a fighting spirit to finish our race.
So, the first step to receiving our resurrection is by first understanding that the authority is in our hands to do so. Then, with that fighting spirit and will to live, we choose the life God said is ours. Amen!
SEEING IS NOT BELIEVING
This is what the Bible calls having the spirit of faith. And it is critical that we understand that we must first believe in this resurrection and then we will see it, not the other way around.
I recently had a conversation with an atheist and he kept wanting me to prove to him that God was real. He would say things like— “Do you expect me to just believe?” And the answer is—YES! God expects all of us to believe without seeing. But the world says, “seeing is believing.” No, that is not true. Seeing is seeing; it’s not believing. For we walk by faith and not by sight. So, if we are walking by sight, what are we not walking by? Faith!
Now there are those who seek after signs, but the Lord said an evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs in Matthew 12:38-40. In this Scripture, Jesus used the example of Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish (i.e. whale) to describe how He would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth before His subsequent resurrection. But I want you to notice that this was given is response to the scribes and Pharisees clamoring for a sign from Jesus. In other words, they wanted to see and experience something supernatural to validate Him.
This reminds me of the story of the rich man & Lazarus in Luke chapter 16: While being in torment in Hades, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his family’s house to testify to them. But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (verse 29). In other words, Abraham was saying, “They have the Word. They need to hear it!” But the rich man responded—“No, Father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (verse 30). But Abraham’s response here is very telling: He said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (verse 31). So, the lesson here is that even the greatest signs and wonders such as someone being raised from the dead will not cause people to believe. The only thing that breeds faith is hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). You see, faith does not come by seeing signs and wonders, miracles, supernatural manifestations, etc. Faith comes by hearing the Word. And hearing the Word once a week in a pew is not enough. We must spend time on our own in the Word and take it to heart and apply it to our life.
I remember vividly one of the first revelations God ever gave me: I was on my first fast in a Sunday school class and the teacher was reading about the children of Israel in the wilderness and commenting on how they kept being filled with unbelief even in the midst of seeing such supernatural signs and wonders and acts of God’s faithfulness and provision. This is quite amazing! I mean, they saw all the plagues come upon the Egyptians. They saw the parting of the Red Sea. They were supernaturally fed manna from heaven. They were led around the desert by cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They saw all of these amazing and spectacular signs, yet they had little faith. Then the teacher stopped and said—“How could they stay so faithless when they saw the things they saw?” Then the Lord spoke in my heart and I just blurted it out- “It is because faith does not come by seeing miracles; faith comes by hearing the Word!” You see, the reason the children of Israel were so wishy washy was because they did not allow themselves to hear the Word of God given to them through Moses. And because they did not hear Moses, they were weak in faith. If only they would have heeded the words that were spoken through Moses, they would have had faith come into their hearts and, therefore, they would have come into the promised land and possessed their inheritance.
We see this same issue in the ministry of Jesus: Sure, there were great multitudes who came to Jesus who received the healing, freedom, and ministry that they needed, but there were also those who came to hear Jesus but never received anything from Him—namely, the religious leaders. They came to “hear” Him but they really did not have ears to hear Him. You see, a lot of believers think that if the anointing is strong enough and God’s presence is manifested enough, people will automatically have their needs met, etc. This is simply not true. You could not get any more anointed than Jesus and I can guarantee you that God’s presence was greatly manifested in His meetings, but not all of those who came to Him received what they needed. He certainly healed all who came to Him in faith, but many of those who did not come in faith did not get healed.
But the fact is that faith does not come by signs and wonders, for we walk by faith and not by sight. If we are seeing it, we cannot believe it any longer. We see this also in the example of Doubting Thomas & Jesus’ Resurrection in John chapter 20. We know the story. Thomas wanted proof of His resurrection, and Jesus said to him— “Blessed are those who believe who have not seen!” (John 20:29). Just as it is with Jesus’ resurrection, you don’t need a sign; you only need believe in what is written! Likewise, we don’t need manifestations and signs to believe; we just need to truly hear the Word and let it spawn faith in our hearts.
For example, there are many who want God to prove His love for them, basing His love for us on their circumstances. Saints, the only proof we need that God loves each and every one of us is the fact that He gave us His Son. The disciple whom Jesus loved said that this is the manifestation of God’s love for us (see First John 4:9). It’s not our circumstances or our situation. It’s the Cross, and the Cross alone. Likewise, the only proof we need that God will work a miracle for us and that we can receive our resurrection is the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. Amen?
In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, I would venture to say that just about none of us have seen the Lord in His glorified, resurrected body. Yet, we believe! And what was the result? We experienced our salvation and were born again. Yes, the gospel of Christ was proclaimed to us, we believed it, and we experienced the fruit of it. It is like that with everything in God’s kingdom—the Word is sown in our hearts and then the fruit comes.
