In the book of Revelation (ch 2-3), Jesus dictates letters to seven churches. All seven letters follow much the same format, including a description of Jesus, a list of what the church is doing well and what the church is doing poorly, and a promise to the one who overcomes. The word used in Greek, if we take the time to look it up, is derived from nike, a daemon the Romans named Victoria, what the modern English speaker would call victory. The promises of Christ in Revelation are made to those who are victorious.
There are two senses in which victory must be understood. The first is victorious in the sense of having victory over death and sin — in short, Christ’s victory at the cross and subsequent resurrection. The second is with regard to spiritual warfare. How is the believer to be victorious in spiritual warfare?
Sun Tzu wrote:
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
Four times in three epistles, the believer is instructed to flee from temptations. 1 Corinthians 6:8 instructs us to flee immorality. 1 Corinthians 10:14 tells us to flee idolatry. And Paul instructs Timothy (and us, by proxy) to flee from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:11) and youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22). Clearly, the scriptures have something to say about the tactical withdrawal of the believer; about knowing when not to fight. Yet Paul also instructs Timothy to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12) and instructs the Ephesian church to stand firm (Ephesians 6:14). How does the believer know when to fight and when to flee?
The best answer that can really be given is that the individual believer must be listening to God — our General — and following His orders. It would be easier to say that certain temptations are acceptable for the believer to face, but it is far more likely that we will fall if we think ourselves ready to charge into battle (1 Corinthians 10:12).
What we must do is make ourselves ready. There is much said in scripture about being ready at any moment (Matthew 24:44; Luke 12:40; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 3:15) and being prepared (Ephesians 6:15; 2 Timothy 2:21; 1 Peter 1:13). The believer who takes care to be prepared and ready is the one who is most likely to hear our General’s orders and to know whether to stand or withdraw. In addition, the prepared and ready believer is often most alert to danger approaching. This means that orders will not only be hear, but that the believer will be expecting to receive instructions.
This entry could go on and on. Suffice it to say that a prepared spiritual warrior is the one best equipped to receive instruction on when to stand and when to fight and when to withdraw. Those of us who are not prepared will, most often, be taken by surprise and will fail to master the sin crouching at our doors (c.f. Genesis 4:7).