FIght the Good Fight of Faith
Topic: Discipleship Passage: 1 Timothy 6:11–6:16
God has stirred up a message in my heart from this scripture that I believe will help you live well, fight well and finish well. It is an important message for us to hear (Just as it was for Timothy)
Jesus promised LIFE to anyone who believes in him. He promised eternal life. He promised a life that deeply satisfies you inner thirsts. He said something will happen inside you that is like a river of living water flowing out from your heart. But he also said it would be costly and hard to follow him. In the gospels it tells us, “Someone came up to Jesus and said, I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus, said to him, (Are you sure?) “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Are you sure you want to follow me. It is not glamorous or comfortable. And he said “You will be hated by everyone because of my name.”
Jesus did promise abundant life, but he never promised smooth sailing, easy living, or a life without conflict.
Look a the words Paul used here to exhort Timothy: “Flee, Pursue, Fight, Take hold of, Keep”. These words imply opposition, danger and warfare. Paul said, we struggle or we wrestle with forces of wickedness. He said he fought with wild beasts at Ephesus. Most commentators take that as a figure of speech to mean the intense spiritual conflict with violent and dangerous enemies he experienced at Ephesus. Some moments in our Christian experience are so intense they could be described as a fight with wild beasts. Ever been there?
Here in our passage, Paul told Timothy, “FIGHT the good fight of faith”. Life in Jesus is a war. Christianity is a street fight. If you belong to Christ, if you have sought to serve him, if you have determined to live in love and joy and peace and to be filled with his Spirit, you know what a battle it is.
It always has been. It always will be. We are not fighting for the forgiveness of our sins, or for acceptance with God. We have that. Our fight is primarily with spiritual powers of darkness. Peter said, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We fight sin and temptation, we fight unbelief, we may fight thoughts of shrinking back, or giving up, or deep dark periods of discouragement.
Sometimes we think, “This feels really hard! What is wrong?” Nothing is wrong! You are in a fight. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s not easy to get up some days and keep going. We shouldn’t be surprised that it might be hard to get out and make it to church, or pray or rejoice, to praise the Lord or to cling to God’s promises. Peter said don’t be surprised by the fiery ordeals that come into your life.
The old hymn says, “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail”. Yes we prevail, we win, but we still face those howling storms of doubt and fear...at times. And we have to fight, standing on the promises of God, or get swept away.
It is dangerous to be passive. Or to assume that life should be effortless. We have to take spiritual actions to succeed because we are in a fight. Peter said, “Prepare your minds for action, to be sober in spirit”. Yes we are at rest because Christ finished everything to fully save us and bring us to God. And we have peace with God that overflows our hearts. But we have that in the midst of trouble and spiritual opposition. So we are called to “be strong in the Lord” and “put on the full armor of God” and “stand firm in the day of evil!” And “fight the good fight”.
If we are going to do well we must fight “a GOOD fight”. We must fight well. We must fight vigorously, and earnestly. Paul said, “Content earnestly for the faith”. I think a good fight means to fight with persistence. We fight today and then tomorrow and then the next day. And when we get knocked down we get back up and keep fighting. We have the attitude of Christian in Pilgrims Progress. “Rejoice not against me O mine enemy, for though I fall, I shall rise again.”
It is a fight OF FAITH. It is a battle to audaciously believe God when everything looks terrible! It is fighting to trust God when life doesn’t make any sense. It is a battle for faith in God’s word, when all around us people are abandoning truth. We fight on our knees, by prayer, by calling upon the Lord. The Lord said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you and you will honor me.” We utilize the weapon of praise and thanks and worship. Jude said build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
*Part of our fight is against false ideas about God, about salvation, about what it even means to be a Christian. Paul said, “KEEP THE COMMANDMENT unstained” Keep God’s message uncontaminated by error. Paul called the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, the command of the Eternal God. The command of God is nothing we can trifle with or distort to make it sound better.
And today we are in a fight for truth. Not fighting just for the beliefs of a church or a denomination, not even fighting for a certain theological system or creed. We are in a fight for what the Bible actually teaches. And it is a constant fight! Because there is a new and subversive error every day.
There are distortions of the truth that sound so good but have the seeds of spiritual destruction in them. A well known pastor teaches, “Following Jesus doesn’t change you into something else, it reveals who you’ve been all along.” I notice this message creeping more into the church. I read a biography about East German communist spy, who lived as an atheist and a spy but was in other ways a good person. He defected to the USA where he got to know some Christians and even went to a church. But here is the gospel he was given,“You are already a Christian, you just don’t know it”.
There is a kind of message out there that you are really awesome, wonderful, special, good and Jesus just helps you discover who you really are. Nothing is said about a sin problem or the need for a new heart. Just come to Jesus and he will help you reach your full potential.
