A Christian in Training

Bob L. Phillips April 11, 2017
I was flipping through a fitness magazine when a full-page ad caught my eye. Imagine this: A body builder with an incredibly muscular physique is seated at a weight machine doing leg extensions. Teeth clenched, eyes squinting, he strains to squeeze out one last rep.

“Be ready,” the headline reads. The rest of the ad copy runs across and down his super-hero body in white type, drawing the reader’s attention to every glistening muscle and vein from his shoulders to his knees.

“Nothing ignites the spirit of athletes like a serious challenge,” the ad declares. “And nothing helps them rise to it like a low-fat, highly nutritious PowerBar. Its unique formulation gives your body the energy it needs to reach and sustain its optimal level of performance. So next time you have a challenge to meet, rely on a PowerBar. It’s fuel for your fire.”

We Need a Spiritual PowerBar

As Christians, you and I are like the athlete in this ad. Every day we’re training for competition. Every day we’re engaging in battle with the enemy. To meet this “serious challenge”, we need divine strength and power.

If only there was a PowerBar for the Christian-in-training! Like the body-builder, we need energy to reach and sustain our optimal level of performance. And we need fuel for our spiritual fires.

And then it hit me—there is such a thing. The Bible calls it honey.

This honey doesn’t come packaged like a candy bar. Nor is it found in any store. But God’s PowerBar is readily available to every believer who truly desires “spiritual muscle”.

Sampson Found God’s PowerBar

Samson found this honey in a very unlikely place. From the carcass of a lion he scraped it and ate (Judges 14:8-9). Do you remember the story?

In search of a suitable wife, Samson had traveled to the town of Timnah, where he’d met an attractive Philistine girl. No doubt his parents had trouble understanding why this righteous young man would want to marry the daughter of an uncircumcised Philistine. The Philistines were the enemy. They had been ruling over Israel for many years. But God had a plan. He would use this tumultuous marriage to smite the Philistines.

Like any solider in God’s army, Samson needed training. A military leader cannot train veterans or create victors, except by putting them in battle. So it is in the spiritual realm as well. God trains us for victory over evil by forcing us to combat evil. He uses adversity to teach us how to draw upon the supernatural power and strength available through Jesus Christ. Under God’s regime, there is no crown without a cross—and no conquest without some conflict.

You’re a Soldier Now

Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to complain about the trials in your life. You’re a soldier now and soldiers are made for war. What’s more, the battles you’re waging today are training you for even bigger challenges ahead.

When life is too easy, when we don’t engage in battle from time to time, we stop growing and maturing in the Lord. Solomon sat on a throne of gold and sunned himself in the brilliance of unmatched prosperity. His life ran smoothly without trials or conflict. And yet, Solomon’s life ended in failure.

Smooth sailing can even be dangerous. When David chose to stay home over being with his men at the line of battle, he fell into sexual temptation and committed adultery (2 Samuel 11:1-4). When life gets too easy, you also risk being caught off-guard and falling into sin.

Bob L. Phillips April 18, 2017
As Christians, you and I are like athletes. Every day we’re training for competition. Every day we’re engaging in battle with the enemy. To meet this serious challenge we need divine strength and power. Like a body-builder, we need energy to reach and sustain our optimal level of performance. And we need fuel for our spiritual fires. There is such a thing. The Bible calls it honey.

Samson Encounters the Lion—Unarmed!

Samson’s first and most critical training experience took place in a vineyard outside Timnah. Samson was taking his parents there to meet his prospective bride for the first time. Mom and Dad must have lagged behind because Samson was alone when a young lion came roaring toward him. And, to make matters worse, Samson was unarmed.

Can you imagine fighting a lion without a weapon! If I had to travel somewhere on foot, knowing that a lion might attack me along the way, I wouldn’t go empty-handed. I’d carry the biggest gun I could find and, more than likely, I’d find some excuse for not going at all.

But, God makes it clear, “He (Samson) had nothing in his hand” (Judges 14:6). The power to cope with lions would have to come from somewhere else, and it did. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily,” the Bible says, “so that he tore him as one tears a kid…” (Judges 14:6).

Samson learned a valuable lesson that day. Victory, he discovered, comes not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6).

Samson wasn’t a giant. He was no Goliath. But the power of the Lord comes mightily on those who carry nothing in their hands. When you depend entirely on Him by faith, you will experience victory in your daily life.

Put Down Your Weapons

Is the word “victory” in your vocabulary right now? If not, there’s one simple reason: When facing satan—the lion—you’re not empty-handed. The Bible says he prowls about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the Spirit of the Lord cannot come upon you mightily, as it did upon Samson, when you’re holding a weapon of your own, from a human arsenal.

God will not honor self-sufficiency. So if you’re trying to fight the enemy with your own resources, willpower and stamina, don’t expect to experience victory in daily living. It just won’t happen.

When Gideon and his followers went into battle against the Midianites, they carried no visible weapons. With a torch in their left hands, and a trumpet in their right hands, they prevailed simply by crying, “A sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20, KJV).

According to Ephesians 6:17, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. And it is God’s sword, not yours or mine. To use this sword, you must yield to God with an absolute trust in His Word. And that’s what Samson did.

Samson wasn’t looking for trouble in the vineyard. He didn’t expect to find a lion there. But that’s just how satan operates. He strikes: when you are alone and vulnerable; when you least expect it; in the most unlikely of places or circumstances; and when you appear to be empty-handed.

