Fight the Good Fight
I Tim 6: 11-12
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Fight or flight. These the two responses in this passage.
When the hypothalamus tells the sympathetic nervous system to kick into gear, the overall effect is that the body speeds up, tenses up and becomes generally very alert. If there’s a burglar at the door, you’re going to have to take action — and fast. The sympathetic nervous system sends out impulses to glands and smooth muscles and tells the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into the bloodstream. These “stress hormones” cause several changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
At the same time, the hypothalamus releases (CRF) corticotropin-releasing factor into the pituitary gland, activating the adrenal-cortical system. The pituitary gland secretes the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which moves through the bloodstream and ultimately arrives at the adrenal cortex, where it activates the release of approximately 30 different hormones that get the body prepared to deal with a threat.
- heart rate and blood pressure increase
- pupilsdilate to take in as much light as possible
- veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups blood-glucose level increases
- musclestense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose
- smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
- nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
- trouble focusing on small tasks as the brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from
This is the fight part. Fight all that attacks your faith. This is also the pursue part. We pursue things as a part of the fight.
- Faith in Jesus Yields Life
- You were called by God
II Peter 1: 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Romans 1, I Cor 1, Ephesians 3. All who know and follow Christ were called by God to be His holy people. We may not know it at the time, but can see in in reverse as we consider the circumstances in our lives that lead us to faith in Christ.
God has caused many of us to be born into Christian families so the message of the gospel is always near. This is great grace. God has caused many of us to be born in the United States, a nation with a rich Christian influence in the culture. This is great grace and it allows us to hear the gospel with our natural ears.
And then God works in our lives and opens our hearts and minds to the truth of the gospel. Jesus says in John 6 when many people are rejecting Him and hanging around so that they can eat food: “No one can come to me unless the Father draws them.” This drawing of God creates the ability to respond to the gospel. Some call it regeneration. But, God calls all who come to Him. I compare it to the great compliment of being asked to spend time with the most interesting and honorable person that you can think of.
God has honored you with His love, proved by your being called.
- You confessed Jesus as Lord
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
If this is your conviction and confession, then it is your conviction and confession.
- Hold on tight
Paul tells Timothy: Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.
We talked a couple Wednesday nights ago about the things we need in order to be saved:
- We have to understand our great need. We are sinners. God does actively punish sin. We cannot resolve this issue on our own.
- We have to understand Jesus’ great provision for our need.
Hebrews says that Jesus has provided eternal salvation for us. II Corinthians 5 says God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Romans 3 says that the righteousness of God is given through faith in Christ to all who believe, because all have sinned and all are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came through Jesus.
- We have to understand that we must hold on to our calling and confession, just like Paul encourages Timothy.
Why this emphasis?
You may encounter trouble from others because of your faith.
You will be told that you are wasting your life.
You will be called ignorant, foolish etc.
(which must be true in some sort, we will never know everything or have the answers to all of the questions)
Jesus’ parable of the Sower and soils, “Rocky soil” falls away. There are people who initially embrace the gospel but fall away. Endurance in one’s faith is a sure sign that one is trusting Christ. Either you are or you aren’t, either you do or you don’t.
- Flee from All that Supports Unbelief
- Money, Pride and Pleasure
Worries of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.
Because what we do is a reflection of what we are trusting at the time, all that we do will have an impact on our faith.
Faith is like a muscle. When you exercise it, it grows stronger. People who are strong in faith are not that way because they came to the altar and God zapped them with faith. They are strong because when faced with challenges in life, they chose to trust Him and be obedient. And then they saw God work. Talk to Jenny about her job.
- Ignorance of truth
There are things you do that undercut your faith and you don’t know it. The Holy Spirit, the Bible, and your Christian friends will help you to identify those things. You must see God in all of those things so that you are responding to God out of faith. That will make your faith stronger and bring you to abundant life!
- The counsel of the wicked
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
There are other voices in the world. You are going to have to choose to tune them out. You will have to substitute different motivations than money, pride and pleasure. And they exist and are not hard to find.
Honoring God, loving God, grateful to God, being considerate of the needs of others, loving others, providing for others, serving others, treating the world as it truly is, God’s personal creation.
III. Pursue what Strengthens Faith
It is unavoidable that what we do has an impact on our faith. Faith and obedience go together. So, when we sin we are actively chipping away at our faith. And when we obey, we are strengthening it.
- In our relating to God
Walk in the Spirit. God is there, give the Holy Spirit time and vocabulary to speak to you. Pray. Read your bible. Go to church. Obey what you read and hear from the Holy Spirit, and you have given God a voice. People who struggle with hearing God’s voice still hear from their conscience concerning sinful things. And if you ignore what God says to you, it will fade away.
If you want to believe in God, then trust Him. We don’t have to wait for a feeling. In fact, if we do then we are gonna struggle.
Get baptized. If you decide you are going to pursue the life of God, the beginning place is baptism. It is the initiation for those who decide to follow Jesus for their lives. It pictures cleansing of sin. It pictures deliverance from the world. It pictures a new way of life, being born again.
- In our relating to ourselves
Renew your thinking about what is important in life. Own these ideas personally.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Righteousness: Let’s call this justification, salvation, eternal life.
Godliness: Let’s call this living like Jesus, following Jesus Christ. This is the practical manifestation or living out of our righteousness.
Faith: This is the how of life. We will live by trusting God’s information and power. Phil 2: 12-13 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in youto will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
It is faith that says, “It is God who is at work in me to give me the power to do His good purpose in my marriage, at my job, at school, at home, in the church, in the community at large.” And when we don’t want to do what we know God wants us to do, then we say: “It is God who is at work in me strengthening my will to do His good pleasure.” Hope is necessary. God gives us hope. It is really helpful to believe that there can be hope that we will change, that our hearts and minds will feast on obedience to God as their source of life. It will happen.
Love: This is the what of life. It is all that is important. We are acting in the best interests of others. We do what promotes life in them.
Endurance: We prepare to be dug in and under siege from the enemy of our souls and those who are in agreement with his philosophies.
Gentleness: Because other people will often make our lives more difficult than they would be otherwise, we
- In our relating to others
Gentleness toward others. Patience toward others. Understanding of others. Jesus hanging on the cross said what? Father, forgive them, they don’t know… As believers we are not “better” than others and we often give them that impression. If we do not approve of the life choices of others, well, why is that important?
We bear the burden of the “us vs. them” issue as it relates to life choices. Rejection is not attractive and we are not the judge of the hearts of people, but when we are asked to go along with life pursuits that we cannot go along with, we do so with as much gentleness as we can.
I told someone I loved once,
“Don’t ask me for things that I cannot give you.”
Let me tell you why we can act this way. It is because life comes from God. It doesn’t come from any of His good gifts, even His best ones. And if you leave God and faith in God out, those gifts will be spoiled. And we are the light of the world. We are tasked with demonstrating what life can be.
Listen, God is at work. You need to be convinced of that. I need to be convinced of that. No matter what else looks like is going on, Jesus has won the victory for us. We will have life. And God is the one who opens people’s eyes to the truth.