May God bless you this week and help you see that if you are fighting for a godly walk with Jesus – it is a beautiful thing in the sight of God.
In the fourth chapter of second Timothy Paul writes to Timothy about his own walk with God. This happened right at the end of Paul’s life – when he was imprisoned in a dark, dank Roman jail cell. It had to be a depressing place to spend the last days of one’s life – and yet Paul was able by God’s grace to write some wonderful things. His description of the way that he sought to live is one of them.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good/beautiful fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul speaks about fighting “the good fight” in these verses. The Greek word for “good” here is “kalos” which means something good or beautiful. We could actually translate this verse with either word and have an accurate translation. Thus Paul is saying that the fight he fought was a beautiful fight. It was a fight for joy in Christ no matter his situation. It was a fight to live so as to honor and glorify God even when those watching his life would question why God would allow His servant to be imprisoned in this way. From a merely human standpoint one might look at the latter days of his life and think, “Beautiful? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Yet we know that what is loved by this world is disgusting in God’s sight – and – what is often despised by the world is lovely in the eyes of the Lord.
Paul speaks about being “poured out as a drink offering.” This is a picture of the Old Testament sacrificial practice of adding an offering of wine to the end of a sacrifice to the Lord. At the end of the sacrifice, the priest would then pour out the red wine onto the ground at the base of the altar. It was a kind of punctuation mark – an exclamation that the sacrifice was finished. Paul, who knew that he would soon be martyred, used that imagery to signify his own death – as a punctuation mark on his own life of sacrifice to the Lord. He knew that as a Roman citizen he would not be crucified, but most likely beheaded. So he saw his blood in that moment as the finishing mark on his life given as a living sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ.
He also speaks of his time of “departure” that had come. The picture here in the Greek language is of a boat that is being untied from its moorings so that it could sail away from the dock. Paul knew that God was loosing him from this world so that he could be taken away to the next where he would be with the Lord Jesus for all eternity. Some would look at such things and see them as sad – how Paul’s life was filled with suffering, difficulty, and in the end, execution for his faith. They might also look at all the problems he faced with churches and individuals – and begin to wonder about his statement of a “beautiful fight.”
In all honesty it does not matter how “people” see our fight in this world. It matters how God views and evaluates things. The world evaluates us according to their standards and desires. God has a completely different set compared to that of the world. He looked at the struggles and battles that Paul faced – both as an individual (remember Romans 7?) and as a servant in the church – and said, “Beautiful!” He delights in the sacrifice and service of the faith of those who love Jesus. He delights that we battle through all the hard and difficult moments of our lives. As we read in the Psalms – He delights in the death of His holy ones!
This week how I pray that He encourages you! So often we can easily be discouraged as we walk through the valley of the shadows. We can see the struggle and the difficulty and wonder not only about ourselves – but also at times whether God is mad at us or frustrated with us. If you are fighting for godliness – if you are fighting for a servant’s heart – if you are fighting to have regular time alone with Him – if you are fighting to have joy in the Lord – God sees this as a beautiful thing – He sees it as a beautiful fight! Therefore, be encouraged saints – be mindful that your battles and the tears shed in them are not falling to the ground unnoticed. They are seen – they are collected – and they are considered beautiful by the Lord Who loves you more than life itself.
Awe and wonder . . . two words that perfectly fit any view of God. But in a world that thinks too highly of itself, populated with fallen people who seriously think too highly of themselves, awe and wonder do not describe the average response to God, Who has revealed Himself to us in Scripture - and His creation. And if I were to be completely honest (which hurts as I admit to my own sin of pride and over-aggrandizement of myself personally - and humanity corporately) I do not respond to Him nearly enough with the kind of awe and wonder that He deserves. At times I sing songs about His greatness with little more than yawning excitement - and even more sinfully - with a sense of wanting to get on with it so I can move on to other things more exciting to me. In an age where we make much of man - and even more of ourselves - the whole concept of being lost in wonder and awe of God is dangerously waning. And please understand I speak not of the world at large - but of those of us in the church.
There are two words that should show up often in our vocabulary when seeking to give any kind of description of God. The first of these words is the word "awe." We speak of things that, when we see them or experience them leave us awe-struck. That means the shear magnitude and majsety of them render us speechless because we are not sure there are words adequate to describe what we are seeing or experiencing. God, being both infinite and eternal, should be One who leaves us utterly speechless because His majestry and limitless magnitude are beyond human words or concepts. That is where we reach back to get our second word, "wonder." When I looked up wonder at Dictionary.com, the following definition began to take shape in my mind. Wonder means to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe. This sense of wonder often illicits surprise, astonishment, and in some cases worship or adoration of what has caused our wonder. The God Who has revealed Himself in the Old and New Testaments - and Who is also revealed in what He has created, is a God Who can fill our hearts and our minds with both awe and wonder.