THE FRIEND OF THE FATHER
Now it is not simply hearing a bunch of Bible teachings, etc. It is about having ears to hear the Scriptures. Yes, our hearts need to be open to the Word. And like Jesus fellowshipped with His Father, spent time in His presence, and listened to His voice, he also received His Sayings. In other words, Jesus was a friend of His Father—thereby receiving rhema from Him.
A good parallel to this is the example of Abraham—the friend of God and one who certainly came to know God personally and experientially—being asked by the Lord to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. Now if you watch many theatrical portrayals of this story, you will see Abraham struggling to obey God in this. This simply comes from what these film producers & directors could relate to, but I don’t believe Abraham approached this in fear, doubt and unbelief. The writers of Hebrews tell us the opposite was the case. Hebrews 11:7-9 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
So, notice that Abraham offered up Isaac by faith. Now when one does something by faith, this does not mean that they do it blindly and unknowingly. Trust might do that, but not faith. No, faith knows and sees. What makes it faith is that it knows based on what it knows is a reality in the spirit realm. Yes, it sees what is in the spirit realm. And because it knows and sees the truth, it rejoices, has peace, and is confident and fully persuaded. And this is exactly what Abraham was doing here.
Verse 8 shows us that he had received promises from God—namely, the one that said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” So, Abraham already had the Lord tell him that Isaac was the son of promise and his seed would come through him. Therefore, Abraham knew that this, what seemed to be an apparent change of plans, had to simply be that God would raise Isaac from the dead. We see this in verse 19 when we are told that Abraham concluded that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. Abraham knew how to walk by faith. He was a friend of God. He spent time with God. When we do that, the logos (written) Word becomes the rhema (revealed) Word. So, what happened here was God had already told Abraham that in Isaac his seed would be called, and then since God asked him to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice, he just figured God would raise him from the dead because He knew God couldn’t lie. That's faith! That's a man that knows his God and what to expect from Him.
So, I can see Jesus following this same pattern. He knew what His Father had shown Him. He clearly knew that He would be asked to lay His life down and then would be raised up three days later. Therefore, when God asked Him to drink from the cup of the Cross. He willingly submitted to His Father’s will—knowing by faith that He would be raised up. Amen.
IT IS WELL!
But Jesus didn’t just keep His faith to Himself; He made His faith known—even to the point that His reputation was of declaring that He would experience a resurrection. We see this in Matthew 27:62-64 where Jesus' predictions of his crucifixion and resurrection were obviously common knowledge. And these predictions of His resurrection by Jesus were of such common knowledge that it led the religious rulers to ask Pontius Pilate to secure the tomb. Let’s look at some of them:
Notice how Jesus began to show them things concerning His resurrection in the Gospel of Matthew. Now it is important to understand that Matthew’s Gospel is commonly known to be written to the Jews—to help them to believe on their Messiah. Therefore, the following statements Jesus made regarding His resurrection were important to their believing in Him. But this is also the reason why He knew and attempted to prepare His disciples:
So, what are we seeing here? First of all, it is that Jesus knew of His death, burial and resurrection! How? His Father had shown Him and He was convinced and persuaded of it. We also see and can learn that because He was so persuaded of it, He repeatedly spoke of it. Therefore, He affirmed it to others. Now you only do this when you are convinced of something.
So, our lesson here is: It is imperative that we commune with our Heavenly Father until we know we have heard from Him, until the Scriptures have been opened up to us, until the truth has made us free. Then once we let those truths live in our heart, they will repeatedly come out of our mouth.
Now this reminds me of the story in Second Kings chapter four of the Prophet Elisha & the Shunammite woman (see Second Kings 4:8-37). You know the story: This noble woman desired to honor the man of God when he would pass by, so she asked her husband if they could have a room prepared for him. So, after taking such good care of Elisha, the prophet asked this woman what he could do for her to return the favor. And it was told him that she had no son. So, Elisha declared over her that within twelve months she would have a son, which obviously came to pass.
But then after the child had grown, in the process of events, he died. And after he died in his mother’s arms, she took and laid him in the man of God’s room and shut the door. Then she requested of her husband—who was obviously unaware that his son had died—that she be given the means to go visit Elisha. And when the husband inquired as to why she needed to go see him, her response was— “It is well.” Even when the servant of Elisha was sent to ask her if all was well, still her confession was “It is well.”
Now what I just love about this response is that it comes from the Hebrew word shalom. And while this word is commonly known to mean “peace,” it means so much more than this. This word means “completeness, soundness, health, prosperity, safety & welfare.” Some expositors say it means “nothing missing & nothing broken.” So, in essence, this woman would only respond when asked if everything was okay with “Nothings missing and nothings broken!”
