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

75- The life of victory.. And the war is for God

 

Procession of the Victorious

The Lord Jesus Christ, by His incarnation, has presented to us the idealistic picture of the life of overcoming and victory, as He overcame in everything:

He overcame all the wars of the devil, as in the temptation on the mount (Mt 4). He also overcame in His arguments with the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and with all the chief priests and the elders of the people (Mt 21:23). He overcame when He was on the Cross, as He was able to offer a sacrifice and save the whole world, as by His death He destroyed death (Heb 2:14,15). He also overcame death by His Resurrection. And He overcame the world, as He said :

“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

Concerning righteousness, He also overcame, as he was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). He challenged the Jews by saying : “ Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (Jn 8:46). He overcame in gaining the love of people, as it was said about Him: “Look, the world has gone after Him! “ (Jn 1219). He entered Jerusalem in triumph as a king and the whole city shook (Jn 12:12). And it was said, summing up His triumphs :

“ Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed “ (Rev 5:5).

And it was said that He overcame all the kings who fought Him because: “He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings” (Rev 17:14). And as He was always victorious, the Holy Bible promised us that He “Always leads us in triumph” (2 Cor 2:14). And in His second coming, He will come in the procession of the triumphant : “ Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 14).” With power and great glory” (Mt 24:30).

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And as the Holy Bible presented to us the idealism of the triumphs of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible and the history of the church also present to us examples of the victory of the saints:

At the head of the victorious, we refer to Abraham, the father of fathers:

His victory was deep and wonderful when he took his only son, Isaac, to offer him as a burnt offering for God( Gen 22). He overcame the paternal feelings and his hopes about the stars of the heaven and the sand which is on the sea-shore (Gen 22:17). He was also triumphant concerning faith : “ Accounting that God was able to raise up, even from the dead “ (Heb 11:17-19).

Abraham also overcame the feelings of kinship and nationhood when the Lord said to him : “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). So he obeyed : “And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8).

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We refer to another example of victory, that is our father Jacob:

It is a victory of another kind, which is struggling with God as he wrestled with Him until the breaking of day and said to Him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen 32:26). And he actually received a blessing and the Lord said to him: “ For you have struggled with God and with man, and have prevailed” (Gen 32:28).

Jacob was scared from his brother Esau, but he did not consider the struggle to be between him and Esau. But he struggled with God, believing that if he prevailed in his struggle with God and received from Him a blessing, a promise and strength, then he will definitely prevail in his relationship with his brother, and it happened...

In his struggle with God, he received the faith by which to face Esau. It is a lesson for us in struggling with God till we receive His promise: “They will fight against you but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you”, says the Lord, “to deliver you” (Jer 1:19).

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A third example of victory is the heroes of faith .

St Paul the Apostle, who said : “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness “ (2 Tim 4:7). St Paul who stood before rulers and kings and came out triumphantly (Acts 21:28).

St Athanasius the Apostolic also with all strength, overcame Arius and his followers and responded to all their heresies. It was said to him : “ The world is against you, Athanasius”. So he said: “And I am against the world”.

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A fourth example of victory is the martyrs and confessors:

They overcame all threats, prisons and torments that are above the endurance of man. They were firm in their faith and faced death with amazing courage. They were a wonderful example that attracted many to the faith. Therefore the church honours them greatly and we say that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith.

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A fifth example in victory is the saints of monasticism and asceticism:

Take for example St Anthony the Great and how he overcame the love of wealth and distributed all his possessions amongst the poor. He prevailed in the wars of doubts, fears and horrors that the devils put in his way. He prevailed in enduring solitude, poverty and asceticism; remaining in the wilderness without a guide or a companion for tens of years. He also prevailed in leading many to this angelic path, till he became light to the world.

In the procession of the victorious, we place with St Anthony all the elders among the fathers of monasticism, the ascetics, the solitaires, the hermits, the stylites and all the choirs of those: “ Earthy angels or heavenly men”, as history called them... Those who prevailed and remained firm in the life of solitude, prayer, contemplation, death to the world and keeping away from positions and fame...