There is no way to adequately define or describe Who God is. One way that we can touch the fringe of His boundless, infinite magnitude is by looking at nature - most specifically - the heavens. Since the discovery of the telescope, we've enjoyed a view of the heavens that expands as quickly as we can upgrade the ability of our telescopes to see further and further into space. The information below was originally printed in John MacArthur's commentary on the book of Matthew.
"The more man delves into the universe, the more amazing and awesome the wonder of creation becomes. Telescopes can take us some four billion light years—about twenty-five sextillion miles—into space, and yet we have not come near the edge of the universe. We have discovered certain gravitational principles that keep the stars and planets in their orbits, yet we are far from fully explaining those principles, much less duplicating them. The earth spins on its axis at a thousand miles an hour at the equator, travels in a five-hundred-eighty-million-mile orbit around the sun at about a thousand miles a minute, and, with the rest of its solar system, careens through space at an even faster speed in an orbit that would take billions of years to complete. The energy of the sun has been estimated to be equivalent to five-hundred-million-million-billion horsepower. There are at least one-hundred-thousand-million other suns in our galaxy, most of them larger than ours." (John MacArthur, Commentary on Mark)
What is even more amazing to me after reading that again, is that MacArthur's statement is just a small paragraph, because there is enough to know about our universe to fill an entire library of books. That is after we've spent 100's of years looking into space. The truth is our knowledge of the universe is ridiculously limited at the present time. If we had instruments and ships that could take us far out into the universe (even into our own galaxy to be honest) our knowledge would grow exponentially!
To give you a perspective on how much we should be in awe and wonder of the God who created our universe, allow me to focus on one star within it. Granted, at the moment (due to our lack of a telescope powerful enough to see it) it is the largest star we know. Nevertheless, let's talk about the star Sirius, or Canus Majoris. This largest of all stars known was most recently measured at around 1500 solar radii. If you were like me, you had no idea what a solar radii was. It is the measurement of how big our sun is. That measurement is approximately 432,450 miles (to go from the outer edge of the sun to its center). If you want to know how far it is around our sun - that would be approximately 2.72 million miles (quite a walk - and take sunblock over 50 because you might get a sunburn!) Just our sun is so huge that it blows the mind to comprehend its size. But we speak of Sirius (Canus Majoris) which is now approximately 1500 times the size of our sun. Now I know that you are tired from that recent walk around the sun (and a little burnt probably) but you need to suck it up - because now we're going to walk around Sirius - which would be 4.1 billion miles give or take a mile or two.
Forgive me for using this comparison - but it will give you a little better grasp of how large this star is. Imagine our earth is a basketball. Compared to our sun earth is a little smaller than a popcorn seed. In order to get something as large as Canis Major you would have to have a ball that is over half the size of the Empire State Building. Let me put that into perspective for you. That height is larger than the full height of the Superdome. So we are talking about a ball bigger than the Superdome itself (try jumping high enough to dumk that sucker into a basketball rim that can fit it!). Another way of describing the size of Sirius is that if we put it into our solar system (starting at the center of our sun) its outer edge would reach beyond the orbit of Saturn (although some think it extends beyond that to about the orbit of Jupiter). That is HUGE! But . . . this is only 1 star, albeit the largest one on record to date. There are trillions times trillions more stars in our universe - all of which have been placed in orbital movements that conicide with each other with greater precision than that of a well choreographed ballet. It truly is incredulous to an infinite degree how men can think this is all a random cosmic accident!
