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"Victim or Victor?"
By Pastor Bruce Sikes
"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But, it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!"
The above quote wasn't written by a pastor, but it should have been. It was spoken by the "Reverend" Rocky Balboa in his last movie. There's a lot of good theology in what he said, particularly for God's Remnant. It's worth re-reading with spiritually discerning eyes.
Today, too many Christians are victims rather than victors. Too many sermons are about avoiding conflict at all costs, rather than urging us to "fight the good fight" as the Bible commands (1 Timothy 1 & 6). Christians are not being taught the art of spiritual warfare. Finger pointing aside, the result is a weak church, brave indoors, but afraid to leave the building. Sadly, far too many of us are unable to stand up to the enemy when he attacks. When we are confronted by evil we either surrender, or we turn and run from the fight. Yet, what does the Bible say?, "Resist the Devil and he will flee." (James 4:7.) "Resist" So, why are we the ones running?
In the opening quote above, the Right Reverend Rocky said the world wants to "beat us to our knees" - not for prayer, but for submission to the world. Remember, the devil promised Jesus the whole world if He would only kneel before him. However, Jesus did not kneel. Instead, He resisted the devil and ordered him away with the authority of Scripture, and the devil fled. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus was attacked and tempted far more than any other man, yet Jesus was never a victim. The world did not beat him down until things got so bad that He found himself on His knees praying as a last resort. He was prayed up already! How about you?
Are you a victim?
"You're better than that!" Rocky reminds us. What's more he says, "... if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth!"
What are you worth?
Who are you in Christ Jesus?
The Bible says that YOU are...
"...more than conquerors." (Romans 8:37)
"...a kingdom of priests to serve God the Father." (Revelation 1:6)
"...sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26)
"...Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20)
"...heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17)
"... the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Furthermore, the Bible says that YOU...
"...the saints - will judge the world." (1 Corinthians 6:2)
"...will be given "authority over the nations" (Revelations 2:26)
"...will judge angels." (1 Corinthians 6:3)
I'd say that makes you worth a lot! It makes you a Victor - not a victim. Why then are we failing to go out into the world and make the most of what we are worth as Christians? Re-read those verses above. Look at who you are in Christ Jesus. Look at the authority, power, and position you have over the world as a Christian. These aren't mere platitudes to make us feel better. These are present day realities! Even the future promises of authority and judgeship are real things that will be given to us by God. Imagine for a moment, you were standing in a grocery store next to an ordinary looking person. Somehow, you knew that that person would be a future President. Wouldn't you think of that person differently, even though they looked very average? Wouldn't you treat them with more respect knowing the great power and authority that person will one day have?
You are that person! Even more so! You are an heir to much greater things than any earthly president. Respect yourself. Respect what God has made you in Christ Jesus. Live and start behaving like you are someone who is an heir to such great power and authority. Heirs have rights. You have rights as a Christian. Exercise those rights in the world. Along with those rights, you have a responsibility to the Lord to make the most of them. And, you are worth much to the Lord. Go Ye throughout the world and make much of who you are worth in Christ Jesus!
Now, it should come as no surprise that the devil doesn't want you to know who you are in Christ. The Bible says Satan, "... leads the whole world astray." (Revelation 12:9) and that "the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19)
He doesn't want you to know you have power and authority over him. He desires to confuse us, slow us down, keep us ineffective. His tools include fear, doubt, confusion, insecurity, intimidation, temptations and more. These are the ways we are persecuted by the evil one. These are the "hits" we are taking in life.
That is why the Bible reminds us,
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12)
Period. There is no avoiding being hit. It is a fact of life in a fallen world. What matters is how we respond to the hits. Back to Bishop Balboa's quote, "But, it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward."
If you "want to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus" and you do (otherwise you wouldn't bother reading this) you will get hit and hit hard. Keep moving forward.
We must always remember to move ahead, not under our own strength, but by the strength God provides, to reach the goals and accomplish the tasks He has for us.
Unfortunately, a very large percentage of the church has accepted a minimalist view of what it means to be a Christian. "We" have settled on the ultimate goal for living our Christian lives as, going to church, giving to charity, being honest in our employment, caring for our family, being nice and polite, and trying not to sin. So what's wrong with that? Nothing, all extremely important and we must do everyone of them, however as good as all of these are, they are not to be the ultimate goal of our living a Christian life. These are the minimum standards, the minimum expectations for Godly behavior.
This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says, "If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. (1 Corinthians 9:17)
Think about it. Has the Lord God of Heaven Himself reached down and rescued you from a fallen world of sin, evil, sickness and corruption which is doomed to the eternal fires of hell, by sending His Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die on a cross for the sins you have committed, so that you can sit in a church pew and live a quiet little Christian life? Seems like God is doing a lot of work for little return! Well, I am indulging in a bit of provocation here to get us to look deeper into all we have been called to be in Christ Jesus.