The gospel of Jesus is MUCH BETTER than that! Jesus takes people who are really sick with sin and he heals them! Peter said, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
The gospel is that: We WERE sick in sin; Christ healed us by his wounds(by his stripes, his suffering at the cross). We were going astray, but Christ became our Shepherd and the Overseer of our souls. We were headed for the worst possible kind of destruction, (objects of wrath) and Christ brought us into a status of safety and favor and peace with God.
Beware of those who do not teach our need for Christ to make us new people, to give us new life, to make us a new creation. He takes sinners and makes us saints! He takes spiritually dead people and makes us alive.
*Paul also said “keep the command without reproach”. How much dishonor is brought on the name of Christ by all the teachers and evangelists, and pastors and entertainers, and regular Christians too, who have sought illegitimate financial gain, or fallen into sexual sin, or shipwrecked the faith.
Paul believed that it took a vigilant, aggressive self discipline to live a godly life and to finish well. He said, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:26,27.
He said, I am NOT shadow boxing, I am not merely throwing punches into the air. I am in a real fight! And part of that fight is against our myself (or my own body) and all desires I feel within me that would hinder me from godliness and faithful service to Christ. “So I batter my body and bring it into servitude, lest having preached to others, I myself might be disqualified.” Do we take living a godly life that seriously? We should.
*We started with “fight the good fight” I think that is the summary command of this exhortation. But the first command in this passage to flee! RUN! Turn your back on things that would hinder your walk with God, and get away from it as fast as you can. We are not to dabble with attitudes, desires, ways of living that do not please God. We are to RUN from those things.
Specifically, to Timothy, Paul is talking about fleeing the longing to be rich, the love of money, a craving for more money. There were men all around Timothy who saw God as a way to build up themselves, especially as a way to prosper financially. As Paul put it, they believed godliness was a MEANS of gain.
Often you will do better, in your home and in your marriage and in your work or business, or financially, as a Christian. But to turn Christ or godly living into a stepping stone to worldly success, and personal gain is a dangerous error. This version of Christianity is all around us. It is a version of Christianity, which talks about Jesus, and God, and principles from the Bible, but mainly uses the Christian message as a means of getting ahead in this world.
This error flows, at least partially, out of a longing to get rich. Of course it is not a sin to be rich. But setting our heart and our passions on that is a trap of the devil.
In verses 9,10 Paul warned that those who “long to be rich” fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires, that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered away from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows”.
So Paul said Timothy as says, “DON’T let that happen to you!” Flee! Run from that! Paul also said, “Flee from sexual immorality.” and “Flee from the sinful desires of youth”. We are to flee from all the sins and snares of the world. What is it that you need to flee from?
But notice how he addressed Timothy in verse 11. He called him a man of God. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things”. If you belong to Jesus, God has reached down and saved you out of the world, and made you a man of God! Or a woman of God! You are a person of great spiritual privilege and responsibility because you NOW belong to God. Flee from the fleeting pleasures of sin, because you are a man of God, a woman of God! Let that name be emblazoned across our hearts: man of God, woman of God.
Then Paul commanded Timothy to “PURSUE righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness”. We are not to wait for these things to happen while we are out doing our own thing. We are to GO AFTER these things. I hear people say, I am just waiting for God to make me patient, because I know I can’t change myself. Certainly God does the changes. But he already put the fruit of the Holy Spirit in you. And you must walk in that. God is at work in us to lead us to put sin to death, to repudiate sin. Passivity won’t work!
We are to pursue:
Righteousness, doing what is good and right in the eyes of God. We are to pursue godliness. We are to pursue faith.
We are to pursue love, loving God and one another.
We are to pursue steadfastness. We are to strive to be faithful, to endure, to press on. We are to pursue gentleness.
Paul also said, “TAKE HOLD of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. Paul reminded Timothy, “You were called to eternal life, you have made a confession of that in front of many people.”
Like Timothy most of you here, have experienced the call to eternal life, and you have confessed to other people that you know God, that you are saved! Most of you have confessed your faith in Christ by baptism, in the presence of many people. Now TAKE HOLD of that life! Tenaciously hold on to this new life you have. Do not neglect it, do not become preoccupied with something else. Do not pull away, do not shrink back. Life may be rough and tough, but HOLD ON. Jesus said, “Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take your crown”.
Paul finished by saying, I give you this charge in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ”. We are to take these exhortations with the awareness that they come to us in the very presence of God and of Jesus Christ. God was looking on as Paul gave this charge to Timothy. God is looking on, as you hear these things even this morning. He is watching your heart and your response. Be aware of that! And receive it with that weightiness.
We are to keep this charge “Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time— We fight the good fight all the way to the end, until we die or Christ is revealed from heaven.
Then Paul ends with an outburst of worship to God, who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
So many are looking for a some secret or key to spiritual victory. The only secret is Christ and the power of his Spirit inside us. And the pathway to victory is to flee from sin, pursue godliness, fight the good fight of faith, hold on to eternal life. Keep the command of God without stain and without reproach. And we do that with reverence and awe and worship for our God and our Savior. To him be all honor.