I've taken all this time - and verbiage - to hopefully get you to stand in awe and wonder of a single star - in a galaxy filled with billions and billions of starts - which is in the midst of millions of other galaxies - all moving in such synchronization that we set our clocks by its movement. God created all this by His infinite power and wisdom. He did it so that they would proclaim the glory of His great name! Thus this mere creation of the genius and limitless strength of our God is itself infinitely inferior to Him - the One who spoke it into existence. It required no over-exertion on His part and its creation was no drain on either His intelligence or His might. He is beyond its existence and could as easily consume it entirely with one additional word spoken to utter remove it to little more than an afterthought flying quickly through our minds. So please . . . the next time you consider the God of your salvation - the God of creation - the God of eternal, timeless existence and infinite, measureless magnitude . . . do so with awe and wonder . . . oh, and a little reverence might be in order too (just as an infinitely understated suggestion). And one other thing . . . this coming Sunday when you meet with the saints to sing of the God of your salvation - remember Sirius, Canus Majoris - or by its common name, "The Big Dog!" When you do - and you also meditate on the fact that God created this giant ex-nihilo (meaning out of nothing) as He spoke the world into existence (By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:3, NASB), we will be moved by His Spirit and the truth to sing and worship Him with both awe and wonder! Or, in a euphamism more familiar to our current age, "Let the 'big dawg' speak, and when you feel him - get crunk as you worship God off the hinges." (Yes, I know that just exposed me as a really old white guy trying to look cool - sorry, couldn't help it with the star being named, "the big dog.")
One of the things that is often misunderstood in the Christian walk is the part that we play in doing the will of God. There is a very definite part that we play in this walk of obedience to God - and yet that part is not to walk in our own works or our own power - but rather in God's power. Sound confusing? To many it truly is very confusing.
We hear phrases like, "Let go and let God," and "Let God be your strength." These phrases, though having a measure of truth in them, are not complete enough to stand on their own. It is very much true that God wants us to let go (if we think we are controlling our own lives and destiny) and let Him work in us. It is also true that we need for God to be our strength, because our own strength and power will not be able to deliver us from sin. The problem comes when people hear these phrases and think that obeying God and doing His will can happen without their cooperation and their willful choice.
Let me share something with you that I hope will remain with you the rest of your life in Christ. Weak-willed Christians will always struggle in their walk with the Lord. True obedience to God will always involve a choice you make. God will reveal His will to you - He will let you know what He desires for you to do - He will empower you to walk out His will - He will even give you wisdom to know how to do what He deisres for you to do. BUT - He will NEVER choose it for you! There will always be a choice for obedience. And to be completely honest with you, often there is a need to continue in that choice with great effort and with long-term endurance.
For those of you who may be confused, let me give you a couple of examples. I don't know about you, but I know that I would like it if God would just overwhelm me - fill me with power - and then pick me up and work in me to where obedience is just about effortless as I walk in obedience. Anybody else up for that kind of Christian walk? Unfortunately there are those who tell you if you just wait - and cry out - and get godly enough - it will be just that way for you. There is only one problem with this view . . . it isn't what we are told or promised in the Scriptures.
Probably the most famous passage about all this is Philippians 2:12-13 which says this, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." This passage has our part and God's part in all this. God's part is toward the end of these verses where we read that it is God who is at work in us. God is working in our lives - in our hearts and minds. He is working so that our will knows what to will and so that we know how to walk out that will - doing the will of God. The first verse though calls upon us to "work out" our salvation with fear and trembling as we continue to obey God.
The phrase "work out" is one Greek word that means to carry out a task until it is finished. What God is saying to us is that He has saved us - our effort is not to "save ourselves" because God has already done that to the uttermost through Jesus Christ. What He is calling us to do is to work, labor, and carry out the task of obedience to His will until we're finished. You might ask, "Finished with what?" The answer to that question is this - Christ-likeness in our character - and doing the will of God as Jesus did - completely and entirely. We labor and work till the end - and work knowing that God is working in us as we obey. God has provided everything we need to walk out a life of obedience to Him - a life of Christlike character and godliness. That happens in us as we see what we are to choose (to will) and then as we then choose it in dependence on God to empower us as we take a step into obedience (to do).
What we see here is that we are called to make choices - to exert effort - as we experience God's saving work in our lives. He saves us from the penalty of sin by what Jesus did for us at the cross. This is something we cannot do. But then he continues to save us from the power of sin. This He does by revealing what we are to do - promising the power to do it - but then stopping there and calling us to make a choice. Until we make that choice we go no further. But at the moment that we make that choice - we then are willing what God wills and power is released. We choose to think what God thinks and to value what He says above anything else that comes into our heads (whether it comes from us and our own flesh, the world and what it says we should do, or the devil who tries to deceive us and lie to us about what God wants).
The next step is action. We act on what we know about God's will and take that first step of obedience. As we do - more power is released in and through us. God enables us to continue to walk in obedience - doing what He wants. But - and this is so vital - if we are unwilling to value His thoughts and way above our own, above the world's ways, and above the deceit the devil offers - there is a short-circuit in power. Please understand that God is not weakened in this - we are. We are disconnecting with God - and thinking worldly thoughts instead. That leads to us willing like the world - choosing what the world wants - and living like the world. We do not will and do according to "His good pleasure." We think - will - choose - and do according to our good pleasure - the pleasure of the world - or we please the devil. The lack of power is on our part - God continues to have all power. We just choose to live outside of it.
