“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
Faith is essential to overcoming the world, and overcoming the world is overcoming sin, for John says, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16) These lusts are what bring forth sin in our lives, as James wrote, “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” (James 1:15)
When the Bible urges upon us the importance of faith, it is speaking about a particular faith. Let me give you an example: Do you believe that Antarctica exists? Most people would immediately answer, “Yes!” However, how do you know Antarctica exists? Have you ever been there? Have you seen it for yourself? Most people have not, so they accept its existence by faith. They have seen evidence that it exists and trust that it really does exist, even though they have never seen it for themselves. Now, does faith in the existence of Antarctica help you in your spiritual life? Does it affect how you relate to God and your fellow man? Certainly not! This particular faith is not important; it has no bearing in your spiritual life. It will not help you to overcome the world.
There is a particular faith that we need in order to overcome the world—a faith in something that will give us the victory over temptation and sin. Right after John told us that our faith is the victory that overcomes the world, he explained what that faith must be based upon when he wrote, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) The Greek word that was translated “believeth” in this verse is the verb form of the Greek word that was translated “faith” in the previous verse, so John was speaking about the same thing in both verses.
Here we learn that the faith that is strong enough to overcome the world is faith in the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. There is a very important reason why this particular faith will give us the victory over temptation and sin. It is because this faith is the key to understanding the magnitude of God’s love. John put it this way, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) The greatness of God’s love for us can only be understood when we realize the value of the gift He gave for us. He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins. When we understand the meaning of these words and let the thought permeate our being, it overwhelms us with an appreciation for God like nothing else can.
John continued, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect.…” (1 John 4:16, 17) Knowing, believing, and then dwelling in God’s love for us will cause our love for God to be made perfect, and it will give us the victory over sin and temptation. This is why Paul wrote, “Faith… worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6)
Some may say that it is impossible for us to gain this victory. Friends, that is the biggest obstacle in obtaining the victory over temptation, and it was invented by Satan himself. God promised that He always makes a way to escape from sin when we are tempted. Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) God does all in His power to keep you from falling into sin, and He is able to do it if you will only let Him. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24, 25) God wants us to have the victory over every temptation, and we can only have it through faith.
Walk by faith
There is an Old Testament Scripture that Paul often quoted, which says, “The just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) We must live by our faith—every decision, every word, must be of faith, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) We must “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Faith is the essential ingredient in a Christian’s life, yet few people realize how to exercise it and use it to gain the daily victories we so desperately need. This faith is inseparably connected to the Word of God, for “Faith cometh… by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Faith is the dependence upon the Word of God to do what that Word says as Jesus illustrated in Matthew 8:5-10. Let us take a few minutes to see how the Word of God can be used to accomplish God’s will in our lives.
Faith in God’s Word
Paul exhorted us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) Paul wanted us to allow the Word of Christ to dwell in us, because he knew that if we were to do this, it would accomplish a work in us that cannot be accomplished apart from the Word of Christ. Christ spoke only the words of God, His Father (John 12:49), so the Word of Christ is the Word of God, which is “quick [living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of God is of a totally different nature from the word of men. Men may speak words but, in order for what is spoken to come to pass, something must be done in addition to the words. Not so with the Word of God. God speaks and things happen. When God said, “Let there be light,” immediately “there was light.” God did not have to do something in addition to speaking His Word. “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalms 33:9) His Word contains within it the power to accomplish what that Word says. This is why Paul made the distinction between the words of men, and the Word of God, when he wrote, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
Notice that Paul says the Word of God effectually works in those that believe. If you do not believe, the Word cannot and will not work in you, for the Word works in you by faith. Notice also that it is not you who are to do the work, but the Word of God is to work in you.
The Scripture says, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10, 11) It is God’s Word that accomplishes what He pleases wherever He sends that Word. And take courage friends because, “to you is the word of this salvation sent.” (Acts 13:26) Did you get that? This Word that brings salvation, that brings life, that accomplishes what God pleases, is sent to you, and it will accomplish God’s will in your life if you receive it as the Word of God, “which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
Paul said that the Word of God is able to build you up. This is referring to building your Christian character; to making you a better person, more and more resembling the perfect character of the Son of God. As Paul says, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) This can be accomplished in you, and it will be accomplished in you, if you will only let God’s Word do the work that it was intended to do in you. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” and it will accomplish this work in you, richly.
The Word that works
The Scriptures say that God’s Word is able to build us up; is able to work in us, but how does this work get accomplished? Let us learn some important principles from the Word of God that will help us to know how this is accomplished, and give us the tools necessary to apply this knowledge in our lives.
Paul wrote, “I… labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:29) Paul said that he labored, and strove, according to, or in cooperation with, God’s working which worked in him mightily. We have a part to play, we have to strive and labor, but our labor is not to do God’s work, but to let God do His work in us. It is God who does the work, and all we need to do is allow Him to do that work in us; to surrender our wills to the will of God. We need to cooperate with Him, and exercise our faith in His Word, so that His Word can come in and do the work for us.