And do you know why this is important to do sometimes? It is because even good, well-meaning people can hurt your faith. They might say, “Oh, you need to hurry up and do this or do that!” when that is not what the Lord thinks you should do. So, avoiding those who might try to talk you out of your “resurrection” is imperative.
We also see this in the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead: In this account, the room was filled with friends and family who were mourning over her. So, what did Jesus do? He kicked them out! You see, sometimes you gotta kick the unbelief out—that is, block out all that would hinder you receiving your miracle. Now your friends & family might not like it, but would you rather have their approval or your resurrection? Amen? You see, there is no room for doubt and unbelief in the resurrection room. And we see this again in the story of the Syrophoenician woman, who was very bold and persistent in pressing for her miracle, even when it wasn't yet time for Jesus to minister to the gentiles. So press through and MAKE it the timing of God.
So, after this woman only responded like so, when she got to Elisha, she threw herself on him and declared that she would not leave him. So, he came with her. And guess what happened? She received her resurrection!
So, this Shunammite woman received her son’s resurrection because she knew how to block out the unbelief and she only said what she wanted to see. And we see the same with Jesus. Even when Peter tried to talk him out of all this “I’m going to die and be raised from the dead” talk, Jesus responded strongly with “Get behind me, Satan!” (see Matthew 16:22-23). Now why did Jesus respond so strongly to Peter’s words here? I believe it was because He was already being tempted, and Satan was now using the voice of one of His closest friends—teaching us that if we are going walk in everything God has for us, we are going to have to quench all of those fiery darts that the devil throws our way, including the ones from those closest to us.
So, church, use your words to both resist the devil and to create the atmosphere for your miracle. Romans 10:9-10 teaches us that this believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth is how salvation is received. And salvation is more than just going to heaven; it includes experiencing heaven on earth. Yes, because we believe in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead, we must also believe in our hearts that the Lord will raise our lives from the dead. But we must also confess it—for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:10 that we ought to know the power of His resurrection! Well, Proverbs 18:21 shows us that life and death are in the power of the tongue! So, guess what? The power of His resurrection is in our tongues! We just have to start speaking it! We receive His resurrection by choosing it. We hide God's Word in our heart, and let it come out of our mouth.
JOY COMES IN THE MORNING!
Along those lines of Jesus being tempted, we see in the Garden of Gethsemane how Jesus, like all of us, had that moment where He was struggling in His faith (see Matthew 26:36-46). And it is noteworthy that His greatest moment of struggle was soon before the manifestation of what He was believing for.
Did you know that this is generally how it happens? When things get the darkest—when there is the most adversity—is usually right before the miracle. And that was exactly the case with Jesus here. In just a few days, His joy would be made full.
The Bible teaches us that for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, and is now sitting at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). This Scripture teaches us that Jesus took up His cross in exchange for the joy that He would experience afterwards. In other words, Jesus traded His life on the Cross for the joy that He would receive as a result of laying down His life. Of course, this does not mean that the joy necessarily came while He was hanging on that Cross. There was indeed pain and suffering involved in His crucifixion. But, praise the Lord, joy indeed came in the morning of that third day! On that great and glorious Day, He tasted the resurrection life of God and His joy was fulfilled! Glory!
And this is how it works, church: Our resurrections occur after we have laid down our life. It won’t necessarily come in the “evening”—that is, when we are having to make those tough decisions involved in laying our life down. For example, if we feel led to give our nest egg away, our flesh might start kicking and screaming. Then, even after we decide to die to our ourselves and release that money, our flesh might still be in mourning. But the good news is this—joy always comes in the morning (see Psalm 30:5). Yes, there will be an eventual joy that will flood our hearts because we have operated according to this spiritual principle of how the Kingdom of God works.
HUMILITY = RESURRECTION
So, what did Jesus do during this difficult time? He prayed, He prayed and He prayed. He went back to the thing that produced His initial confidence—fellowship with His Father. In other words, He pressed through the pain and into His presence. He even said, “Not my will, but your will be done”—which encapsulates His heart of humility.
Jesus’ becoming a servant to His creation wasn’t the height of Jesus’ humble attitude. The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:8 that Christ not only lowered Himself and became a servant to His creation, but was also obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Wow! What we see here is that Jesus willingly lowered Himself from being Jehovah Elyon—the Most High Himself—to the “most low” here on the earth.
Saints, there was no greater humiliation for the Lord Jesus Christ than His crucifixion. Aside from the shame and the physical suffering, we cannot even fathom the depths that He went to, spiritually, for us. Yes, when Jesus took up that Cross, He laid down His life more than any man ever has. But here is the awesome part: Notice the end result of Jesus coming from heaven to earth and from the best of lives to the worst of deaths. The apostle Paul said that it all resulted in God highly exalting Him and giving Him the name above every name. So, the end result of His humiliation was His exaltation and being given the name that every knee will bow to and every tongue will confess (Philippians 2:9-11)! Glory to Jesus! Yes, He lowered Himself, which resulted in God raising Him up to the highest place.