But when we do hear His Word - know His will - think according to what He says - and then choose His way - first thinking it, then obeying and doing it - we tap into His power. He then gives us power to overcome sin - power to live a godly life - power to walk out what He desires.
Precious saints - God truly desires to work in us. He truly desires to reveal Himself - reveal His Word - and even reveal His power. But if all that He does meets resistance, apathy, or indifference . . . all will stop until we make that choice. We will go no further in our maturity - in our walk - and in our obedience - until there is a choice to agree with God and obey.
I wanted to take a one week break in the midst of this series of articles to ask a simple question. That question is this, "Are you fighting?" That may seem like an interesting question to ask - but it is very applicable to the battle of being a godly man. Let me quote a pamphlet with that same title, Are You Fighting? which was written by J. C. Ryle.
"There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians . . . but you never see any 'fight' about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. True Christianity is a 'fight.'"
As we've walked through Psalm 101 we've seen some pretty strong language used. One might even say that this language is the language of conflict - of battle - of war. My answer to this is simple - IT IS! Our fight is perennially one against the flesh, the world, and the devil. These three are our main enemies - and if we are not engaged in a fight with them - we are most likely enslaved by them. One thing the Bible promises to us is that these enemies will not be idle. They are constantly looking for ways to make inroads in our lives. They want to set up beach heads that will serve as launching pads for further incursions into our lives morally and spiritually. What I am trying to say is that if we are not having any "fight" in our religion - we are losing a battle of which we not even aware.
Raging all around us currently is a war currently for the souls of the men of our nation. The main front of that battle is for the menl of the church. But even that front has multiple avenues where we are being attacked. Let me mention a few (and please know that in no way is this seeking to be an exhaustive list).
#1 - Guys . . . are you fighting with your eyes? I know this is a battle that seems to rage everywhere you go. From the grocery store where they put immoral magazines right at the checkout lines (and no I am not referring to Playboy, but to the women's magazines and tabloids in saying this - anyone want to argue with me biblically on this point?) to the television, to movies, to the way that women dress in our society, the battle is raging. But guys, we need to fight with our eyes - by turning them away from lust. Jesus put it this way, "if you right eye makes you stumble - rip it out and throw it from you." That sounds like a fight to me? But are we fighting? May God grant us grace to battle the lust of the eyes daily. I know that it is tough - and that at times we grow weak - but we cannot give in to the immorality of the world - the lust of our own flesh - or the lure of the devil in this. We need to FIGHT!
#2 - Guys . . . are you fighting with your mind? This is closely related to the first - but it is important. What is filling your mind? The world will offer you a smorgesboard of things to fill your mind - and none of them will draw you closer to Christ - or encourage you to walk in His ways. Our flesh will rise up and fight getting into the Word - but do it anyway. With younger men this battle rages through the world of games - both on game consoles and on the internet. The amount of time that is wasted by our young men in this pursuits is monumental. Hours upon hours are spend filling our minds with worthless quests into an electronic world that provides escape from the real world. The frightening part of all this is that these escapes are from reality - and from the real issues of manhood that should be wrestled with at this age. To bring this up, I realize, is to possibly alienate myself from a whole younger generation. But unless someone says something - we are going to either delay an entire generation from becoming real men - or - lose them altogether. We need to fight for our minds.
#3 - Guys . . . are you fighting for your morals? Here is a third area where we are being destroyed by the world, devil , and the flesh. I am speaking about pornography and gratifying our flesh. Recently I went to a sight that helps men get free from these things - and saw that they have had over 320,000 clients come to their site for help. According to their reasoning - this represents about 1 in 10 of the men in the church who struggle with these sins. If that is accurate - we have a problem in our country. There is reason to believe that somewhere in the rage of 3 million men, IN THE CHURCH, have these problems. I am not saying this to make you feel condemned, but rather to call all of us to action. If we are not free - we need to be - as soon as possible. Once we get free - we need to continue to FIGHT - not just for ourselves - but for our brothers in Christ as well.
