A Winning Spirit

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

In spiritual warfare, you need the heart of an eagle, not the heart of a chicken. Eagles are bold and strong and soar in the heavens. “Chicken” is the nickname you get if you’re timid and cowardly. Chickens don’t soar. They weigh too much. Worry and fear make them too heavy to fly upward. But if you’re a daring eagle, your spirit is lighter and your wings are stronger. If you want to soar to new levels, be an eagle, not a chicken. A chicken has a losing spirit; an eagle has a winning spirit. What does a winning spirit have that a losing spirit lacks? At least three things: power, love, and self-control.

First, a winning spirit has power, while a losing spirit doesn’t. A losing spirit feels like a victim. Everything seems to be against you, and you don’t have the strength to deal with it. A losing spirit expects to fail. But a winning spirit expects to succeed. A winning spirit may face big challenges, but it draws on a source of inner strength more powerful than anything that is against you. It’s a spirit of power.

Second, a winning spirit has love; a losing spirit lacks it. A losing spirit feels forsaken, lonely, mistreated, unloved. Feeling so unloved, a losing spirit can’t give love in a healthy way or build solid relationships. A winning spirit, on the other hand, feels cherished, embraced, blessed, loved. A winning spirit—secure in being loved with enormous, unending love—is eager to expand the circle of love and builds loving, flourishing relationships with others. It’s a spirit of love.

Third, a winning spirit has self-control; a losing spirit feels out of control. A losing spirit feels dominated by unchangeable situations and uncontrollable urges, panicking or acting foolishly on impulse or behaving rashly. A winning spirit can handle any challenge with a sense of calm and purpose. It keeps a level head and makes choices based on what’s best, not based on panic or impulse. It’s a spirit of self-control.

Are you an eagle with a winning spirit of power, love, and self-control? Or are you a chicken with a losing spirit? It’s no fun to have that chicken feeling, and it’s not how you’re meant to live. Maybe you feel stuck with a losing spirit. How can you get rid of it? How can you have a winning spirit instead? Well, don’t just try to think positive. Don’t just work on being a little braver or having a brighter outlook. Trying to give yourself a winning spirit won’t work. If you’re a chicken, it won’t help much to decide that from now on you are going to fly high in the sky. Chickens can flap their wings and even get off the ground for a few moments, but they always come back down with a thud. If you’re a chicken, you can try to fly, you can try to change your attitude and make yourself into the person you want to be, but do‑it‑yourself efforts to make a losing spirit act like a winning spirit end with a thud.

If you want a winning spirit, don’t depend on your own weak spirit. We’re all chickens at heart. The sooner we admit it, the better. We lack power. We lack love. We lack self-control. To soar like an eagle, we need to give up on our own timid spirit and seek a spirit greater than our own, the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that in our own power, even the strongest of us eventually stumble and run out of energy, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).

You need to have God’s Holy Spirit in you, and you need to be aware of the transforming effect he has on your spirit. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control”  (2 Timothy 1:7).

Spirit of Power

In order to have a winning spirit like an eagle, you need power: power to deal with challenges, power to overcome discouragement, power to resist temptation, power to handle any situation life throws at you. You need power not just to survive but to thrive, not just to defend yourself but to go on the offensive and move forward. To win in spiritual warfare, you need the kind of power the apostle Paul spoke of when he said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

An eagle’s winning spirit exclaims, “I can do everything!” But a chicken’s losing spirit moans, “I can’t do anything.” It’s awful to have a victim mentality. The victim mentality comes in many forms. You were abused as a child, so you’re worthless and will never amount to anything. Or you’ve plunged into drinking and drugs, and nothing can break your addiction. Or your marriage and family life is a mess, and there’s no way you’ll ever enjoy positive, joyful relationships. Or you’ve lost your job, and you don’t have what it takes to succeed in today’s world. Or you’ve done something so awful that God can’t possibly forgive you or love you. You’re dirt. You’re helpless. You’re hopeless. What’s the use of trying to move ahead? You’re going to fail anyway. You’re just a chicken headed for slaughter.

I hear various people who talk that way. I hear defeat in their voices. I see despair in their eyes. As they tell of their troubles and how grim the future looks, it makes me sad, and it makes me mad. It makes me sad that they feel so hopeless, and it makes me mad that Satan has been lying to them.

Satan wants us to think that there’s no way to overcome the forces that are against us. Satan wants us to believe that sin, sadness, failure, and death are all that the future holds. But Satan is a liar! He wants you to feel helpless and to think there’s no way you can win. But that’s a lie.

The truth is this. Satan doesn’t have a chance against the power of God. Satan is stronger than we are on our own, but Satan and all his demons combined have no chance against even one person who has the power of God’s Holy Spirit. The only way Satan can keep you down is to feed you lies.

