When a man speaks of fighting a temptation or a sin, he is often asking for the secret, the one key, the few steps to winning the fight there and then, overnight, instantly and immediately. Well, then. Here is the secret to winning your fight: fight! Fight, fight, fight everyday and one day the battle will be over.
When describing how we fight this spiritual war against evil and the devil, Paul uses the word “wrestle” (Ephesians 2:11). The image needs no explanation. It is not fought at a distance, but the fight is close, at hand, on the ground. One cannot get any closer to the enemy than by wrestling with them.
The fight, though, is not as obvious as we sometimes think. We tend to speak of spiritual warfare when big things happen, when tragedy or crisis strikes. But such things do not happen daily, but possibly a few times a year. Are we to think that we fight only those few times a year? No! The fight we fight is daily. Yet it is subtle, slow moving, barely perceptible or noticeable.
The devil is a liar and he lies to the minds and hearts of men. He plants snares and traps hidden under the power of his suggestions, insinuations, persuasions, or agitations. All these are his methods or schemes. He is not as spontaneous as we might imagine. He is, instead, a master strategist and wise planner, with methods and schemes that have stood the test of time. All this means, though, that we do not have to be outwitted, that we can understand his designs, for designs are well laid out and thought through (2 Corinthians 2:11).
The devil’s schemes are primarily laid out and aimed at leading us away from God. Our primary fight is against the drifting of our heart (Hebrews 2:1). We can become unmoored, forgetting what we have heard and received in Jesus Christ, the Gospel of God. The drift is an unthinking movement, for we don’t often recognize or even feel how far we have drifted until we turn around and discover we are nowhere near where we first entered the water. We have neglected steadily and incrementally the living God, and have become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:12-13). We have allowed ourselves to drift. If we had just stood up, we could easily have stood against the current drift.
So we must stand, and with the Psalmist act: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). We both ask and seek. We don’t wait passively, but actively. We seek against the flow. We seek to dwell all the days of our lives “in the house of the LORD” today. Seek it today for the sake of tomorrow, and the day after.
There is no secret weapon, then, to winning the fight against the devil nor to neutralizing his schemes effective immediately. We must fight the fight everyday and one day the battle will be over. Forgiveness is a hard battle, but you must fight and forgive everyday that person who has deeply wounded you, and one day you will wake up and realize that you have indeed forgiven that person and that the burden of anger or hatred or bitterness towards them has been broken and lifted. Whatever your battle against your temptation or besetting sin, fight it everyday. The victory, though, belongs to the Lord; he accomplishes it!
This fight will take all our strength and wisdom, and yet we are to “Be (made) strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 3:10) Who is the Lord? The one who has done everything and does stand victorious eternally. Jesus Christ was tempted in every way, suffered in every way, and was defeated in every way, in order that he might through his death and resurrection conquer death, the devil and his schemes, and our sin in every way, that in everything and over everything he alone might be The Champion, our Victory.
It is by “the power of his Spirit” that we are strengthened (Ephesians 3:16), and by the daily exhortation of the saints that we are encouraged (Hebrews 3:12-14), to fight every day. Our Champion hasn’t told us when the battle will be over, only that one day it will be. Until then we must fight the fight by his Spirit and in the company of our local and fellow saints.