#4 - Guys . . . are you fighting for your integrity? This goes beyond the battle in our minds - to the battle for our daily actions in our jobs, our homes, our churches, and anywhere else we walk. This is the fight to take what we learn from the Word and make it a part of our lifestyles. Here is the reason why so much is falling apart in our society - a lack of integrity. Every scandal at its core happened because someone somewhere did not maintain their integrity. When you multiply that times over 350 million Americans - you are going to have serious problems. Are you willing to fight for integrity - even when your competitor does not? Are you and I willing to trust the Lord to prosper and keep us afloat - even if we do not cut corners and "cook the books" for our benefit? The worst crisis we face as a nation is not financial. Our worst problems are not healthcare, jobs, or security. Our key crisis is one of integrity. Without men of integrity our nation will not continue to stand. Will you be one of the first to embrace God's call to integrity - and fight for it even though many other men around you will not?
These are just four areas where the battle rages - or should be raging. What is sad is that many shun the fight. They just want a comfortable life - one without difficulties or the struggles it takes to "fight the good fight of faith" the Bible presents to us. But as long as we remain on a fallen earth - filled with fallen people - who do fallen things - and who promote fallen lifestyles - there is going to be a fight. So hear me brothers as I seek to encourage you today!
Brothers in Christ . . . we are called to be MEN OF GOD! We are called out of this present darkness into His glorious light to embrace the conflict that WILL begin the moment we are saved. We are not perfect - but we are in the process where God is perfecting us! We are not sinless - but oh how we are called to both hate and battle sin in our lives. We are called to put on the armor of God - daily putting each piece on so that we can stand - and after we have fought to the last ounce of strength which God provides - to keep on standing! We cannot afford to quit! We cannot afford to be lazy and undisciplined! We fight for our families! We fight for our children - esepecially our sons, who are watching and begging us to be men they can follow! We fight for the church - the bride of our Lord - the pillar of truth - and the manifestation of God's grace - and the place where the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ should shine forth the brightest!
But in this hour, my blessed brothers, we are fighting for our lives! The devil and his world system feel they are on the brink of victory. They flex their muscles through the media and government thinking that they will win the day. We face onslaught after onslaught - attack after attack - and battle after battle. They fight us personally in our minds - relationally in our homes and churches - and morally in our national discourse. But like those who have stood in what seemed like impossible battles - we stand. Like the 300 Spartans who stood alone against the invaders who landed on their shores - we stand against hordes of those who fight against our God and against His Word. But know this, brothers, we will stand. We will stand upon the Word of God that has faced countless attacks and yet stands firm as the revelation of God. We will stand upon the grace of God in the gospel that has won millions upon millions in every generation - under every form of government - in every trial - and under every type of oppression. Finally, we will stand with our Lord Jesus Christ - Who has vanquished sin, death, and hell by His cross. Who has stood strong against the attack of every false prophet, every false philosophy, every false religion, and every falsehood the devil has thrown at Him. We will stand in Him knowing that He has won the victory - not just at the end of the age - but He has won the victory in every generation. Now is not the time for us to faint. Now is the time for us to FIGHT!
When you are “out of season” spiritually, in one of those dry spells that come in life—how do you remain motivated in your relationship with God? What is it that should drive us in these times—so that we continue to live for the Lord and continue to share His Word with others? This is important for us to know, because far too often people live their lives according to their emotions and the feelings. Therefore, when they no longer have strong feelings moving within them, they have a bad tendency to thrown in the towel spiritually until their “feelings” return. That is not how God wants us to live. He wants us to live life by choices, not by feelings. He desires for us to make tough choices based upon what He Word teaches.
Paul, in speaking to Timothy about this says to him, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” The command here is to “preach the Word” - but the motivation comes earlier in this verse. Paul begins by giving Timothy this as a “solemn charge.” This two word phrase means to give a very serious command or directive. We continue “out of season” because we are doing God’s will. This is important for us to grasp. We are not living out of religious convenience—but out of a direct command from God Himself.
Christians sometimes think that what they do is done as the better option. But this is living, as I said earlier, out of religious convenience. We don’t follow the Lord because it is one of several options available to us. We live for Him because we are literally His. In 1 Corinthians 6:20 Paul tells the Corinthians, “You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your bodies.” This is not just one of many options for us. We are God’s possession and as such are to do what He says immediately when He says it. That IS our option! It is our ONLY option!
When you face those “out of season” times in life, remember that God has bought you with the price of the blood of His Son on the cross. In light of this we are to remember, regardless of our feelings, just Whose we are. Facing this truth we will be able to make choices in light of this and obey God—even when it feels like we are “out of season” and spiritually dry.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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