The Secret of Living Victoriously
It is worth a great deal to an earnest soul to learn the secret of victorious living. It is not only trust in God — we have much to do ourselves. At every step there is a wrong as well as a right way, and we must make our choice. God will never do this for us, however simply we may trust in him. We will never be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease. Divine help is always ready — but there is a human part which must be accepted and entered upon with energy, in order to get the strength from God which we need if we would be victorious. If we would have the devil flee from us — then we must resist him. The Lord will bruise Satan — but the bruising must be under our own feet.
We need to remember also that the feeling in us which would lead us to sin is not to be crushed and slain — but rather turned into God's service. When we are tempted to do something wrong, instead of fighting the desire, the true way is to lead it into something beautiful and good.
Paul gives us the whole secret when he says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." If we follow Christ closely — then the world's temptations will have no power over us. If we keep busy in God's service — then we shall not be troubled by solicitations to do the work of the evil one. If our heart is kept full of glowing love for Christ — then we shall not have room for the love of the world.
But we must never forget that without Christ we cannot live victoriously. It is "in Him who loved us" that we can be "more than conquerors." No motive is sufficient to carry us through all the opposition and antagonism of sin — but the love of Christ in us. With this mighty motive, comes also the help of Christ. He empowers every one who truly follows him. His strength enters into our weakness, and makes it unconquerable!
Some people are very reckless in rushing into temptation, not fearing the power and deceitfulness of sin. Then they are surprised if they fall, as if God ought to have kept them by force, even in spite of their own folly, almost against their own will.
But this is not God's way of delivering us from evil. The prayer is, "Lead us not into temptation." Wherever God leads us in the way of duty, we need not fear to go, for he will keep us when we are with him, doing his will. But if we venture unbidden of God, or unled, into temptation — then we have no promise of divine help and can only fail.
This lesson is especially for those who have been living wrong, and are trying to start anew. They need to be most careful if they would continue faithful.
Professor Drummond illustrates this in a striking way in one of his helpful addresses. He says that such a person should treat himself as a man who has been very ill and dare not do anything. Let him consider himself as a convalescent for a few weeks and take care where he goes, what he reads, what he looks at, and what people he speaks to. He is not strong enough for the outer air. When he first begins the new life, he is young and tender. Therefore, let him beware of the first few days. "If you are careful not to catch cold for the first few weeks after you begin to lead a new life, you will succeed; but if you do tomorrow what you did today, you will go wrong, because you are not strong enough to resist. You will have to build up this new body cell by cell, just as the old body of temptation has been built up."
The illustration is very suggestive. One, for example, who has allowed the habit of drinking to fasten upon him, and then determines to be a man again and live purely, nobly, worthily — must indeed, for a time at least, treat himself as a sick man just recovering. He cannot walk in the old ways where the fatal temptation awaits him. He must seek safe paths, in the sweet, balmy air. He must watch all his pleasures, his recreations, his companionships.
Another secret of victoriousness, is the help of a friend. If one has been all broken up morally and spiritually, and desires to build up a new and worthy life, he needs nothing more than he needs a true, strong friend. It may be said that if he has Christ — then he requires no human friend. But Christ gives us his help largely, far more largely than we are accustomed to think, through human hearts and hands. The divine usually comes to us through the human.
That was one reason for the Incarnation — God came to men by taking upon him the form of a man, that he might speak to them in human words and love them through a human heart, and heal and bless them through the touch of a human hand.
Now Christ has returned to glory, out of our sight — but he reaches men still through the lives of his earthly followers. If you cry to him for help, for strength — then he will almost certainly send you a friend, one to represent him, to speak for him, to bring you his sympathy and love and strength in human ways.
We all need companionship, even at our strongest — but we need it much more at our weakest. If you are striving to be true and Christlike in spite of old habits and tendencies, seek a friend, one who has been tried and has learned the secret of victory. Tell him all about your weakness and your new desires, and ask him to help you. Such a friendship will be like Christ himself coming in one of his followers.
We need to remember, too, that merely to live victoriously, without yielding to sin, is not enough. We are delivered from evil — that we may do good. If we would overcome sin, we must grow up into Christ, building into our character whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely. Not committing sin is but one side of Christian life; doing the will of God is the great and central thing.