Fight the Good Fight
Have you ever been in a running race and experienced the encouragement of the spectators at the end? I am not a big runner. I actually hate running. I run so I can eat more. But I have run in a couple 5ks, just to say I have done it. :-) Each time I finished I was amazed at how much harder I pushed myself at the end just because there are other people there watching, cheering, encouraging. End of CLC race.
I can’t help but feel that same burst of energy as I have been studying 1 Timothy. Paul charging, encouraging, applauding Timothy to go do what God is calling him to do. Come on, son! Fight! Keep at it! Today is another day we get to feel the encouragement and admonition. I hope you feel the same.
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
In the preceding verse Paul applied the gospel to himself and stated how amazing grace is, that leads him to exalt in who God is: the king of ages, incorruptible, immortal only God forever and ever.” And yet he gets right back to charging Timothy. Here he charges him to Wage the good warfare. That’s the English Standard version. It doesn’t have the same ring as the NIV, “fight the good fight.” Regardless of the precise wording, you get the point. You're not on summer break or vacation.
Paul, also gives a little fatherly wisdom. “Timothy, my child.. fight.” Get ready for battle.
Encouragement. He reminds Timothy of his divinely appointed tasks. No one likes doing hard things. It is untenable if that hard thing has no purpose. Paul reminds his friend both of the difficulty and of knowing this is what God called you to.
According to prophecies. Some think it was through revelation that Paul appointed Timothy. But notice that the prophecies are plural here, so it wasn’t just Paul. It quite possible refers to the elders laying hands on Timothy. We don’t know what exactly was said. This is mentioned to encourage Timothy in his faith. It wasn’t recorded in Scripture. Not all prophetic words are recorded in Scripture. Not all were meant for all people of all ages. There are prophets in OT who didn’t have a single word recorded in Scripture. Nevertheless God was please to reveal certain things to them in order to lead and encourage his people.
Encouraging to know that others saw Timothy called to ministry. That God laid it on the hearts of others to encourage Timothy, and probably encouraged Paul. These prophecies probably didn’t come with a burning bush experience. I wonder if they may have seemed a bit normal. God impressing on men’s hearts the calling of Timothy. Others seeing his fitness for the task and urging him to it. Its speculation, but it’s encouraging to see people in the church pursuing God and listening to him, and seeking him for the good of others. We need encouragement because God often calls us to do hard things.
The main point is to Fight the good fight. It is a term for military engagement. Wage the good war. “War a good warfare.” When you trusted in Christ and decided to follow him did you know that you were being invited to a fight. To wage a war. Did you know there would be opposition. Do you know that now?
And fight the good fight. Not the bad fight! There are many battles we fight that have nothing to do with god’s kingdom. We fight over football team, money, promotions, ministries, who did or didn’t do what chore, etc. Those are not worthy to fight. Fight for faith, sound doctrine, faithfulness.
People are going to oppose you. People are going to teach the wrong things. People are going to do mean things. There is evil out there that is fighting for your soul! You have an enemy that is after you. What does your life look like spiritual? Does it seem that you are preparing for much less engaged in a war? Or does it look like you are on vacation or retired?
This summer I read Alexis de Tocqville’s Democracy in America. This French philosopher’s book written in the mid 1800’s is one of the best on political theory. He toured America and wrote about his observations. At one point he spent two weeks in the wilderness of the northern territory (Michigan) and he wrote about what he saw of the indians there. Now serious atrocities were committed against the indians. I don’t want to minimize that. But his insights on their change intrigued me on our fitness for spiritual battle.
“ I have never experienced a more profound disappointment than the sight of these Indians. I was expecting to see savages whose faces carried the traces of some of those proud virtues fostered by the spirit of freedom. Men whose bodies had been developed by hunting and war and who lost nothing from being seen naked. But they were small in stature; their limbs were spindly and lacking energy. Their facial features heralded that profound degradation which the lengthy abuse of the blessings of civilization alone can produce. They carried no weapons; were covered in European clothes... that had not been made for them. These weak and depraved beings belonged nevertheless to one of the most famous tribes of the Old American world. We had in front of us the final remnants of that renowned confederation of Iroquois whose virile wisdom was no less famous than their courage.” 876-877. He later talks about how their “number decreased daily not because of the war waged against them but the brandy sold cheaply to them.”