Away with the idea that “I must do this; I must do that.” No matter how hard you try, you can never do the work of God in your life. God is the only one who can do His work in you. You may try, but it must always end in failure. That is why there are so many miserable Christians in this world. They try and try and try, but end up in failure, because they are trying to do the work that only God can do. God wants to do the work in us, but most of us are too busy trying to do it ourselves. So God steps aside and allows us to try until we realize that we cannot do it and we call upon Him for help; in faith believing that He can and will help us. Unfortunately, often times, after we receive the help, we return right back to our old routine of trying to do it on our own and, again, we end up in failure. God wants us to realize that He alone can do the work in us, and we need to stop trying to do it ourselves.
I would like you to think about something that is particularly for those who have had a drastic transformation in their lives at the point of conversion. When you first became a Christian, who was it that changed your life? Did you do it yourself? Certainly not! Think back on those days. You knew that it was totally God who did the work in you. Sure, you had a part to play, but your part was to surrender your will to God and put faith in Him and His Word; that He could do the work in you. You saw amazing things happen in your life that cannot be explained except to believe that God did the work in you. Wouldn’t you agree? Yet, many people think that once God brings them to conversion, He leaves them to do the rest on their own. But, the Bible says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” (Colossians 2:6) The same principles that applied during your conversion also apply today. You received Christ into your heart by faith, and you must walk in Him in the same way, by faith. Faith in the beginning, faith throughout, and faith unto the end, is the only way we can gain victory in our lives.
The Word used as a tool
We are instructed to put on the whole armour of God in order to fight in our battle against sin and temptation. Included in the list of the individual armour is the Sword of the Spirit. Paul wrote, “Take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) Paul tells us that we must have the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This Sword that we are to take is a mighty Sword, “sharper than any twoedged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12) With such a mighty Sword in hand, we must be instructed on how to use it. If you send someone into battle with a mighty weapon, who does not know how to use it, it can do a lot of damage to the person using it, and to his allies who are fighting with him. Much damage has been done by those who have wielded this Sword without knowledge on how it should be used. Therefore, let us get some training on the use of this Sword so that we can win the victory and avoid harming ourselves or others in the process.
There is a precious promise in the Word of God regarding the Sword of the Spirit. The Bible says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) What a precious promise! Whenever the enemy comes against you, tempting you, the Spirit of God will lift up a standard against him. This is an important piece of knowledge in our education of the proper use of the Sword of the Spirit. I am sure you have experienced it yourself. Suppose you are in a store, and the enemy suggests to you, by putting a thought into your mind, “You can take that piece of candy, nobody will notice it is missing.” Immediately, the Spirit of God raises up a standard against the enemy, and a verse that you have previously read comes to your mind, “Thou shalt not steal.” The Spirit of God raised up a standard against the enemy by giving you the appropriate portion of the Word of God when it was most needed. The Bible says to let this Word dwell in you; let it accomplish what God pleases. The Word was given to you for a reason, and it must be used as it was intended, or you will not gain the victory. It was intended to be used by faith to repel and fight back the advances of the enemy.
Notice how Jesus used the Word of God to gain the victory over temptation: “The devil said unto [Jesus], If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” (Luke 4:3) What happened next? Immediately, the Spirit of God raised up a standard against the enemy by giving Christ the portion of Scripture that He needed at that moment to gain the victory. “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4) Here is the proper way to use the Sword of the Spirit. The Spirit of God brought to Christ’s memory the Words He needed, and Christ used them to attack the evil suggestion of the enemy, and that Word gave Him the victory.
The next assault of the devil was overcome in the same way: “The devil, taking [Jesus] up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:5-8)
Jesus believed in the power of the Word of God. He believed that the Word would accomplish what that Word says, and He used the Word of God as a tool, a weapon, to gain the victory over sin. We can gain the victory in the same way. We must accept the Word of God as it is—living and powerful, and allow that Word to do in us just what that Word says.
Let us look at a few practical applications of this principle in our lives today.
Grace and peace
The Word says, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:3) Grace and peace are freely offered to you right now. There is power and life in those Words to do what those Words say, but you can only have grace and peace if you believe in the Word. Do you need grace or peace today? You can have it right now if you will accept it from God. He gives it, and as truly as light appeared the moment God said, “Let there be light,” so certainly will you have grace and peace this very moment if you will accept it by faith in the power of His Word.
Are you struggling with sin today? Does sin have dominion over you in some area of your life? The Word says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14), and this will be true in you this very moment if you accept it and believe it right now for yourself. Believe that His Word contains within it the power to accomplish exactly what that Word says. He says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” and it won’t if you let that Word do what it was designed to do in you right now. When sin seeks to have dominion over you, the Spirit of God will raise up a standard against it, and God may use this very text to give you the victory. Let God’s Word perform that victory in you. Let the Word do its work. (See also 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Jude 1:24.)