 

How to prevail

All these and other examples of characters lived the life of victory and triumph, and left for us a model to follow their steps. Now it is time to ask : How can we also prevail and overcome.

St-Takla.org         Image: Saint James The Apostle, Yacoub, Jacob the Apostle صورة: القديس يعقوب الرسول

St-Takla.org Image: Saint James The Apostle, Yacoub, Jacob the Apostle

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: القديس يعقوب الرسول

We will never be able to overcome except if God fought for us...

If we depend on our will, strength, experience and intelligence, we will never be able to overcome because the enemy has more power, experience and tricks. And the Lord Himself said: “ Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

Then He has to fight for us, defend us and prevail. And as the Holy Bible said: “ The Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam 14:6). “ But deliverance is of the Lord “ (Prov 21:31).

As for conquering, it is as the Apostle said: “ We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us “(Rom 8:37).

God triumphs when we commit to Him our wills and the management of our affairs, then He will: “ Lead us in triumph” (2 Cor 2:14).

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The Lord Jesus Christ said: “ In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). He did not say: “Be of good cheer, you will overcome the world”, but: “I have overcome”. What does it mean? It means that I will overcome (in you) this world for a second time, if I dwell in you. And as St Paul the Apostle said : “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”... (Gal 2:20).

Then if you want to overcome, hold fast to Christ. Let Him fight for you, take from Him the strength needed to overcome the world. Then you will prevail...

“Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Without Me you cannot prevail...

Then hold fast to the Lord, with all your strength. Say to Him: Do not leave me or abandon me. Without You I cannot fight even the youngest among them, as it was said by St Anthony. But with You, I can say with St Paul the Apostle: “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me”.

Then true victory is in holding fast to the Lord all the time.

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Our biggest problem is that we want to prevail by our own strength, will, experience and intelligence; without getting God in the battle...

And in all that, we forget the saying of the Apostle: “ Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).

Yes, this is the secret of victory, our Lord Jesus Christ, if He fought with you, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. Therefore St Paul also says: “ We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).

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How beautiful is the saying of the Holy Bible : “ For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” ( 1 Sam. 14:6).

As far as war is for the Lord, then He will fight and not you. You must then commit to Him the leadership of the battle in your wars with the enemy, the world, sin, yourself...

A wonderful phrase was said about Moses’ wars : “ The Lord will have war with Amalek” (Ex 17:16). So it was not Moses who was fighting Amalek, or Joshua, but the Lord... Do not say: Leave me, Lord, to fight Amalek. No, but say in humility : I cannot, You fight him, Lord...

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We have seen the same situation clear in the war between David and Goliath...

David said to that giant : “ This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand” (1 Sam 17:46) . It is not me who will defeat you, but the Lord. The Lord will deliver you into my hand. Then I will be able to give your flesh to the birds of the air... This is victory...

You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord” (1 Sam 17:45). David understood the secret , so he let God in, to the field of the battle.

Before David came, people were talking about “the man who has come up”, the giant and his strength, a reward for the man who will kill him. When David arrived, he began to speak about the Lord and letting God in to the field of the battle...

Was David’s victory because his hands were skilled in war or because the Lord delivered Goliath into David’s hand? The whole secret is in the Lord Himself. Therefore, in all his wars, how beautiful is David’s saying: “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Ps 144:1).

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And you , my brother, do you fight on your own or the Lord fights for you?

How poor you are, if you fight on your own, because the devil has more experience than you. For over seven thousand years he has been fighting man. He also has more tricks, knowledge and strength. So beware of fighting him on your own.

Therefore take up the whole armour of God with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (Eph6:13,16). And if the army leader could not go to the war on his own, without Deborah the prophetess (Judg 4:8), then you should not go to the war without God being with you...

And before you fight, ask the Lord to teach you and train your hand for war and your fingers to fight... Be a disciple of the Lord, then your sling will do wonders and with one stone you will win the war. And in all your fighting, listen to the saying of a hero and a prophet like Moses:

“ Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord... The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13,14).

The Lord fights for you in all your wars. The wars that are inside the heart, inside the thought and also in all the outside wars... The Spirit makes intercession for you with groaning which cannot be uttered. God will send His angel to you in the lions’ den and shut the lions’ mouths.