How startling. Once renowned for wisdom, courage, freedom, and strength. But tocqueville highlights the way their abuse of the blessings of civilization changed them, softened them, drained their power. They were no longer warriors. No longer fit for battle. They had no weapon. Unprepared to fight.
I wonder how Tocqueville would write of the modern church today. The people whose leader gave his life, whose prominent figures were persecuted, beaten, flogged, devoted to the point of losing all the world had to offer. Consumed with the things of the world they forgot their mission. They could tell you all 140 stations on tv but not the 66 books of the Bible. An app for every situation but not a Bible verse. Going out into the world but no sword of the Spirit. No shield of faith. Stuff fool of the blessings of civilization.
Are you in a war, a fight? If you think you are in a vacation then you have already lost the fight. How alert are your spiritually. Are you diligently in God’ word. Are you eager to get to church? Are you quick to fellowship with others.
Having kids is a battle. Parenting is a battle. Don’t believe the lies that say your kids can figure it out on their own. Don’t believe the lies that say your a terrible parent and should give up. That’s the enemy! Don’t believe the lies that say you do better to watch another TV show rather than have some time in God’s word.
Soldiers are disciplined. They don’t give up when it gets hard. They are part of an army, not fighting alone but connected with others in interdependent ways. They prepare every day. They are dependable. They are on time. They have their weapons and know how to use them. Personal commitment. Corporate commitment. Bible, prayer, church, serving. Reaching. Do you cling to these like they are important?
Are you fighting against world or going along with it? Fight! Hear Paul’s voice on the side of the road. Every day people are baptized into a nominal Christianity. A religion that makes no claim, demands no alteration. Its is hard!
I don’t want to be too critical of churches. But I also cannot endorse every church. But there are a lot of churches who don’t look anything like what churches are supposed to. And many Christians who don’t look anything like the soldiers they are intended to be. Some desert when it gets hard. Some give up. Some over indulge in blessings of civilization.
Fight! He tells them to hold on to faith and good conscience. Faith is a general term denoting belief in “the faith,” “sound doctrine.” Think rightly. It’s important to know sound doctrine so you can discern it from false doctrine. We are going to get to point where we are doing classes on doctrine here. We want you to be rooted in the faith. Firm in your belief and able to articulate it.
But you also have to have a good conscience. That means you are staying in line with the faith. So many people fall when they know the truth but they swerve from it. They know what they should do but do not do it. They know they should go to church but it’s been a busy week. They know they should tell the truth but they really need the deal to close. You go against sound doctrine and your conscience is calloused. It is burned. And it gets burned once, and then again, and again, and soon your conscience is hard and unmovable. You don’t even second guess going against God’s word. You are hardened to it.
John Calvin wrote “A bad conscience is the mother of all heresies.” That is often the case because when people change their doctrine to fit their life. Heresies are created when you no longer want to abide by sound doctrine so you come up with your own doctrine. That stuff about Jesus being the only way is offensive because I don’t believe in him so let me come up with my own doctrine.
Shipwreck faith. This is what is at stake when we don’t fight. The tragedy that it is. Difficult to survive. The danger implied in the journey. The alertness and diligence to which a proper course must be maintained. A course led by doctrine and also by a good conscience.
Paul tells him to fight the good fight, and his first exhortation after this charge is...
His first exhortation here is that they pray. Primacy of prayer. Jesus soldiers are trained in prayer. It is the first measure of defense and offense.
He mentions several kinds of prayers. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” Proseuxomai is the word for every kind of prayer. Dieseis is form of petition in which something is asked. The words are like a genus and species. Enteukseis is prayers we offer to one another, intercede for one another. Also Thanksgiving for all people.
But the point is not the different kinds of prayers but who the prayers are for. We should pray for all people. Those in church. Those outside church. Believers and unbelievers. We make supplications, even for unbelievers we give thanks on account of their wellbeing and the good they do for us. (Matt 5:45).
For kings and all in high positions. We are to pray for leaders and for their good. Even if you didn’t vote for Trump, pray for him. We all need to pray! Consider all the leaders existing at the time of Paul writing this letter were sworn enemies of Christ! Probably took an oath to serve Caesar. Acknowledge Caesar's divinity. Protect that divinity. Pray for them? Pray for those idolatrous fools? Nero was Roman emperor at this time and he was known for putting Christians on walls and setting them on fire to light his parties! Nero is also the one who had Paul martyred. Pray for him? Yes. Pray. Pray for your enemies. Pray for what they ought to be. That’s fighting the good fight!
