You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8—NKJV)

When the enemy cannot decisively win, and when the enemy will not surrender, what does he do? He makes a general nuisance of himself anywhere and everywhere he is least likely to decisively lose, until he has worn you down and you lose your interest in victory. He will worry you and harry you into submission, until you are ready to make a deal. On the most basic level, your steady perseverance becomes his target. His victory (and your defeat) will be in the death of your resolve.

As the insecurities of our Vietnam strategy hung over our nation and the war ground to its miserable conclusion, a series of historical, tabletop war games came onto the market. Among the titles I remember were Panzer Blitz, Midway, and Waterloo. The games were to enable the contenders to strategically relive and “fight” a campaign using units available to the actual commanders at the historical time, and introduced onto the board as the historical units were able to be brought to bear in the real campaign. In those pre-personal-computer days, the playing board consisted of several panels arranged according to the real-life battle terrain. My mother would sacrifice her dining room table to her husband and her son for competition that would last a week. Each move was a long, drawn-out, painstaking process.

What I also remember was that each campaign scenario would list conditions for victory and defeat. Overwhelming victory was determined by ridding the board of all your opponent’s military units. Marginal victory was attained by substantially reducing the effectiveness of the enemy to do battle and pursue victory. Tactical victory was the lowest level of victory, for it signified that you had caused the enemy to fail in reaching his objectives, but he was still a force to be feared.

The parallels in spiritual warfare are readily observed. Overwhelming victory over Satan has been procured for us by Jesus Christ through His obedience and death upon the cross (2 Corinthians 2:14). Satan is a defeated enemy. He cannot possibly hope to recapture you once you are born again. Once he has lost you to the Grace of God in salvation, all he can hope to do is neutralize your effectiveness. He will harry you until you lose your resolve, and so your perseverance becomes his target.

The Greek word episteridzo, translated “establish” in our text, is a compound word. Its root concept is to prop, to support, to make firm, and to strengthen. The prefix has the effect of intensifying the verb. It means to support further, to confirm, and to establish beside, or more. John uses it to encourage the church of Sardis to strengthen the good things which remain (Revelation 3:2), and the Lord uses it to challenge Peter to firm up the apostles when he is restored (Luke 22:32).

A good deal of time was spent by Paul in revisiting churches he had established on his missionary journeys, in order to do all he could to aid in their persevering in faithfulness. Despite persecution and the harrying of the enemy, believers were being shored up in their resolve (Acts 14:22, 15:41, and 18:23). Paul says, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17)

Though Satan has no hope of overwhelmingly defeating you, do not let him wear you down in your resolve. Do not let him have a marginal, or even a tactical victory. Identify where the enemy is nipping at your flanks, and ask God for the resolve and the faithful obedience to humbly persevere, so that God receives the glory. “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13) Trust and obey.