So, here is the point we need to get: When one chooses to lay their life down for the Kingdom of God, the reward is always exaltation. And this exaltation is not just honor and reward; it includes joy and happiness too. As it was said concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, He was anointed with the oil of gladness more than His companions (see Hebrews 1:9). And I believe He had this joy enveloping Him more than any other man because no one had laid their life down for the Kingdom of God any more than He did. Therefore, no one was capable of walking in the kind of joy that He did. Glory to the name of Jesus!
Church, when we learn to serve like our Lord and humble ourselves to this extent, our joy will never diminish. On the contrary, our joy will stay full. The Lord also said in John 15:9-13 that when we learn to walk in the love of God, our joy will be full. Saints, our joy will never be any fuller than when we learn to empty ourselves. Yes, our joy and contentment will be at its pinnacle when we are completely void of self—all of the selfishness, self-centeredness and self-promotion. Again, this is just how God’s Kingdom operates, which is the opposite of the world’s way of thinking. So, let this mind be in you today and choose the joy that comes by taking up your cross.
Church, I believe the Lord is calling us—Christ’s disciples—to emulate our Master. Not just in the laying down of His life, but also in His resurrection! Yes, He wants you and I to experience His life and for us to “Arise!”
This was the word I heard this week in preparing for today’s “Easter” message— “Arise!” Yes, I believe the Lord wills for each and every one of us to arise from our dead situation and receive the power of His resurrection. It might be in your physical body. It might be in a relationship in your life. It could be your finances. It simply might be in your spiritual life. I believe the Lord would say to you today— “Arise, shine; For your light has come. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)
You see, God has given us the ability choose to live and not die and declare the works of the Lord! Hmmm, sounds like that’s in the Bible somewhere. It is! Psalm 118:17 boldly states— “I will not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord!” Glory to God!
Church, we can take words like this and believe God that the thing in our life that is seemingly dead can “Arise!” So, it doesn’t matter how hopeless, bleak or dark our situation might seem. God specializes in giving life to the dead. In fact, it is one of His favorite past-times. He loves calling things that be not as though they were and giving life to the dead. And if He does this, so should His children.
So, begin to call things that seemingly are not as though they are and watch God bring to life that circumstance, situation or thing in your life that seems to be dead.
What I have on my heart to share with you today is something the Lord taught me very early on in my Christian walk.
I actually have a “growth tree” that I’ve drawn where I illustrate the things the Lord has established me in since I was born again in January of 2000. And the very first thing He taught me was FAITH—the importance of not being moved by what we see, hear, feel or experience, but only to be moved by what we believe (based on what is written).
THE FIGHT OF FAITH
First Timothy 6:11-12 – But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
What the apostle Paul was telling Timothy to flee was all of the false teachings that have always tended to creep into the church, from obsessions to dispute and argue over words to the teachings of worldly, material gain. But these six virtues that he told him to pursue are what are truly important.
I remember when the Lord taught me something similar: Early in my Christian walk, I had been reading a book of a woman who had apparently visited hell and she said that there were preachers there for preaching false doctrine. Now whether you or I believe that is accurate or not, it shook me up back then (before I had started preaching but knowing I was called to). So, I remember going to the Lord and asking him to keep me from ever teaching or preaching things that were error. Well, the Lord took me over to Second Peter the following day and showed me that if I put my focus on my foundation of faith and work towards building myself up in all of these other godly virtues, I will never stumble in His Word (see Second Peter 1:5-11).
And I believe that is lesson for us here today: Don’t give your time and attention to things that do not promote edification and growth in these areas that Paul told Timothy to pursue. Honor the weightier matters of the Word, such as faith, mercy and justice (as the Master said). Give your attention to righteousness, godliness, love, patience, and faith. Then, we can be assured that He can keep us from straying from the faith—for our humility is our protection from deception.
But then notice how Paul transitions to the exhortation for Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Now by saying that there is a “good fight of faith” indicates that there must also be a bad fight. Now a bad fight would be characterized by the following terms: weak, cowardly, retreating. A good fight, on the other hand, is a fight where we are strong, bold, persistent and militant. And a good fight is always a fight that we win and have that winner’s mentality. Amen? It’s a good fight of faith when you do exactly what the Lord told you to do, regardless of how you feel.
However, I believe the key element that the Holy Spirit gave us here that makes a Christian fight a good fight is faith—for Paul calls it a “good fight of faith.” In other words, because it is a fight of faith, it’s a good fight in God’s sight.
