Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Fight the Good Fight of Faith

“Jesus answered [Pilate’s question concerning His kingship], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm’” (John 18:36 NASB).  And likewise, if our kingship and inheritance were of this world, we too would fight to obtain it (and maintain it).  But the kingdom we are in—wherein Christ Jesus reigns supreme—is NOT OF THIS REALM!

Later the Apostle Paul would speak of this incident, and he declared that Christ Jesus “testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:13).  In context with such a confession of faith is both a good witness and a good fight worthy of the conflict it creates.  Also in context with this idea of fighting the good fight of faith to maintain both a powerful testimony in both word and deed is the idea of fleeing from the pursuit of money (not just the love of money, but money as an end in itself).  Here is what Paul has to say on this matter:

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  BUT FLEE FROM THESE THINGS, YOU MAN OF GOD, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who TESTIFIED THE GOOD CONFESSION BEFORE PONTIUS PILATE, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Timothy 6:3-16).

The apostle plainly says to flee from the consideration that godliness is a means of gain; and yet, godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN!  However, it has nothing to do with money.  Paul had learned how to be abased and how to abound; he had learned the wisdom of the proverbist who said “Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’  Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).  I love the wisdom of such a prayer to God!  In it are both a deep and reverential consideration of the Almighty and a realistic understanding of one’s weak frame.  Too many of us try to build ourselves up—not in the Holy Ghost [in tongues]—but in our own estimation of ourselves (and only by comparing ourselves to others).  Riches are too often a barometer or gage of worth, but what is esteemed in the eyes of man is an abomination in the eyes of God.   “Then he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’” (Luke 12:15 NIV).  “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain” (Psalm 119:36).

Instead, as Paul already said, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  It looks like this in operation: “We are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NASB).

This is not, of course, anything like the normal “prosperity message” we hear so often today.  To them perhaps Paul would say as he said to the Corinthians (with tongue in cheek I suppose): “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.  For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (1 Corinthians 4:8-10).  Oh dear God!  That poor misguided apostle!  Where’s his faith?  His faith is REAL faith you silly indulgent Christian!!  He has it right; you must adjust to him, not he to you.  Too many want to make the word fit their doctrine, not derive their doctrine from the word.  Bend to it, do not bend it to you.

Paul went further and said, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I exhort you, BE IMITATORS OF ME (1 Corinthians 4:14-16).  “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).  Diligence, hard work, hope, faith, and patience are how we fight the good fight of faith, and the end of our fight is to secure eternal life.
Peter agrees with Paul, and I would suggest that the end of our good fight of faith is a prosperity too often unheard of today.  Peter said it like this: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be ABUNDANTLY SUPPLIED TO YOU” (2 Peter 1:5-11).