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The spiritual man experiences the strength of prayer and does not know defeat at all...

Because with prayer, he brings the Lord in, lets Him in to the field and hand over the battle to Him. Therefore David said: “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Ps 16:8). I shall not be moved as far as the Lord is at my right hand...

In all his battles, David used to cry to God: “How long , O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Make haste, O God, to deliver me!” (Ps 13:70).

On your own, you get weary, fighting the enemy with your strength...

But you will prevail if you say: “God will vanquish him, not me” ( Job 32:13).

We also see a deep spiritual experience in the story of our father, St Anthony. The devils fought him with strength and violence, shaking the tomb in which he lived at the beginning of his monastic life, so he said to them : “If God gave you power over me, who am I to resist God? But if God did not give you power, none of you will be able to overcome me”...

Then the war is not between you and the enemy, but first of all, with God. If you struggle with Him until the breaking of day and receive strength from Him , the enemy will never be able to defeat you...

The war is in your heart first. Are you sure that God is standing with you, fighting and attacking your enemy? If you are confident in that, you may say with David the Prophet: “Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident“ (Ps 26:3).

God fights for you, it is true. But you must strive.

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God’s working with you does not mean to become lazy. But you have to strive with all your strength. Resist all lust and any sinful desire. As the Apostle said: “ Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). And also: “Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet 5 : 9). Your resistance proves that you are rejecting sin. By that you become worthy of assistance from the grace...

Resist the points of weakness in you and do not surrender to them... Be firm in your struggle till God‘s hand rescues you.

Do not ever despair in your struggle, no matter how the war seemed hard and no matter how the snares around you increased. Be confident that heaven is watching your struggle and many angels and saints are mediating for you... Let your struggle be supported by faith... Faith in God’s strong and invincible hand about which David sang, saying: “You pushed me violently that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord is exalted “ (Ps 118:13-16).

Struggle then with God and struggle with yourself and struggle with the devil. Be strong in heart. Remember that the Lord used to choose giants for His wars, as He used Gideon, (Judg 6 :12), and David (1 Sam 16:18). And as He said about the church in the Song of Solomon that it is: “Awesome as an army with banners“ (Song 6:10). So is the human soul also...

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Use all the spiritual means.

Hold fast to your Psalms, your prayers, your readings and your spiritual contemplations with hymns and praises, with exercises, giving account of yourself and with spiritual wake. Hold fast to the church, to the confession father, Holy Communion and spiritual meetings. All these means will kindle warmth in your heart, deepen God’s love in you and grant you the strength to overcome. But if you kept away from these spiritual means, how easy it will be to become lukewarm and the enemy will find a way to get in to you...!

Be confident that God’s word is a weapon that helps you to prevail.

How true and deep is the saying of David the Prophet about his experience : “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. For by then You have given me life” (Ps 119:92, 93). Remember how the Lord, in His temptation on the mount, refuted the devil by using verses from the Holy Bible and showed us that the words of the Holy Bible could be used as a weapon to refute thoughts of the enemy. And as David the Prophet said: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19:9).

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Repeat the Psalms and the verses that give you courage and strength.

For example Psalm 3, Psalm 90 and Psalm 23 of the Shepherd. Also sing with the Apostle in his saying “ We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37) . Remember the Lord’s promises and encouragement to His children, and how He said to Zerubbabel: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!” (Zech 4:70). And His saying to St Paul: “Do not be afraid,... for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you” (Acts 18;9,10). And what He said before to Jeremiah: “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you” (Jer 1:19). And also what he said to Joshua: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life” (Josh 1:5)...

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Live in God’s love and you will prevail. Or at least live in His fear.

And in your struggle, resort to patience and endurance. And if the enemy of what is good made fear, remember the saying of St Paul the Apostle: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

Be confident that the more experience you get in your spiritual wars, the more your strength and faith in victory will increase.

Try to live always in a spiritual atmosphere, keeping away from whatever makes God’s love in your heart become cold. By doing that, you will keep your spiritual warmth and you will prevail in the wars of the enemy , and may God be with you.


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