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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

74- The life of victory and triumph

 

We are members of the struggling church on earth. We pass here a probationary period where we confront many spiritual warfares. St Paul the Apostle explained that and said: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but... against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). And he also said that this war needs: The whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11).

God wants us to triumph in this war. The whole heaven watches our struggle and rejoices on seeing us winning.

The angels and the spirits of the saints in heaven pray for our victory : There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Lk 15 :7). The grace of the lord also helps us to win, and the Spirit of God works in us in order to triumph... But if we fell and were defeated, we then : Grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we were sealed (Eph. 4:30).

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The spiritual man is a victorious man.

Because his spirit has overcome the lust of the flesh, and won the wars of the devils. It has also overcome the world and the material. When his hour comes, the angels will joyfully carry his spirit in a procession to heaven.

St-Takla.org         Image: Jesus in heaven with Saints, by T. Sawsan, modern Coptic art صورة: السيد المسيح مع القديسين في السماء - رسم تاسوني سوسن، فن قبطي حديث

St-Takla.org Image: Jesus in heaven with Saints, by T. Sawsan, modern Coptic art

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: السيد المسيح مع القديسين في السماء - رسم تاسوني سوسن، فن قبطي حديث

And the spiritual man triumphs because he is a strong man and the Spirit of God works strongly in him. His will became in complete submission to the will of God.

The spiritual man does not try to overcome another person.

Because he loves others in honour, giving preference to them (Rom 12:10), while he sits down in the lowest place (Lk14 :10). He likes to over come evil but not the evil people. He likes to overcome himself but not others. He does not like overcoming the weak or the mistaken, but rather bears with them. As the Apostle said: We who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak (Rom 15 :1).

There are many fields where the spiritual man overcomes:

+ He overcomes himself first.

First of all, he overcomes within, because his inner victory is what helps him to overcome the wars without.

The prodigal son, (Lk 15), was unable to return to his father till he managed to overcome within and he when lost his lust for the far country, realized the bad state which he was in...

One of the greatest examples of inner victory is Joseph the Upright. The temptations from the outside were very strong, pressing on him day by day (Gen 39:10). Sin was the one seeking him. But in spite of that, he rejected all these temptations because he was triumphant within. So he was able, with the purity of his heart, to say: How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Gen 39:9). St John Chrysostom was truthful when he said:

Nobody can harm a man unless he harms himself.

It means that the outside factors would not overcome him, except if he was already overcome from within. Therefore the Lord says: Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life (Prov 4:23).

St Augustine lived in the sin when he was overcome by it, that is when he was longing for it. But when he managed to overcome himself from within, then he said his beautiful phrase: I sat on top of the world when I felt inside myself that I do not long for anything or fear anything.

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So, if you get troubled one day, my brother, be certain that you are troubled from within. There is a hole in yourself through which outside troubles manage to get in. Therefore the Lord said about the triumphant spiritual man that he is: A garden enclosed,... a spring shut up, a fountain sealed (Song 4:12).

The outside sin searches for a sin inside you to get united with it and opens for her the doors of the heart, and of the thought.

The spiritual man who wants the Spirit of God to be within him, the outside sin wouldnt find a place for her inside him. She knocks on his door but he would not open, so she leaves him and turns away... An enemy, for example, tries to agitate you in order to sin and finds that you are not liable to get agitated because you are strong within. What would he do then? Either feel ashamed and leave you, or apologize to you, or stop acting in such a manner..

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The spiritual man overcomes sin and the devil...

As far as he managed to overcome the desires of his heart from within, he will definitely overcome sin on the outside with all its wars and its thoughts. The devils devices will never deceive him, but as St Paul the Apostle said about him: Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Cor 2:11).

And the spiritual man, if fought by sin, he resists it with all his strength.

He benefits from St Paul the Apostles rebuke to the Hebrews: You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin (Heb 12:4). He also listens to the saying of St Peter the Apostle: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion,... Resist him, steadfast in the faith (1 Pet 5:8-9).

The first Man was deceived by the words of the serpent (Gen 3), as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. He lost his divine image and was defeated by sin. As for the spiritual man, he is not like that. He likes to overcome, learning from lessons of the past.

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The worst thing in the defeat of evil people is their boasting about their sins :

They are the ones, about whom St Paul said: ...And now I tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things (Phil 3:18-19).

As for the spiritual man, his glory is in the torment he endures for Gods sake, overcoming this shame in which the sinners rejoice.

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The spiritual man overcomes all the obstacles that stop in the way of his spiritual life.

