The Good Fight!
The Good Fight!
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 16th June, 2019.
When I was a boy – around 7 or 8, could have even been earlier – I remember as clear as it happened yesterday – dad would sometimes get me into a wrestling match on the lounge room floor. Maybe he thought I needed toughening up or something. And maybe he was right.
Now he was a very fit young man. He’d played top level footy for Marist Brothers. His work was always super physical. When he met mum at her parents corner store, she called him the pumpkin man. She always got excited when the pumpkin man was doing his delivery. Carting pumpkins around all day was a good fitness program.
Anyway… so here I am – this little kid – wrestling with my dad. And it was a fight! He held me down. Got me so tangled up that I was claustrophobic. But the worst thing was that he never let me win! Don’t all dad’s know that you have to let the kids win occasionally? And I’d get cranky – and in the end I’d be crying. So much for being tough!
But those wrestling matches were the fight of my life! Up until that moment.
Move on nearly 60 years later, and he’s the one fighting for his life – mum has long passed – and he’s confined to a nursing home room – struggling with the debilitating and painful symptoms of cancer. And I’m the one looking on, watching him fight, but not having the power or ability to set him free.
What we recognised more than anything, was the incredible fight that was going on for his salvation and eternal life. He fought a good fight. And he won!
I suspect that there’s a bit of a series forming over the next few weeks, and it’s based on this scripture:
1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
I’m still not a fan of fighting. But sometimes we all have to fight for something.
Fighting the good fight of faith happens on many different levels – but this morning it’s all about the fight of faith within – it’s a fight for our own heart to remain strong, faithful, surrendered to God, passionately loving Him.
I received the basis of this message on the last day of our holidays. It was a really restful and relaxed time away at a little hideaway called Arrawarra, near Woolgoolga. And then we were at home for a week. But I noticed something come over me. It was like this pulling away from all the responsibilities and pressures of life. And in one way, holidays should be like that, but I was starting to entertain the idea that I could do this permanently. Not that we’re in any way prepared practically for that to happen…
It didn’t help by watching endless episodes of Escape to the Country. There’s something about that show that drains the life out of you, and sends you off into fairy land…
But right at the end of our holiday I had this strong word and emotion come to me – it’s like it arrested me – and I began to question myself – what on earth are you thinking?
You haven’t finished yet! Your time isn’t over yet!
And I remembered what Paul said to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
But my race is far from finished. God is raising up strong faithful leaders to support this church and to carry the weight – but the finish line for me is still way off in the distance.
The point is – we are in a fight of faith. And it begins within ourselves. We have to fight against our own heart being deceived, growing weary, becoming hardened, losing the passion of our first love, or being drawn away into some fantastical escape.
It was interesting that one of the first things we had to do when we arrived back home, was to slip up to Tweed Heads for a mini INC conference. And Kathy Abraham, the wife of our National Chairman, brought this incredibly moving message about what it means to be brave. You have to be brave and courageous to fight the fight of faith.
And her definition of brave was not simply being strong and tough – but being vulnerable. Living from the heart – having boundaries and protections around your heart – but providing a safe place where others are able to open their hearts as well. Because we can live with our masks on and do all our dutiful and religious stuff – and never really be true to ourselves or others… what’s the point of that?
My dad, in whose early years, only knew how to be strong and tough outwardly when it came to being brave and courageous in the face of life. But as time went on, I picked up “heart strength” from him as I watched him and observed him with more knowing eyes.
My father might have missed the instructions in the child rearing book about allowing your kids to win sometimes… he might not have toughened me up the way he was hoping…
But what I learnt from him was what it means to be faithful. What it means to be steadfast. What it means to be a husband who loves his wife. What it means to take responsibility… He imparted many things into my life that are exactly what I need to fight the battles on the inside – to know how to be thankful – to know how to value things… to know how to treat people.
To be honest – he failed on the odd occasion with that one – and so have I – but it doesn’t stop me fighting the good fight…
I probably had to learn for myself in the early days, by the grace of God, what it means to fight for my faith in God. But the basic tools were there.
What does the fight look like in your own heart? How brave are you in that department? Is vulnerability a strength that makes you brave? Are you running the race with faith? Will you finish the race and be able to declare like Paul – I’ve fought the good fight – I’ve kept the faith!
So what is the main enemy to our heart of faith? It’s unbelief!
A faith filled heart can overcome lots of things – but unbelief takes away its strength.
Hebrews 3:12-15, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Our fight is against unbelief! Our fight is against hardness of heart! Our fight is against the deceitfulness of sin!
And how prevalent is that deceitfulness of sin creeping into the hearts of God’s people right now. And we see a twisting of truth and the twisting of motives from those who want to parade sin as truth.
A friend on Facebook wrote something a couple of days ago saying Christians should stop hating gay people. And there’s this underlying assumption and perception that we actually do hate gay people. We don’t hate gay people! We’re not fearful of gay people as those who push the “homophobic” agenda would want others to believe.
Jesus loves every one of us and wants all people to have a revelation of Who He is. He didn’t come into this world to condemn the world. He came here to save us. All of us.
I don’t hate anyone. I’m not fearful or phobic of anyone.
But the devil would want people deceived into thinking you and I have a hate agenda. He is the great deceiver. He twists things to his own advantage. If ever there was fake news, the devil is the expert in that department.
Then I read this article in the news yesterday about a young Catholic priest in Australia. The article painted him as a young man who was part of a new breed of church leaders, taking a refreshingly new approach to faith and ministry. And he seems to have a very special way with people.
But he said, society just thinks that we as priests are obsessed with things like sex, homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia…
And I get what he’s talking about. Society thinks like that because society itself keeps throwing these issues to the forefront. The devil just wants to keep contention and controversy as the main agenda.