In reality, however, you are never unarmed. Wherever you go, you carry the most potent hidden weapon available to mankind—faith in Jesus. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world,” the Bible says, “and this is the victory [the weapon] that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Faith unleashes the activity of the Holy Spirit. In response to your faith, God puts His strength into your human frame. And, if God is in the fight, no one can defeat you. As Paul said, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Samson Eats Honey From a Lion Carcass

Not long after the lion-killing incident, Samson and his parents made the same journey to Timnah, this time for Samson’s wedding. And, once again, the young Nazarite passed through the vineyard alone. There he turned aside to look at that carcass of the lion he’d killed earlier. “And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So, he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went” (Judges 14:8).

His hands laden with honeycombs and dripping with honey, Samson rejoined his parents and shared his honey with them.

Isn’t that a picture of Jesus? He conquered death and hell. With no visible weapon in hand, He defeated the lion that roared at Him, and continues to roar at us today. “It is finished,” He declared (John 19:30). And now, Jesus stands in the midst of His church with hands full of honey, and He is bidding us to come and eat.

Come, let Me sweeten your life with my grace and majesty. Come, let Me fill your heart with My joy. Come, share in My triumph over satan. Come, let Me transform you into My image.

Bob L. Phillips April 20, 2017
As Christians, you and I are like athletes. Every day we’re training for competition. Every day we’re engaging in battle with the enemy. To meet this serious challenge we need divine strength and power. Like a body-builder, we need energy to reach and sustain our optimal level of performance. And we need fuel for our spiritual fires. There is such a thing. The Bible calls it honey.
Victory Awaits You

The day you stand with nothing in your hand, relying not on your own abilities or resources, the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily. Things that once seemed impossible will become easy for you. Doubts and fears will flee. And in the carcasses of your defeated lions, you will find the honey of joy for yourself and others.

Listen, my friend, God is able to turn an empty, defeated and powerless life into a marvelous testimony of His grace. Through trials and conflict, He will remove the worthless weapons from your hands until all you have to offer Him is your trust in His Word. Only then will God empower you that no flesh should glory in His presence.

We have ignored this truth. The church goes forward with so many things in-hand: programs, propaganda, human enthusiasm, prestige, learning, but the Spirit of the Lord does not rest mightily on these things, and most believers never discover God’s PowerBar because they depend upon personal resources and not upon the Spirit of God.

Self-Sufficiency Always Brings Defeat

Even Samson wasn’t always victorious, however. Out of human weakness, he revealed the secret to his strength to a deceitful woman named Delilah, who delivered him into the hands of the Philistines.

As they gathered outside Samson’s tent, he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free” (Judges 16:20). But the Lord had departed from him and Samson was truly powerless. The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes (v 21).

Samson failed when he tried to be self-sufficient. Let us not follow his example. You and I cannot “shake ourselves free”. We must be empty of ourselves and full of Him.

The lion is dead. Jesus won the victory. And yet, we still hear satan’s roar from time to time. He is still able to afflict you and hurt you. In fact, he will destroy you if you let him.

Honey is your only hope. Your only resource. Honey will take you beyond your natural strength and abilities. It will give you the energy to reach and sustain your optimal level of performance as a Christian. It will fuel your fire for God.

The question is how? From a practical standpoint how do you lay down your weapons and come empty-handed before God? If faith unleashes the work of the Holy Spirit, how do you develop that faith? Let me suggest three ways.

1. Cultivate a personal fellowship with Jesus Christ.

The object of your faith is not a creed, nor a sacrament, nor a slogan, but the person of Jesus Christ. To eat the honey of Christ’s victory over satan, you must cultivate His friendship and lean upon it above all else. With glorious abandon, you must surrender yourself to God’s will. This must become your priority for each day. Don’t go to bed at night until you have sought His holy presence.

As you spend time reading the Word and praying, let His purposes and will enter in and possess your mind. Let His promises distill in your heart. Talk to Him in secret and allow Him to talk to you. Consult the Lord about all your affairs, and then take His counsel and apply it to your daily activities.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet, so many Christians fail in this area. They neglect the one thing that matters most.

2. Make holiness your supreme desire.

Some Christians are so wrapped up in collecting and claiming God’s promises that they forget all about God’s highest calling for their lives—sanctification—or the process of being remade into the image of Jesus.

Your desire for a clean mind and a pure heart must reign supremely over your desire for personal comfort and material blessings. A casual or vague yearning to be holy will not suffice. But rather, with passion and ruthlessness, you must remove every obstacle and every bad habit that is keeping you from becoming more like Christ.

If you lack a burning, consuming thirst for His holiness, ask God for it. And keep on asking Him until a fire rages in your heart. God will not fail to bring it to you.

3. Focus on the campaign, not on the battle.

A few lost battles don’t mean defeat. You’re going to blow it sometimes. But God will use your failures to create in you a greater desire for His presence and a deeper dependency on Him. And He will use your mistakes to bring you to the place in which you have nothing in your hands.

So when you face a difficult trial or temptation, place your trust in the victory Jesus won for you, and not in your own individual performance. Focus on Jesus and not on yourself. Stop worrying about your image, and how others might perceive your ability to handle your problems. People who are “performance trained” by the ways of the world seldom surrender to the ways of God.

Let’s face it, God uses conflict and defeat to bring about your surrender. When you can no longer handle the pressure on your own, then—and only then—you become a candidate for the Spirit of God to come upon you with might and power.

The Bottom Line

God wants you to learn about the strength and grace that is available to you as you engage in spiritual conflict.

While under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that grace gives you exceptional power beyond your natural abilities and experience. It gives you strength from the honey in the hands of Jesus.

And, amazingly, to the degree in which you fellowship with Jesus and eat the honey of His life, you will become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, what are you waiting for? Unwrap that PowerBar, and dig in!

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