Righteousness by faith
Paul says that we can have “righteousness by faith.” (Galatians 5:5) Do you need righteousness today? You can have it, but only through faith. Paul wrote, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” (Romans 3:21, 22) You can have God’s righteousness right now, for He promised, but it will only come upon “them that believe.” Do you believe that God has righteousness to give, that He wants to give it to you, and that He is faithful to give it to you because He promised in His Word? If so, “ask and ye shall receive.” (John 16:24)
Forgiveness of sin
Do you need forgiveness of sins? God’s Word says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) This is a promise, and you can count on it. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Many people doubt whether God has really forgiven them because they think their sin is too great. But God promised that He will forgive us our sins if we confess and forsake them. Solomon wrote, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) If you have confessed and forsaken your sins, you can be 100% sure that God has forgiven you. Jesus promised, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) Accept His Word and believe it for yourself, and it will be accomplished in your life.
Receive the Spirit
There are several other practical applications of the principle of accepting the Word of God by faith, that can be summed up by the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus explained how earthly fathers are eager to give good gifts to their children, and then He said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13) Jesus said that God, the Father, is much more willing to give His Spirit to them that ask, than any earthly parent is willing to give good gifts to his children. This is a promise. Do you believe it? If so, “ask and ye shall receive.”
Remember that God will give you His Spirit if you ask. Now, notice what comes as a result of that gift: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Follow the chain of promises here. Jesus promised that God would give His Spirit to those who ask, and here we learn some of the effects of receiving this Spirit from God. When we receive His Spirit, we automatically receive “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance.” These are promised to us; they are not something we can manufacture on our own. Do you lack love for God or your fellow man today? You need God’s love. Are you depressed? You need the joy of the Spirit. Are you troubled? You need peace. Are you irritable? You need longsuffering. Are you harsh or rough? You need gentleness. Are you unkind? You need goodness. Do you find it hard to believe? You need faith. Are you proud? You need meekness. Do you lack self control? You need temperance.
All of these problems can be solved by asking God for one thing—His Spirit. He has promised to give it if we ask, all we need to do now is to believe that He gives what He promised, for He cannot lie. If you ask God for His Spirit, and believe that He gives it to you because He promised, then you can be sure that He has given it to you. You may not notice a sudden change immediately even though one has taken place, but this is when you must exercise faith. Give it some time, and keep believing that He has given you His Spirit, and soon you will notice that a change has taken place.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point. When I first became interested in giving my life to God I knew very little about the Bible or conversion. I didn’t even understand how to pray or confess my sins. My dad told me something that helped me a great deal. He showed me Psalm 51:10 where David asked God for a new heart, and then he showed me Ezekiel 36:26 where God promised to give me a new heart. After this, my dad told me to ask God to give me a new heart, one that loves God and desires to do His will, and to believe that God had done it. He told me that I would not feel that I had been changed immediately, but that I should get up from that prayer and believe that God gave me a new heart because He promised. My dad said that after a few days I would notice the difference in my life if I continued to believe that God gave me a new heart. I did just what my dad said, and found that he was exactly right. The Lord gave me a new heart just as He promised.
We need to do the same thing when we ask God for His Spirit. He promised that He would give us His Spirit if we ask. In fact, in the very same verse that God promises to give us a new heart, He also promises to give us a new spirit. It says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
When we receive God’s Spirit there is something that comes with it abundantly, and that is love. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) God promises to give us His Spirit and love abundantly. Notice how love acts:“[Love] suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
God promises to give you His Spirit if you ask for it and believe that you receive it. “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22) You will receive God’s Spirit if you do this and, with it, He has promises to shed abroad His love in your heart. We just read how love acts, so this love will act this way in you if you believe. These are promises that you can count on. Today, right now, you can have love abundantly, in your heart, that is kind and long suffering; that thinks no evil, that endures all things. Do you want this love in your heart? Ask God for His Spirit, and this love will be poured out in your heart if you believe. Accept it, believe it, and watch it be fulfilled right before your eyes. Try it and see.
You are not the one who is to produce this love in your heart, but it is God who puts it there by His Spirit. It is God who loves in you, and you need to step aside and let Him do His work in you. Follow the simple plan: believe His promises, trust in His Word, let His promises dwell in you, and His Word will accomplish what He pleases in your life.
Long before the Lord showed me the connection between these verses, I have experienced the fulfillment of them for myself. Often, when an evil thought seeks to find a foothold in my mind, the verse comes to my mind that says, “Love… thinketh no evil.” When this verse comes to my mind, I meditate upon it and use it to beat back the assaults of the enemy. I cannot count the number of times this happened to me, long before I understood how the Bible explains this process.
God has “given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)