He also overcomes the obstacles that prohibit his spiritual growth. He does not allow anything to disrupt his fellowship with God, no matter how difficult or disruptive to others.

Look what St Paul said :

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ our Lord (Rom 8:35-39).

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The spiritual man does not give excuses if he fails to overcome. But he confesses the sin and repents.

Excuses do not justify defeat before the enemy. Each of Adam and Eve tried to give excuses but they were not acceptable before God. God has placed before us all the means to overcome. He... Always leads us in triumph in Christ (2 Cor 2:14).. The weakness then is in our will. Any attempt to justify our defeat in our spiritual wars is another sin added to this defeat...

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The spiritual man also overcomes tribulations and problems.

Problems do not shake him, defeat him, weaken his morals, disturb him or throw him in a whirlpool of anxiety, uneasiness and doubt. But rather, he overcomes the problems and his heart does not get anxious about them or loses his peace because of them.

Through faith, prayer and patience, he overcomes all problems.

One of the outstanding examples in this field is probably Job the Upright. The problems he experienced were more than what an ordinary persons heart could endure. Who is able to bear the loss of all his sons and daughters in one day? With them, he also lost his possessions and riches?! But when this spiritual man heard the sad news, he said: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked shall I return there (Job 1:21). Therefore, God praised him by saying: There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man (Job 2:3).

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The spiritual man does not only overcome affliction by endurance but he also rejoices even more in it.

As St James the Apostle said : My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (Jas 1:2) And as St Paul the Apostle said: Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christs sake... (2 Cor 12:9-10).

How beautiful is what has been said about our fathers the Apostles, after they put them in prison, beat them, then they let them go. It was said that: They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).

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When the spiritual man experiences affliction, he says in faith : It is for good :

Remembering the saying of the Apostle: All things work together for good to those who love God (Rom 8:28). Therefore, affliction does not shake him but stregthens his faith because he knows very well that the way that leads to God is narrow (Mt 7:14). Then he expects this tribulation and rejoices in it because it proves that he is on the way of God. Then through faith, he waits for God to interfere and get him out of the tribulation. And in any case, it is a crown for him... With all these feelings, he overcomes the tribulation...

The spiritual man also does not find his pleasure in the world, but he rejoices in overcoming the world with all its material and lust...

How beautiful is the saying of one of the writers : Rejoice not because you obtained a desire but because you subjugated a desire.

And by overcoming desires, the spiritual man proves that he is the son of God because: As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Rom 8:14) . And as they are led by the Spirit of God, they overcome the sin and they perform good deeds : Whoever abides in him does not sin (1 Jn 3:6).

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The life of victory is joyful because in it, the spiritual man becomes a model for others.

He presents to people an example of the prospect of the righteous life and that the life of victory is a practical reality that they can see before them. He also gives an example of the strength of Gods children, which helps them to overcome. As St John said to the youth: I wrote to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one (1 Jn 2:13).

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The life of victory is also joyful because of the Lords promises to those who overcome.

It has been recorded in Gods message to the seven churches of Asia (Rev 2,3).

So He said to the angel of the church ofEphesus: To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev 2:7). And to the angel of the church in Smyrna : He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev 2:11). And it is known that the first death is departure of the spirit from the body. As for the second death, it is eternal death or deprivation from God, and being cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:42).

And He said to the angel of the church in Pergamos: To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat... And I will give him a new name (Rev 2:17).

And He said to the angel of the church in Thyatira: And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations... as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star (Rev 2:26-28).

And to the angel of the church in Sardis, He said: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the book of life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Rev 3:5).

And He said to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God (Rev 3:12).

And to the angel of the church of Laodiceans: To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Rev 3:21).

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How beautiful it is... The Lord Jesus Christ wants you to overcome and to sit with Him on His throne in the eternal kingdom...

If you were one of those who overcame, you will eat from the tree of life and from the hidden manna; will be clothed in white garments, will become a pillar in the temple of God, will be given power, your name will be written in the book of life and you will even be given a new name...

And if you overcame, you will live in the holy city of God, heavenly Jerusalem , with God , the angels and the saints (Rev 21). You will inherit the kingdom prepared for the righteous from the foundation of the world (Mt 25:34). And where Jesus is, there you may be also (Jn 14:3). And you will enjoy what an eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man ( 1 Cor 2:9). And the second death will not overcome you but you will be raised in glory, with a heavenly, spiritual body (1 Cor15:43-45)... All these glories are for those who overcome.


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