Satan may start by telling you the lie that you can do just fine on your own without God. You feel smart, strong, and sure to succeed. Who needs God? But at some point, that lie usually gets exposed. Your life starts crumbling. It becomes obvious that you can’t make it on your own. At that point, Satan switches to a new lie. He says you’re a loser, you’ll always be a loser, you have no chance to ever be anything or do anything. Just accept that you’re a chicken doomed to be devoured.

Satan tries to bury you in such lies so that you won’t focus on the fact that God is far more powerful than Satan and so that you’ll never connect with God’s power through faith. The moment you start believing in God’s power and sense his power at work in you, Satan hasn’t got a chance. Satan trying to beat God is like a mosquito trying to beat a tiger. By faith in God’s power, you can walk all over Satan (Romans 16:20), and he knows it. Nothing frightens the devil more than faith. The devil trembles every time a person rejects his lies, believes in the almighty strength of the living God, and stands against Satan by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you put your faith in Jesus and have the Holy Spirit living in you, then you have power inside you greater than any power in all the world, greater than the power of Satan himself. The Bible says to Christians, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). How can you put God’s power into action in your fight against Satan? By faith. By faith reject Satan’s lies. By faith believe God’s truth in Christ. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4‑5).

Faith is the way to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and faith is also the way to defeat Satan and his schemes.

Faith in Jesus is the pipeline through which the power of the Holy Spirit flows. The Holy Spirit’s power is the very same power by which Jesus did his miracles. Jesus preached the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus cast out demons in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus made lame people walk and paralyzed people dance by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus even raised dead people to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it was the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus himself from the grave and gave him the decisive victory over death, sin, and Satan.

All these miracles were astonishing, but just as astonishing is the miracle Christ does every time he takes a soul dead in sin and brings it to life by his Spirit. Still today the Holy Spirit drives out demons and sets people free from Satan. Still today the Holy Spirit smashes barriers and brings healing and wholeness. Still today the Holy Spirit fills individuals and transforms families. Still today the Spirit transforms earthbound chickens into soaring eagles. Still today the Holy Spirit brings the resurrection power of Christ into the lives of ordinary people.

Jesus Christ has almighty power, and that same power is in our hearts if we have his Holy Spirit living in us. Some religions are mostly rituals and words without life or power, but real faith in the living Lord Jesus is much more than that. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

This power is a great protection. If you trust the risen Christ and have his Spirit living in you, then you “by faith are shielded by God’s power” (1 Peter 1:5). This shield isn’t just something you have; it is something you must use. “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

You’re not just up against unpleasant things or vague forces. You are up against personal, hateful spirits of wickedness, led by Satan himself. Satan will keep shooting fiery darts at you, but don’t be afraid. Faith is fireproof. With every new attack of Satan, take up your faith afresh. You will be shielded by God’s power from whatever Satan does. The devil wants you to think he can’t be beat, but the Holy Spirit inside you is greater than the devil outside you. Faith will give you victory even if Satan and the whole world are against you.

All of us need this encouragement, even Christian leaders—especially Christian leaders! No one faces fiercer attacks from Satan than those of us who have a special calling to lead others in faith. We can get discouraged about our own sins and limited abilities. We can get disappointed by a church that seems stuck in a rut or a community that doesn’t seem responsive to the gospel. We can get disheartened by results that fall short of our hopes. We can get disoriented and deceived by sly lies that Satan tells through scholars who deny or distort the Bible. We can become doubtful, timid, tired. We can wonder why we’re in the ministry at all. We can wonder whether there’s any point in following Jesus.

But, fellow leader, don’t give up! Don’t be afraid! “The Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 TEV). Those words from God were first given to encourage a pastor. Young pastor Timothy tended to be timid, so the apostle Paul encouraged him. We leaders need to encourage each other and remind each other what sort of Spirit God has given us—not a timid spirit, but the mighty Holy Spirit of Christ himself.

If you’re a Christian and have the Holy Spirit living in you, then be bold! Be strong! Be courageous! Be fiercely glad! Don’t let Satan’s attacks get you down. Every new attack you face is an opportunity to win another victory. When Satan attacks you, attack right back. Don’t let his attacks frighten you. Let them gladden you. If Satan is firing volley after volley of flaming arrows at you, it means he’s worried about you. You’re a threat to him. Be glad about that.

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Fight in the Spirit’s power, and you will win. Satan wants to scare you with the lie that he’s winning, but the truth is that he’s already lost. Christ is on the throne, and he gives believers the Spirit of power.

Spirit of Love

Along with power, another life‑changing blessing of the Holy Spirit is love. Nothing in all the world matters so much as knowing you are loved and being able to love others. The Bible says those who trust Christ are able to rejoice even in troubles and have bright hope for the future, “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).