And this is exactly where many Christians miss it. They are fighting all right, but they are not doing it in faith. They are fighting in the flesh—defending themselves, retaliating, etc. Let me give you an example of this: Say, someone comes against you—maligning, slandering and falsely accusing you of something. What is our tendency when this happens? To defend ourselves, bless God! And shouldn’t we? God helps those who help themselves, right? WRONG! That is not a Scripture! The truth is—God helps those who humble themselves under Him and do what He told us to do in these situations. But here is the truth: Whenever we respond like this (which is in essence like the world does), we are not responding in faith. No, we are not at those times, fighting the good fight of faith. What we are doing is trying to fight a good fight in the flesh—and that is always wrong.
You see, I think it is interesting that the example that Paul goes on to use in the verse immediately after this is Jesus before Pontius Pilate. You remember what happened there, don’t you? Jesus was being falsely accused, being done wrong, etc. and what He do? He fought the good fight of faith by not even defending Himself. And I love how Peter says that He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (First Peter 2:23). Here’s the truth: the more we are trusting God to defend us, fight our battles for us, etc. the less we will defend ourselves, retaliate, etc. That’s right—how we respond in the middle of tribulations & persecutions indicates how much faith we have in Him. Amen.
Now this does not mean that there is never a place for us to speak up or do anything in these situations. In all cases, we must be Spirit-led and act in faith on whatever both the Spirit and Word have agreed upon. However, what I am saying is that to respond in the flesh and be emotion-led is not going to be the response of faith.
You see, a big thing that we can gather from this passage of Scripture is that faith is a fight. Therefore, we are going to have to fight to not cater to the flesh’s impulses to do something to help God out and that self-preservation thing that we all have in us.
Some believe that if we live a life of faith that we won’t have any problems, but that is simply not true. The truth is, when you are living by faith, you will be swimming upstream and against the current—because we live in this world and everything in it will fight against us. Therefore, walking by faith is not easy.
For example, if we are walking by faith, what are we not doing? Walking by sight. In other words, if we are walking by faith, we are not living our lives according to what we see, feel, hear, or experience. This means that if we are going to walk by faith, we are going to have to fight the good fight of faith.
Now the term “faith” is key here. That means that if we are going to win the battle for our soul, then we are going to have to do some fighting without seeing anything and without feeling anything. And that is where we lose most “believers.” Most people are emotion and feeling led. They only look at the things which are seen. But if we are going to be “believers” then we can’t be “feelers” or “see-ers.” God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and has given us the tools to escape the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4) - giving all diligence, adding to your faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love - knowing that if these are in you and are increasing, you will be a fruitful follower of Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8). Note that in this list, faith is the foundation and love is the ceiling.
So, what I want to do today is to teach you how to fight.
WE ALREADY HAVE FAITH
But there are those who believe that some simply have been blessed with more faith than others, etc. That’s not true. We all have the same spirit of faith (Second Corinthians 4:13).
Now I just love the way the apostle Paul says what he did in Second Corinthians 4:13: He says, “Having the same spirit of faith…” Notice he said, “having”—not “having had” or “hoping to have.” No, having right now! So, this is something every born-again believer has the right to have right now.
In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter addresses his letter “to those who have obtained like precious faith” with him and the others who had called on the name of the Lord. What this means is that every believer has obtained faith, and not only just any faith, but faith that is of the same value and of equal specialness to that of even the great apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ! In fact, Peter is one of the ones included in this “with us” right? So, that means you have the same water-walking faith that Peter had! Wow! Now that is awesome stuff! We all have a measure of faith (see Romans 12:3)- not just some of us.
So we all have faith, and this faith is capable of growing exceedingly (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3). We all have the capability to walk in mountain-moving, devil-stomping, life-changing faith! But this gift of the Spirit differs from the measure of faith that we have all received in that it is a supernatural endowment of special faith that transcends what we could receive with our own faith.
You see, as we have seen, our faith grows. We have all obtained like precious faith—having received the measure of faith. But that does not mean that we have all arrived to the place of mountain moving faith. We must let our faith grow by first hearing the Words of faith and then by putting it into practice by exercise.
And this is a great lesson on the very subject we are covering here right now. Someone with the “spirit of faith” will take Scriptures like this one and say, “Bless God, a spirit of faith is mine right now!” Someone might even say to them, “Well, it doesn’t look like you have it, brother.” But this person of faith will say, “I am not moved by what I see. God said. I believe. That settles it. I have—right now—a spirit of faith! Amen!”
TAKING UP THE SHIELD OF FAITH
Someone might be thinking, “I don’t think I have much faith at all because I have not seen the results that others have.” The reason one might not have had the results that others have had around them is not necessarily because others “have more” faith than them. It is likely more because these other “faith giants” have decided to “take up their shield of faith” (see Ephesians 6:16).