None of us want to walk past those important issues. The bible is clear on these things… but it’s the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of love, the power of grace, the power of truth… the message of hope, the heart of our Heavenly Father… the power of the Holy Spirit… these are the foundations for a transformed life.
This is part of our fight – a fight for truth, a fight for clarity… even in our own mind and heart.
But God says: Hebrews 10:35, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”
There’s two battles at least when we’re fighting the good fight of faith.
Firstly we need to fight to maintain the faith we already have, and not cast it away.
The devil is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion trying to find any way into our thinking, our fears, our integrity of heart. So to maintain the faith we have is a constant fight. There’s always that pull to take us backwards, to undermine the seeds of faith that God has already planted.
Secondly, we need to fight for our faith to actually increase and to grow.
When you look at the testimony of Abraham’s life, the bible talks about him as being the father of faith – and even in old age, believing God’s promises, it says:
Romans 4:19-20, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,”
The Passion Translation says:
Romans 4:20-21, “He never stopped believing God’s promise, for he was made strong in his faith to father a child. And because he was mighty in faith and convinced that God had all the power needed to fulfil his promises, Abraham glorified God!”
Faith comes in measures. And we can fight the good fight by believing to be gifted with an ever increasing measure of faith – a stronger measure – a mightier measure. And we can have a confidence that will carry us over the finish line with such joy and hope that nothing can stand in our way.
There’s something about joining our faith together too. There’s something powerful about the body of Christ believing together in His promises for healing, salvation, miracles.
Even this last week there were amazing reports of people discovering that their health issues were not nearly as severe as they thought. Who’s to say God hasn’t intervened with miracles? And what we are seeing is doctors reports that are totally unexpected – in a good way!
And so we can build one another up in faith through our testimonies and simply through our compassion and love for one another.
Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
I really believe Simon Rattray’s message is one of the most relevant messages for the church in these days. Simon spoke here last week, including at the combined Pentecost Service… and he spoke of what we can learn from the persecuted church in other nations.
Whether you realise it or not, we are slowly and subtly experiencing the beginnings of persecution as the church of Jesus Christ in Australia. I’m sure you all do realise it. And it’s not so much against other religions… just Christianity.
Did you hear about Kmart’s blunder the other day, where any of the printing done in their stores with words like, Christ, Christian, Jesus, God, Church, etc., were deleted from photos because they were classified as profanity?
They apologised later saying it was a computer error. But computers only spit out what’s been programmed into them. Someone with influence in the Kmart system has done this.
They say it’s a blunder… but it’s getting a bit too close to the bone if you ask me.
When freedom of speech (for Christians particularly) is a current hot topic, it just makes you question where things are headed.
But together we have a voice. Israel Falou recently received a document containing 46,000 signatures of support from Christians in this nation. That’s a really strong message to our government. That’s the Christian voice arising.
Together we can fight the good fight of faith – which is probably where we’ll go in another message… but to do it together, we firstly have to make sure we are convinced and are prepared to face the fight for our own heart and belief.
So what are you fighting for right now that requires your heart to be full of faith? Is this a moment in your life where you might need God’s impartation of a greater measure of faith?
I know there are some of you who have had to cry out for mighty faith, for stronger faith, because you or someone in your family is facing a huge mountain. It’s incredible how faithful He is in walking by our side, refreshing our heart even in the midst of the battle.
In fact, the way some of you have faced up to your mountains with courage and conviction has been an inspiration to not only me, but others in this community of believers.
We need each other. We are designed for community. As that scripture said earlier – let’s not forsake gathering together as some might do. Isolation is one of the devil’s ploys to take us off on a tangent where our minds and hearts are attacked by deception and lies. And when we’re on our own, we’re sitting ducks.
When Joshua was facing battles with other nations as the people of God entered the promised land, the Word of the Lord came to them as one people group:
Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
So, No.1 – the fight of faith is a good fight. Because if we continue to seek Him, we win.
No. 2 – It’s not a fight like any other fight. To be brave in the fight means not to be tough, but to be vulnerable and live from the heart.
No. 3 – It starts from the inside out. The battle begins within. And one of the greatest weapons that comes against us is unbelief. We need to guard our hearts from becoming hard and disconnected through unbelief.
No. 4 – Let’s not just hope to maintain the faith we have, but to be strengthened in it – to see our faith become a mighty faith – an ever increasing faith.
No. 5 – we are all in this together! Let’s continue to stay connected, to encourage one another, to share our stories with one another, to lift up one another. We are a mighty voice together as one.
And finally – No. 6:
Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
And in the Passion – Romans 10:17, “Faith, then, is birthed in a heart that responds to God’s anointed utterance of the Anointed One.”
The bible is God’s Anointed utterance. And there’s a recognition here that the Anointed One – Jesus – is the living Word.
We’re talking primarily about the heart this morning – and we keep our heart on a straight path when it has the Word of God planted in it.
The word destroys deception. It cuts through unbelief and confusion like a sharp two edged sword.
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Our faith must be anchored in God’s understanding of life – not our own. And we find that in the Word.
Our hearts become aligned with His in worship, in surrender, in trust, in faith.
What I’ve been talking about this morning is where the fight begins – in our own heart.
But I think in coming weeks we’ll be looking at scriptures like Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
And 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,”
These are strong verses regarding the fight we are part of – because the battle in the spirit is where our destiny is often fought.
But this morning, let’s start in our own hearts. Let’s face our inner world before we attempt to change our outer world.
I’ve often said, some of the latest and greatest sci-fi movies and cosmic adventures on the big screen have nothing compared to the reality of the spirit world we actually live in.
We’ll go on this journey together. For many of you it will be a refreshing of things you already know and understand. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to have the Word of God wash over us again. I need it. And you probably do too.
This is the church arising in power and might. Let’s fight the good fight of faith together.