God showed his great love in sending his Son, Jesus, to die for us while we were still ungodly sinners and enemies of the Lord (Romans 5:8). Jesus’ death on the cross was a once‑for‑all payment more than sufficient to cover the sins of the world. If God loved us so much when we were enemies fighting against him, what can stop him from loving us once he has made us his friends? One of the main works of the Holy Spirit is simply to seal God’s love on our hearts.

I am amazed anew every time I see the change that occurs in people who really begin to know in their hearts that God loves them. Their hard and rebellious exterior softens and melts. Their sense of being rotten and unlovable gives way to the joy and warmth of being treasured by God. Self‑destructive addictions and suicidal thoughts begin to shrink and a new will to live takes over. In some cases the change is sudden and striking. In other cases it occurs over a period of time, with many ups and downs. But the change is unmistakable. The love of God may pour in with a rush, or it may trickle in slowly and secretly, but the result is the same: a heart filled with God’s love.

Once the love of God flows into you, God’s love also begins to flow from you to others. I have seen women who were once wicked become some of the most faithful wives and tender mothers I know, thanks to God’s love. I have seen men who were harsh and selfish become caring husbands and wise, affectionate fathers, thanks to God’s love. I have seen couples on the verge of divorce renewed in love for each other after God’s love came into their lives, thanks to God’s love. I have seen slaves of drugs and alcohol set free and made active in bringing freedom to others, thanks to God’s love. I have seen greedy, hard‑hearted workaholics become kind and generous, thanks to God’s love. I have seen suicidal, hateful teens become hopeful and helpful, thanks to God’s love. I have seen criminals who grew up in loveless homes and did dreadful deeds become eager to rescue others from Satan’s hate and lies, thanks to God’s love. Nothing is more deadly than to be a hater who feels hated, and nothing is more life‑changing than to be a lover who feels loved.

Sometimes, though, even followers of Jesus forget how much they are loved and may fail to love others. They become fearful in their own hearts and harsh in their attitudes toward others. The Bible tells of a time when a village didn’t welcome Jesus and his disciples because of racial and political prejudice. That made Jesus’ followers furious. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village” (John 9:45‑56).

Some ancient Bible manuscripts say that when Jesus rebuked them, he said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” If you want God to blast your enemies instantly, you’re not in tune with the Holy Spirit of Christ. He’s not the Spirit of hatred and instant payback; he’s the Spirit of love, patience, and another chance.

If that’s not our attitude toward others, if we have a harsh and vengeful attitude toward them, it may mean that we ourselves aren’t yet feeling secure in God’s love. “Righteous anger” can be a mask for inner anguish. A cold, cruel attitude toward others may flow from a lack of faith in God’s love for us. Even if we belong to him, we may still lack full assurance and experience of his love, and that can poison our behavior toward others and rob us of the joy God wants us to have. The Bible says repeatedly that the Holy Spirit replaces fear with love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:14‑16).

Do you know in your spirit that you are a dearly loved child of God because of Jesus Christ? Has the Holy Spirit flooded your heart with so much of God’s love that fear has been forced out? You will feel like a chicken, a loser, as long as you fear that nobody really loves you—at least nobody who knows what you are really like. But if you know that God loves you fully and forever, even though he knows every bad thing you’ve done and the evil that still lurks in your heart, then God’s love gives you a winning spirit, a spirit that soars on eagle’s wings.

Spirit of Self-Control

A third blessing of the Holy Spirit, along with power and love, is self‑control. In fact, power and love are the key to self-control.

The Spirit’s power builds self-control by preventing you from panicking and losing control in the face of things that are happening around you. Knowing you have inner power to win, you stay calm at the center and enjoy peace that surpasses understanding. You master the situation; the situation doesn’t master you. God’s power enables you to control yourself.

The Spirit’s love builds self-control by giving you a sound mind, a healthy realism, a stable personality. Out-of-control people are often driven by hatred or by a desperate craving for love that has never been satisfied. Serious lack of self-control appears in various forms—alcoholism, drug addiction, eating problems, sexual compulsions, obsession with work, inability to control anger—but whatever the form, these problems usually arise in a spirit starved for love. Once that craving is satisfied by the Holy Spirit pouring God’s love into your heart, the old urges no longer dominate. God’s love puts you in your right mind and gives you self-control.

Do you have a winning spirit? Do you have the power, love, and self-control that enable you to soar like an eagle? Only the Holy Spirit can make that a reality for you. Only the Spirit can get you off the ground, and only the Spirit can keep you soaring. As the Bible puts it, “this all‑surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control. Only in the Spirit’s strength can you follow Jesus to victory over the devil, the world, and the flesh. So be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might!