You see, faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to become stronger. And anyone will agree that if you haven’t been exercising, you cannot go in to a weight room and start lifting the heavy weights first. You must start with what your muscles can handle first. Likewise, when it comes to our faith, we need to exercise it first on what it can handle and let it develop so that it can handle the bigger stuff down the road. For example, we need to exercise our faith with a cold or a car payment before we start trying to believe God for something bigger. We have “more than enough” faith; we just need to exercise it.
Saints, we have a free membership to "God's Gym" - we exercise our faith by using it in each trial that comes. Notice that even Jesus grew His faith in the same way. Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus “learned obedience by the things He suffered.” He faced everything that came at Him in faith.
And that is another problem—so many believers do not know how to exercise their faith. In other words, they do not know how faith works.
Do you remember when Jesus referred to us having faith as a mustard seed? So many believe Jesus was referring to the size of their faith by the reference to the mustard seed, but Jesus never mentioned anything about the size of the seed except in one parable. In His teachings on faith, He simply said, “as a mustard seed.” In other words, you could make the point that He was referring to faith like a mustard seed. This is why I believe Jesus was referring to the manner by which a mustard seed operates. In other words, Jesus was not using a mustard seed to illustrate the size of faith that gets results; He was using a mustard seed as the example as to how we see these mountains removed.
So, in my experience and based on what the Word of God teaches us, I have found that the problem is not that God’s children do not have enough faith; the problem is they have never exercised their faith.
So, like the Apostle Paul said, we all have our own shield of faith - which is more than enough faith to cover everything in our life - but we have not all learned to “take up” our shield of faith—that is, learning to use it when our faith is tried.
Now, there is a reason why the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul used a shield to describe our faith: It is because our faith is what we use to resist the enemy!
For example, if you read further in Hebrews chapter 11, you come to find out that our faith actually accomplishes two things (see Hebrews 11:32-40):
Verses 33-35 tells us that faith certainly works offensively, producing miracles. It delivers from fiery trials and from the edge of the sword. It raises the dead and makes strong the weak. It subdues kingdoms and makes us valiant in battle. It shuts the mouths of lions, etc., etc., etc.
However, in verses 36-38, the writer says, “still others’” faith also caused many of them to simply not quit when they endured intense suffering and persecution like being tempted, stoned, imprisoned, impoverished, etc.
So, what I take away from this is that our faith in God will cause us to do two things:
And the latter is why we see our faith described as a shield in our spiritual armor.
You see, just as a shield is used to primarily resist an enemy’s offensive attacks, likewise our faith is what we use to resist the offensive onslaught of the devil.
There are a couple of passages of Scripture that make this same connection between our faith and resisting Satan: James 4:7 tells us specifically to “resist the devil” and 1 Peter 5:9 says, also speaking of the devil, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” So, by these two passages of Scripture, we can see that our shield of faith is what we use to resist the devil.
So, what specifically are we resisting? We are resisting the pressure that comes from the tribulations he causes in our lives. We are resisting the temptations to quit and compromise our faith.
But the end of Ephesians 6:16 describes what we are literally resisting in the midst of these tribulations and temptations: The end of Ephesians 6:16 says, “with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
You see, the enemy will stir up persecution, create temptations, and bring tribulations into our life, but these are not the “fiery darts” that Paul was referring to. These outward, physical things are just the vehicles that he uses to create an opportunity to shoot those fiery darts into our heart and mind.
You see, these fiery darts are spiritual, unseen weapons intended to wound our inner man. Just as the armor of God is spiritual and cannot be contacted through our physical senses, these arrows that the enemy uses are spiritual in nature and cannot be the physical, natural problems.
But let me tell you what the devil does. He will cause these natural trials and tribulations and then will attempt to capitalize on these things by sending thoughts and stirring up emotions on the inside of us that tempt us to let go of our faith. He will stir up troubles on the outside and then will fire these unseen arrows to wound us on the inside. This is the method he uses to penetrate our faith.
But by using the term “fiery darts” the Apostle Paul reveals to us exactly what these arrows are meant to accomplish:
The terminology “fiery darts” is actually a substandard translation. A better translation would be “flaming missiles.”
You see, back during the first century, many nations’ armies would use long, slender pieces of cane and fill them with combustible fluids. They would then light the tips of these combustible arrows and shoot them at their enemy. When the arrow hit, it would explode and generally burn up whatever it hit. This is exactly what these “fiery darts” that the enemy fires at us will do.
You see, these spiritual, unseen “flaming missiles” are shot at our heart and mind and if they hit, they can spread into a full-fledged “forest fire” of emotions, anxiety, and fear.
Many of us have experienced this, haven’t we? Maybe you received a bad report, and after you heard the bad news, what began to happen on the inside of you? Well, a fire of emotions can have a tendency to consume you. All kinds of thoughts seem to be fired at your mind and can even penetrate your heart to where you feel emotionally and spiritually wounded. These “feelings” that we experience are oftentimes a result of the enemy firing these “flaming missiles” at our heart and mind in an attempt to penetrate our faith and defeat us spiritually.
