There is something in the sheer act of defiance that can ignite us.
The determination of refusal can stiffen our spine, tense our muscles, and amplify our resolve. Of course, defiance can be directed in a million sinful ways when driven by our pride — toward rebellion against parents, resistance to repentance, disrespect of authority, or any other rejection of God’s commands.
But there is also a holy defiance that fires us up to resist temptation, reclaim enemy territory, and refuse to curse God in suffering. These are the kinds of battles for which God’s blood boils. And by the blood of Christ that saves us, they can boil ours as well.
Defy the True Enemy
Our enemy is cunning and dangerous. He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). But he is also a defeated foe — and he knows it. He is incapable of tempting with more than we can withstand (1 Corinthians 10:13). He is forced to flee from us as we resist him (James 4:7). And he and his demons tremble at the truth that even they rightly believe (James 2:19).
“Holy defiance fires us up to resist temptation, reclaim enemy territory, and refuse to curse God in suffering.”
We are right to take him seriously — to be alert to his tactics, on guard against his methods, and sober-minded in consideration of him. But we are also right to remember that in Christ we have been given the power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4), and that we have joined ranks with the winning side who will soon crush him under our feet (Romans 16:20).
Trusting only in our own strength, we find ourselves cowering in fear, deceived by tactics, or fearfully fleeing the battle altogether in assumed defeat. But “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10–11), we can fearlessly look our enemy’s already-thwarted schemes squarely in the face, confident in our undefeatable King and the invincible armor he gives.
Spirits Set to Boil
Paul admonishes us not to “be slothful in zeal,” but “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11), a command that carries the idea of boiling with passion — either in anger for what is bad, or love for what is good. Such fervency is in stark contrast to the unacceptable state of being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
But we can’t kindle that fire on our own. Rather, we must look to our God, the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), whose Holy Spirit heats up our own spirit to love what he loves, hate what he hates, defend what he defends, and refuse what he refuses. Contending with him against the true spiritual forces of our world, we boil with a defiance that shows itself hottest and brightest in all sorts of holy refusals.
Defiance of Refusal
This defiance comes as we refuse to submit to alluring temptations by exposing them for what they really are — deceitful schemes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Boiled to disgust, we can foil the enemy’s plans by rejecting his malicious invitations, turning instead to walk in the life of our God-given freedom from sin (Romans 6:6).
Defiance comes as we refuse to tolerate the lies we see taking ground in the lives of those we love — lies that they are unloved, without hope, or masters of their own fate. Boiled to jealous love, we can raise over them our shields of faith, quenching fiery arrows from the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).
“We have joined ranks with the winning side who will soon crush Satan under our feet.”
Defiance comes as we refuse to be swept into our society’s irrational generalization of truth, as if such “relativism” is not based on an absolute truth claim of its own. Boiled to passion for the unchanging truth of God’s word, we resolve to remain steadfast and immovable (1 Corinthians 15:58) in our submission to its loving authority, standing always in fear of a holy God rather than mere men (Matthew 10:28).
Defiance comes as we refuse to be discouraged to inaction over the overwhelming global suffering beyond our human ability to combat — spiritual lostness, poverty, slavery, and the persecution of the church. Boiled to righteous anger over the dark forces behind those movements, we can begin by assuming the offensive stance of kneeling in prayer, waging war against the true powers of this dark world and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Defiance comes as we refuse to doubt God’s goodness when he doesn’t give us what we think we want — the relationship, the job, the house, the deal. Boiled to determination not to fall again for the enemy’s first lie, that God is withholding something good from us (Genesis 3:4–5), we instead assure our disappointed hearts that God withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:32).
Defiance comes as we refuse to resent God’s sovereignty when he allows a diagnosis, natural disaster, persecution, or seemingly senseless tragedy. Boiled to faithfulness, we declare that no matter what the enemy takes from us — even our very lives — still he will not take the ultimate treasure for which we regard everything as loss: the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8).
Tremble Not for Him
We may not always feel that fiery determination of resistance. Far more often, we may feel captive to discouragement, doubt, and despair. But in those moments, we can pray for faith to believe in our enemy’s defeat and clarity to see the way out from under his attacks (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can assure our anxious souls that God is still worthy of our hope — and that only he is (Psalm 42:11; 43:5). We can again bank our trust on the power of Christ’s prayer that our faith would not fail (Luke 22:32).
“Even if we lose all earthly treasures, yet will we praise him. Even though he slays us, yet will we hope in him.”
We can assure our hearts that if God is for us, nothing can ultimately stand against us (Romans 8:31). We can sound a battle cry to our soul — those songs of praise that we blast from our car speakers in triumph or whisper on our knees in tearful resolve or declare just as confidently in the darkest hour from a prison cell (Acts 16:25). We can call to mind how we overcome in the end: by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).
Even if we lose all earthly treasures, yet will we praise him (Habakkuk 3:17–18). Even though he slays us, yet will we hope in him (Job 13:15). Even if he does not deliver us from the fires of persecution, still will we bow down to him, and him alone (Daniel 3:17–18). Though the gates of hell seem mighty, they will not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18).
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. In the name of Jesus, we defy him.