We have been called to a great deal more than to simply "exist" for Christ.
The Bible says "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.... For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Jesus..." (2 Corinthians 5)
We "no longer live for ourselves" - but we "live for Jesus".
This is true for each and every believer who has decided to follow Christ regardless of his or her position or status in this world; whether one is young or old, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, college educated or no college, married or unmarried, family or no family, how long or short they have been a Christian, Church minister or Church member - it applies to everyone.
"...because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." (Ephesians 6:8)
If that is true for all, then how much more must it apply to those God is calling forth as His Remnant? A Remnant whom God is calling to help awaken a sleeping church and to contend for the faith. A Remnant that has been asked to stand in the gap and turn aside the tide of worldly things pouring into the church. A Remnant which not only stands firm, but as "Christ's Ambassadors", moves firmly forward to advance the Gospel into the world. A Remnant whom God has empowered with gifts of the Holy Spirit such as discernment, to know in our spirits who is not of Christ and therefore desperately needs to hear the message of salvation from our lips. A Remnant whose gift of discernment enables them to see through the spirit of deception which is so powerfully at work in this world, to recognize the false teachers and false teachings Jesus so passionately warned us to look for during the last days. A Remnant for which the Lord has empowered us to pray through the Holy Spirit for God's intervention and protection towards others, not only expecting, but even seeing results! A Remnant which is unafraid to speak the truth in love, boldly, with wisdom and confidence from Christ and with His power and anointing. A Remnant which is faithful and obedient regardless of what persecutions may come from without or within.
The more you accept who you actually are in Christ and put into daily practice what He has given you, the more you will see your life change. It is God changing you. You will experience change in lifestyle, in habits, in relationships. Your desires and even your thoughts will be different than the worldly people and practices around you. Others will see that difference in you and some will fear it or even resent it. Do not stop. It is not you they are reacting to, but the Spirit of Christ they see working in you. Press Ahead. You are no longer simply existing for God, but are now serving Him.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-13)
That should be our attitude, in honest humility, in focused purpose, in the power and confidence provided by the Lord, we keep moving forward for Him. We accept the change God is making in us and the inevitable persecutions which will come our way.
I recently spoke to a young man, single, nice looking, good job and more importantly a praying and obedient follower of Jesus Christ. He told me that he has been striving to follow Christ even closer this past year in all things. He confided in me that it has cost him a couple of friendships and made other relationships uncomfortable. You see, he had said "no" to joining in sin and has taken a open and public stand for Christ on some issues in our society. Furthermore, he has been sharing Jesus with those who are lost.
Is this happening to you? Are you regularly being "hit" for living out your faith in Christ? If not, why not? Read again the scriptures listed above that show who you are in Christ Jesus and then turn on your television set. Look at the condition of the world, and then look at who you are called to be in Christ.
Ponder that for a moment.
It's hard isn't it? This world will hit us, wear us down, keep us on the defensive, cause us to re-define success as just "getting through the day". We fall terribly short, we are tried, we are weak.
Excellent! You are in a great place for God to use you.
"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Sounds foolish, doesn't it?
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)
Jesus said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And the Apostle Paul certainly knew what the Lord was talking about. Let's look at one example from his life. After helping the sick and telling people about Jesus, Paul was beaten, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. Here is what the Bible says happened next, "...he got up and went back into the city." ! (Acts 19) He did not, and could not have done this under his own power. He got "hit hard" (literally) and kept moving forward.
Paul was not alone of course. He writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
The Bible is ripe with examples of believers being hit hard and still moving forward. However, let's look at just one more - Jesus. He was arrested and accused by the corrupt religious establishment of "subverting the nation", of "opposing payment of taxes", and of "stirring up the people" by His teaching. When Jesus was asked who He was in the Lord, that is, "If He was the King of the Jews?", He spoke the truth and said yes. He kept moving forward to what many would say ended with Him becoming a victim. Yet they would be wrong. Even the biggest "hit" of all, death, could not stop the calling God the Father had for His life. Jesus was obedient and faithful to the point of death, becoming The Victor and making us Victors through Him.
We will experience many persecutions and trials once we step forward in faith - to be all we have called to be in Christ. Even so, for us, for the Remnant, there can be no turning back.
"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (Philippians 1:29)
Jesus knew who He was in God and what He was worth. Through Him we too can know who we are, and what we are worth to God and to the world.
"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:9-11)
I began with Rocky, and so I'll finish with him as well, "Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit..."
Are you willing? If so...Go out and get every ounce of what you're worth in Christ Jesus!
For Christ and His Remnant,
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