Fighting the Good Fight of Faith
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
The opening prayer for the Ash Wednesday Mass says:
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
I often pray that the Lord will protect me and my family from spiritual harm. There is good reason to pray for spiritual protection for our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour! (1 Peter 5:8) Listening intently to the opening prayer of the Ash Wednesday Mass reminded me of the importance to be sober and watchful. As St. Paul tells us, the spiritual life entails spiritual warfare as we are contending not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Satan can wear any number of disguises attempting to allure us. He can be mysteriously attractive and is even able to disguise himself as an angel of light. For as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, the serpent wants to lead our thoughts away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3, 13)
You would be right if you understand Lent to be a new beginning, a fresh campaign for Christian service and endeavor to crush Satan under our feet. (Romans16:20) Do you have anything in your life where you need victory over the destructive things in your life? Whatever the battle is, let this Lent be a forty day journey of triumph over the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes; a season of renewal of the Spirit of God in our hearts.
Prayer and fasting and charitable works are the weapons of choice for the Christian. And make no bones about it, for though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war. Even the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but they have divine power to destroy strongholds; strongholds of doubt, fear, unforgiveness, jealousy, heartache, hunger and thirst.
So we begin our Lenten journey to renew ourselves in the covenant of our baptism first prefigured in the eight souls who rode the Ark on the flood waters for forty days and nights. Peter reminds us in the second reading that Noah’s Ark and its journey on the waters to a new home, a new day, and a new beginning with God prefigured baptism, that is, Christian baptism, which saves us now.
And the spiritual battles we wage between here and heaven, Christ first waged in his desert prayers battling Satan and all of his temptations for forty days. There the wild beasts of the desert beheld his warfare and the angels came to him without number cheering him on. In those forty days the captain of our salvation demonstrated how to resist the devil through prayer and fasting.
My friend, we are called to resist Satan for if we resist him, he will flee from us. (James 4:7) But it is not in our own strength that we resist the devil, but rather it is Christ in us who makes us strong. Christ defeated the devil and we can to through Christ who strengthens us! So let us fight the good fight of faith and take hold of eternal life, praying in the Spirit, advancing the kingdom of faith, hope, and love. Amen.