This past week my oldest grandson, Travis, played in his first football game. They executed what they had been taught and were able to enjoy a 32-0 victory in their very first game.
Did you know God intends for you and me to enjoy victory in our lives?
When I first became a pastor in 1990 I seemed to be continually battling anger. Something would set me off and I would get angry quickly, venting my frustration as words profusely spewed from my mouth. After I cooled down I would feel defeated and discouraged. I would ask myself, “Who would want an angry pastor?” Much more, I was not much fun to live with.
I wanted complete and total victory over this struggle. I didn’t want some anger management technique where I was calm on the outside, but boiling on the inside, which didn’t sound like victory to me. I told the Lord, “I want complete victory over angry. I don’t even want to ever feel angry again.”
What battle do you continually seem to be waging? Maybe you’re struggling with anger, or worry, or lust, or fear, or sadness, or selfishness, or bad habits. We all have some area of our lives that seem to keep us stuck. You may have tried and tried to do better, only to wind up being defeated again.
As I searched the Scriptures for the keys to overcoming my anger problem, the Lord taught me how to experience genuine victory—not just victory over anger, but over any area where we are stuck.
Step 1: Forget the Past. No matter how many times you have been defeated in the past; no matter what the enemy wants to tell you about how you will never have success in this area of your life, forget the past and begin again believing you will have victory. The Apostle Paul said,
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
Don’t let Satan use your past failures to keep you from experiencing the victory that God wants for you in your present and future.
Step 2: Hide God’s Word in Your Heart. This is the step that most people skip. But when we skip this step we are losing the power that’s available from the word of God. David recognized the sin restraining power of Scripture when said,
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
In this step you will need to memorize Bible verses that speak to the struggle you are having. The only way you can hide God’s word in your heart is to memorize it. We’re told,
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword…It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12).
Find Bible passages that speak to your problem area. It will require the hard work for you to memorize. Print the Scriptures out on card stock or rewrite them on a 3 x 5 card and keep them close so that you can look at them over and over until you have them memorized. You see your mind must be reprogrammed,
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Romans 12:2).
Memorizing and Meditating on God’s word will help reprogram your thinking.
Step 3: Make a Covenant with God to Change. To really change you have to be serious about it. You can’t give a half-hearted effort. When Job wanted to make sure that he never committed adultery he said,
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman.“ (Job 31:1).
His example helps us to know how to approach the commitment that is required for lasting victory.
To make this commitment…
(a) Specifically define what you desire to experience. Be very specific in describing what victory looks like to you. Write it down. Get a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. State your goal in unmistakable terms.
(b) Define what usually happens when you are being tempted. What are you feeling? What are you thinking? When are you most likely to fail? What is going on in your heart immediately before you fail? Get specific. Think this through. Understanding this thinking / feeling process will be very important for you to use as an alert when you’re most vulnerable. Whenever you begin to feel or think in the way that usually leads to failure, it will be your warning sign to enact “Step 4” (see below).
(c) Create a boundary of protection around you. When you know what you want to accomplish you can determine an area far away from the behavior you want to avoid. Long before you actually succumb to the temptation you will have set a boundary warning on your thinking, feeling and actions (see James 1:12-18). Job determined that his eyes were the boundary marker to protect him against lust and adultery.
Step 4: Recognize What It Feels Like to Yield to the Holy Spirit. Whenever we are tempted the solution is to get ourselves under the control of the Holy Spirit. If we are under His control we will have victory. That’s why Paul said,
“…let the Holy Spirit fill and control you” (Ephesians 5:18a).
The problem is that many Christians don’t know what it feels like to be under the Spirit’s control. I often hear people say, “I tried to give control to the Holy Spirit, but it just didn’t help.” That’s because a person doesn’t know what this “feels” like.
Here’s what it feels like to be under the Holy Spirit’s control. Paul writes,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a).
At the moment you become aware of the warnings that you have determined from Step 3(b) above is the moment you must turn immediately to the Holy Spirit and yield control to Him.
But you might ask, “How will I know if I have given the Holy Spirit control?” The feelings of temptation will instantly be replaced with the feelings of “love and joy and peace and patience…and self-control.” Until you are sensing these results (fruit) you have not yielded control to Him. I believe that being under the Holy Spirit’s control is very objective—not subjective—since you will be experiencing / feeling / sensing the fruit of the Spirit.
Step 5: Look for Victory Today. Jesus taught us to live one day at a time when he said,
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).
Don’t worry about the days ahead. Stay focused on having victory for today. If you think too far into the future you will get afraid and might feel defeated before you start. Jesus taught us to pray,
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
In this He taught us to ask God for what we need for today. You could say something like this to yourself, “I may not be able to never _(your area of struggle)_ again, but I could see God giving me the strength to have victory for today!” God will give you the grace and strength—one day at a time.
Step 6: Begin a Streak. One day at a time you will begin to put together a string of victories that will be very encouraging. There will be a point soon where you truly be able to say, “God is giving me the victory over this sin!” Paul said,
“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
In baseball, a hitter works to have a hitting streak. The all-time Major League Baseball hitting streak happened in 1941 when the New York Yankee slugger, Joe DiMaggio, hit safely in 56 consecutive games. When in the 57th game he failed to get a hit, he didn’t quit. He simply worked to begin a new streak.
That’s what we should do. When we fail, instead of quitting, we should begin a new streak. Before long you realize that the Lord is giving you victory over this area that had been a source of defeat.
Step 7: Praise God for the Victory. Don’t forget to give God thanks for the victory you are experiencing. Paul said,
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
When Jesus healed the 10 lepers only one returned to give him thanks. He asked,
“Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17).
Thanksgiving for the victory is something that will be a great encouragement to you on your journey.
As I applied these steps I began to have victory over anger. This doesn’t mean I never get angry, but I can truly say now that anger is an area of my life over which God is giving me victory.
What will you do? Think how much better your life would be if you would have victory over the area that has been a continual struggle. Will you put in the effort to experience the victory the Lord has for you? I hope you not continue to struggle when Jesus has provided you with victory…in the Holy Spirit’s power…one day at a time.