This reveals to us another important truth concerning our shield of faith:
Earlier, I explained how these shields were not made out of what we would traditionally think they were made out of… Their substance included wood and layers of animal hide. So, guess what might have happened when one of these flaming arrows hit their shield? Their shield was capable of catching on fire because of the material that was used to make the shield!
So, the Roman soldier developed a strategy to defend themselves from this deadly possibility… They would take their shield every morning and soak it in a large barrel of water until it was completely saturated - “water-logged,” if you would. So that when those arrows hit their shields, their flames would be “quenched.”
What does this teach us? It teaches us that if we want to be able to quench the flaming missiles of the devil, then we better saturate our shield of faith by both the “washing of water by the Word” and those “rivers of living water” produced by the Holy Spirit. It tells us that the quality of our faith is directly tied to our attention to God’s Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Spirit and the Word ought to be our first and foremost priority in our life. Without a daily saturation of these two things, our faith will become dry and susceptible to being burnt up. And this should not surprise us, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
So, what have we learned today? We have learned that our shield of faith is what we use to resist the devil and quench all of his assaults against our mind, heart and emotions. It is our defensive weapon, saints! So, we need to start “taking” it up when those fiery darts are thrown at us - and we do that by exercising our faith!
Therefore, when those pressures to quit, compromise and shrink back are fired at us, that’s when we are to take up our shield of faith and begin quenching those flaming missiles by actively and aggressively putting our faith into action! The more “weights” that are in your life, the more opportunity to grow stronger, if you respond in faith. Amen.
But not only does our faith put out the fires that the enemy tries to stir up in our souls, it also stirs up the things that we are called to walk in.
STIRRING UP THE GIFT
Now I want us to go over to Second Timothy chapter 1 and take a look at what the apostle Paul said to his son in the faith, Timothy, regarding this:
Beginning in verses 3-4, he says, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,”
Notice, first of all, that Paul acknowledged the hurts, pains, heartache that Timothy was experiencing by saying, “being mindful of your tears.”
So yes, there is a place for being mindful of other’s tears—for sympathizing with, and even weeping with those who weep. But here is an extremely important point you need to get: Your tears, your hurts, your pain, your sorrow, your heartache, etc. absolutely should mean something to me. But your tears, your hurts, your pain, your sorrow, your heartache, etc. should mean absolutely nothing to you. In other words, when it comes to me loving you, I should be touched with the feelings of your infirmities and show compassion on you. However, when it comes to you governing your own life—you shouldn’t be moved by your own feelings and “pity thyself.”
However, what good friends in the faith will do is, while they will be compassionate towards their friend’s hurts, they will also draw them back to faith. Notice what Paul said next.
He said, “that I may be filled with joy…when I call to remembrance the genuine faith...” (Verses 4-5). What filled Paul with joy, however, was remembering the genuine faith he had. So, what Paul was doing here was a good job of exhortation. He was not just remembering Timothy’s faith, but was reminding Timothy himself of what he had—because apparently Timothy hadn’t been using much of it.
So, when Paul said that this genuine faith that he knew was in Timothy’s grandma and his mama was in him as well, he said, “and I am persuaded is in you also.” In other words, what he was saying was—"You got it in you, boy! That same spirit of faith that your grandmama & mama had in them, it’s in you too!”
Then we get to this oh so powerful verse--Second Timothy 1:6. Paul says, ”Therefore…” In other words, “since you have this genuine faith in you, this is what you need to do—stir up that gift that God put in through the laying on of my hands!”
Now what did Paul mean when he said, “I remind you”? Apparently, he had spoken something to him before about stirring up this gift of God that was given to him. So, when did Paul tell him this—do we have any record of it? We sure do!
In First Timothy 4:14, Paul had told Timothy not to neglect this gift of God that was in him, given to him by prophecy and through the laying on of hands of the eldership. Well, guess what apparently happened? Timothy did exactly what most of us do—God tells to be sure to do something and then we fail to do it, and then He has to come and tell us how to get out of the condition we never should have gotten in, in the first place.
You see, the words “stir up” that Paul used in Second Timothy 1:6 come from a triple-compound word in the original Greek language. It comes from the word where we get “pyro” from, which obviously means “fire.” It also uses the word “zoe”—meaning life. And, finally, it uses the Greek word ana which means “up or again.” So, when you combine these three words together, the phrase “stir up” means to “bring a fire to life again,” or you could say it means to “rekindle” a fire.
Well, in order to “rekindle” a fire, that means that the fire had to go out. And that is exactly what had happened to Pastor Timothy—his fire had all but been quenched. So, his father in the faith was exhorting him to stir that fire back up—that fire of the gift of God which he had in his spirit.