He mentions several fruits that are to guide our prayers. Peaceful and quiet lives. Part of duty of government is to restrain evil. We want to pray that they are able to do that. We want all people to experience peace, even our enemies. We don’t pray for the government to take them out. We pray for people. He also implies that in peaceful times the gospel is able to move forward. Godliness and decency is the worship of God. It is holiness and religious devotion. We pray this is what our society looks like. Lastly, Acceptable to God. the stronger argument of why pray for this is that it pleases God. The true way to a peaceful and quiet life is looking to the will of God. Trusting him, knowing him, serving him.
God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:4 ESV).” God wishes all to be saved. He died for all. That what drives our prayers. There are many people who do not live according to the truth. We want them saved from darkness. Brought into the life of God’s kingdom.
One of our chief prayers is that people come to faith in in Jesus Christ, our mediator. A mediator is a person who comes between people to reconcile them. You see it when couples are angry at each other and want to resolve the issue. They go to a counselor in hopes that the counselor can come between them and work out a way forward. That’s a mediator. Our sin separated us from God. It roused God’s righteous anger. We deserved to be cast off just like a spouse deserves casting off for adultery. We were cast off with no way to come back, no reason to be reconciled, and nothing to compel him to act, but he off his own love sent the one true perfect mediator. Christ came to reconcile us, to bear our guilt, to carry our sin, to make us clean, so that we might stand in the presence of our Lord.
Gave himself as a ransom for all. Ransom “as a price paid or means used to set someone free from captivity or bondage ransom.” If you feel lost, held captive by your circumstances, your failures, your poor decisions, your rejection of God and you don’t know how you can get out, remember Christ your mediator. As you feel the downward pull of your sin. The suffocating depression of things you have done wrong. Remember this mediator is the God man. He is a man who knows you, knows your weakness, faults and infirmities. But he is also fully God and it matters not that the weight of your sin feels infinite. He is infinite in power and can rescue. Infinite in knowledge and knows how to reconcile. He can bring you freedom because he paid the ransom in full. Your sin has no claim over you. Those mistakes will not keep holding you back. This is the goodnews that is for all people.
It is the truth and God wants all people to align themselves with. He wants them to trust in it. To leave behind old ways and submit to Christ fully and completely. You have to trust in him and believe in him. It’s not about having been baptized. You may have been dunked or sprinkled. But if you have not trusted in the work of Christ none of that matters. Your sin isn’t washed away in baptism. The work of Christ is applied to us by believing, by trusting.
Prayers for all people culminate in the one and only God. There is but one God. There is no other that you can go to. You may call things God but they are not. There is only one mediator to approach in order to be reconciled to that one God. It’s the one who gave himself for your sin.
“ who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1Ti 2:6 ESV). Paul was appointed an apostle of this testimony. Getting others to hear and know this news is the fight that he fought. Believing it himself. Trusting in it. Living by it. He shared it with others. He prayed fervently to that end. We too are made ambassadors and that is reason to fight and pray.
Fight and pray. Have you slowed your pace? Have you given up, gotten slack, feel like it doesn’t matter? Giving up on your marriage, your kids, your friends, your country, your city, your church. You are like a runner walking through the race. Hear Paul”s voice, “my child, come on.” Fight on!
We are in a fight. There is opposition. Train for it. Prepare for it. Be fervent in your disciplines. Be fervent in your prayers. We can’t do them alone. That’s why our God has given us His church.
Make a list of people to be praying for. Make of list of things you want to see. Pray for boldness to take advantage of those opportunities. Don’t pray for opportunities. We have opportunities. We just don’t step out. Pray for an opportunity to share what God has done in your life, to share what you learned at church, what you read in the Bible. Live a life of faith.
- Why do you think Paul tells Timothy to fight the good fight? Is that an apt description of the Christian life?
- Does your pursuit of God look more like a war, a vacation, or something in between?
- Who are you praying for? How are you praying for them?
- God desires all people to be saved. How can you better align your desire with his? What can you do to express that desire?