“This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
When I first became a Christian, I thought my questions, doubts, and temptations would go away. When they did not, I questioned my salvation for many months.
In a materialistic culture that measures reality by what it can measure, faith in an unseen God is problematic at best. And when we do not experience what we expected to experience as a result of such faith, we can become especially perplexed.
Finally I came to understand that it takes as much faith to believe I am saved as it did to be saved. And, over the decades since, I have learned that faith is in fact essential to the abundant life (John 10:10) as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) that God intends for each of us.
Why is this? Consider three facts.
As the story goes, two men were walking down the street, one a Christian and one a non-Christian. Suddenly the devil jumped out from behind a bush to confront them.
The non-Christian hid behind the Christian, crying out, “Save me. He’s after me.”
The Christian replied, “He’s already got you. It’s me he’s after.”
Of course, Satan most of all wants you to reject Christ as your Savior so that you will spend eternity separated from God in hell (John 3:18; Revelation 20:15). But if he cannot have your soul, as it were, he wants your witness. The last thing he wants is for your life to bring others to Christ.
And so, in a very real sense, when we become Christians our spiritual battles have just begun. We are now on the side of the Lord in the spiritual battle against our Enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
We must fight this battle with “the whole armor of God” (v. 13), which means that we must “in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (v. 16).
Paul the Apostle was by any accounting one of the godliest and most effective Christians of all time. And yet he confessed to a “law of sin that dwells in my members” that was at war with “the law of my mind” (Romans 7:23) so that he needed someone to “deliver me from this body of death” (v. 24). The same is true for us all.
Becoming a Christian means that we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But the “old man” is still with us. We can still choose sin over sanctification, our ways over God’s ways.
This is a conflict we must fight every day, one we win only by faith in our Father.
In this ongoing battle, you and I can win skirmishes in our strength, but not the war. Satan is better at tempting than we are at resisting. In our strength, we cannot live with the holiness that God requires and we seek.
But when we come to God with the same faith we chose at our salvation, we can experience his sanctifying power as a result: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2 NKJV).
Such peace and victory are not a product of our character but of his grace: “Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ Jesus, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9 NKJV).
What does all of this mean in practical terms?
We need to develop the reflex of turning every temptation into intercession.
Identify the sin you are being tempted to commit and bring it immediately by faith to your Father. Ask him for the strength you need to refuse it and then stay in his presence until the victory is won.
Faith does not earn his favor—it positions us to experience his best. In this case, it connects us with our omnipotent Father so that his power is ours. And he has never lost a battle.
John explained: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). This victory is ours not because of our faith but because of its Object: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Why do you need his sanctifying power today?