But again—when do fire’s go out? When we neglect them! Therefore, Timothy’s fire went out simply because he had failed to give the proper attention to it. So, how do we keep the fire stirred up within us? By doing what Paul told Timothy to do in First Timothy 4:14—to give attention to reading, exhortation, doctrine, and meditating on these things, etc. (see First Timothy 4:13,15-16).
You see, saints, it all starts with just simply reading your Bible. You would think that this was a given to most Christians, but it’s not. Very few believers actually read their Bible on a regular basis. God’s Word is food for your spirit man, church! So, in order to stay nourished in the spirit, we must feed ourselves regularly on the Word of God. Amen?
So, you getting in the Word yourself is the first and foremost way in which we do not neglect the gift of God within us, and therefore, keep that fire stoked. But then Paul says to also give attention to “exhortation.” This is exactly what I am giving you today—a good exhortation! But did you know that you do not have to wait until Sundays, Wednesday or Thursdays? You can “exhort” yourself in the Lord. We will get more into this momentarily. And, finally, Paul lists the third and final way in which we give attention to the gift of God within us and not neglect it—through “doctrine.” Now “doctrine” simply describes “teaching.” So, what this means is that we need to regularly sit under good, solid teaching like you are hearing here today. Can I get an, amen?
Then, in verses 15-16, Paul goes on to describe other important factors to keeping the fire burning in our hearts—namely, meditating on these things (i.e. what you have been reading, are being exhorted by, and what you are being taught). In other words, it is important for you to take the things you’ve heard, and give even “the more earnest heed” to those things lest you drift away from their truths (see Hebrews 2:1)—that is, aggressively and purposefully meditating on these truths afterwards.
And, finally, Paul tells Timothy to “take heed” to himself. This has a wide range of meaning too. First of all, we need to learn to take care of ourselves by not burning the candles at both ends and experiencing “burn out.” There is certainly a natural side to this as well. But it also describes “watching ourselves” in regards to making sure that our flaky flesh and squirrely soul don’t start this pity party, “woe is me” stuff we’ve talked about.
A good example of all of this I’ve been describing to you that happened to Timothy is how so many of us go to a camp-meeting, a youth retreat, or some other time of spiritual refreshing and we get “fired up.” But what happens almost every time? The fire begins to subside. What once was a bon-fire of zeal and excitement begins to wane and we wind back down to where we were before we ever went. Do you know why this happens? It is because we let the fire go out by not giving attention to it and continue to throw logs on the fire. And we throw more wood on the fire by doing these very things Paul told Timothy in First Timothy chapter 4.
But what I want you to see also is the other reason Timothy had let his fire go out:
We see this second point in Second Timothy 1:7 when he said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
So, Paul turned his attention to the things God had given him (the benefits, if you would)—power, love, and a sound mind, saying, “Man of God, exhort yourself! Tell your soul who you are and what you have! You have power, love, and a sound mind!”
HOW TO STIR UP THE GIFT
Now the very meaning of these words “stir up” also describes to us how we are to do this. Fire is involved! In other words, some zeal, fervency and passion are necessary to doing the “stirring.” Romans 12:11 says, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame” (The Message).
And one thing that needs to be understood is that what is being stirred is “the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”
Now it is rather clear that Paul is referring to a ministerial, spiritual gift that was given to Timothy during a time of laying on of hands. He said in Romans 1:11 that he desired to come to that body of believers in order to impart to them some spiritual gift—which I believe was at least partly through the laying on of hands like in Timothy’s case. But here is the point I want to make: Paul said that he was persuaded that the same genuine faith that was in his family was in Timothy also. And then he said, “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…” Now the gift of God Paul was referring to was not the genuine faith he had in him. We know this because faith does not come through the laying on of hands. Faith comes by hearing, not through going through some prayer line!
So, the genuine faith that Timothy had was what he was to use to stir up the gift of God that was already in him. So, when we have those times where we are tempted to get down and be discouraged—throwing a pity party and wanting everyone to come help us feel sorry for ourselves—that is when we need to grab ourselves by the ear and say to ourselves, “What are you doing!?! I’m a believer, not a whinny baby. I am changing my attitude right now and picking back up that spirit of faith that I am persuaded is in me.” And hopefully you also have some good faith buddies who will smack you across the face if you start poor-mouthing it, and say to you, “Get a hold of yourself! We don’t talk about how bad it is; we talk about how good He is! Let’s rejoice together until we regain the victory!”
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here. When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in you and I—whether that be the anointing for ministry or any other gift God has placed in us—we “stir up” those gifts through our faith that’s in us! No, we don’t stir it up by sitting there crying and saying, “Oh woe is me! It’s so hard! I’m hurting. Nobody loves me.” When we are tempted to feel that way, we need to pick ourselves up and stop being wimps! That’s not the spirit of faith! Begin to stir yourself up in Him! Amen!