Our faith is described as a fight from start to finish.1 If the trials and tribulations of the Christian life sometimes get to you, or push you to the breaking point, it’s probably because someone is trying to kill you.
When we think about the grace we receive for this fight, we generally think about God rescuing us out of all our troubles. To be sure, this belief is NOT wrong; it should be practiced and prayed for. Consider the numerous verses exhorting us to wait for God in this way, allowing Him to fight our battles: “Be still and know that I am God,” and “The LORD will fight for you, and you only have to be still.”2
But there is another way that God works for us in the midst of our battles — by supplying us with the strength to fight our way out of difficult circumstances. The Apostle Paul, who often needed strength from outside himself, drums us with this idea throughout his New Testament letters. Note in the following examples where he distinguishes between what he does and what Christ does in and through him:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col 1:29).
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).
God’s grace in this case is Christ strengthening us, powerfully working His energy into us and enabling us to work harder than anyone else. But it is the believer who is toiling, struggling, working harder, and finding himself in need of strength that comes from outside of his own being. There is supposed to be a synergy between God and His believing child.
Our hard work is NOT grounds for personal boasting or accomplishment, nor is it striving outside the power of God in some form of fanaticism. You and I cannot fake this. In order to work gloriously for His Kingdom, it is a matter of receiving what God has promised us.
We must receive the grace of God for us to be rescued and receive it to be helped. When we are rescued, it is Him pulling us out of the miry clay, and when we are enabled to fight our way out of trouble, it is God who is empowering our struggle.
Only through connection with God can we discern which of these types of grace He purposes to pass on to us.
If He means to rescue us, then we will need to direct our energies toward entrusting things to Him alone and leaving all at the throne of grace, watching for Him to move while we wait. This rescue is not a means of escaping the fight — it’s just meant to be relief in the midst of the worst fighting.
Alternatively, if God is calling us to take action, then we must move while simultaneously asking for His helping hand to be upon us as we go.3 Our entering the fray is never meant to take us out of fellowship from God. The fight is meant to clearly demonstrate to us our complete need of Him — for power to keep pressing onward and upward, for power to bring about effective change, for power to LIVE, to RUN and be BRAVE in the face of all kinds of demonic and oppressive evils.
Such dynamic grace is present in the life of Jesus. After receiving power on the Mount of Transfiguration, He immediately came down and confronted demons that had to be driven out (see Mark 9). His prayer and actions were combined. He received power in Gethsemane to go and die on a cross for us; now He prays for us in Heaven and will come back to rule and reign in power — His prayers working in concert with His fighting for us like a great celestial symphony.
So for us there remains the prayer, “Lord, are you calling me to wait or to fight?” If to wait, then we pray for the grace to be patient (this is sometimes actually the hardest fight). If to fight, then we pray for grace to run to the battle line, to endure through the struggle, to get back up after being knocked down.
May we all say, along with King David, of every enemy of our souls:
“I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.”4
1. 1 Tim 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Also, 2 Tim 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2. These two verses were taken from Psalm 46:10 and Exodus 14:14, respectively. For additional study, read 1 Samuel through 2 Chronicles to learn of numerous mighty warriors who were rescued by God’s direct intervention.
3. Take for example, Nehemiah’s prayer in the middle of his daring conversation with the king. (Nehemiah 2:1-8, esp. verse 4).
4. Psalm 18:37