want to look at some counsel that the apostle Paul gave to a young
minister. There are three letters in the New Testament that were
written to young ministers and they reveal a great deal to us about
life in the church, our conduct in the church, how we treat each
other in the church, and how the church is managed.
The first letter
in order in the New Testament was sent to a young minister. 1 and
2 Timothy and the book of Titus were written to young ministers.
Now, many other books in the New Testament were written to churches,
sometimes to a single church, such as 1 and 2 Corinthians, but the
book of Galatians was written to a whole group of churches in a
large territory. There were also letters, such as Romans, which
was written to Christians in a certain geographical area, such as
teach and exhort. If anyone teaches some other doctrine and does
not hold to sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the teaching which
is according to piety [or godliness].” 1 Timothy 6:2. Notice, he
instructs Timothy to teach certain things, and he says if someone
comes along teaching some different doctrine, which is not according
to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and it is not according to
piety or godliness—is there a teaching that is not according to
piety or godliness? Oh yes there is such a teaching, and the apostles
spent quite a bit of time talking about this fact. For instance,
the apostle Peter talks about this very same thing. He says, “There
were false prophets among the people as also there shall be among
you, false teachers which will secretly bring in destructive heresies,
even denying the Sovereign who bought them will bring upon themselves
swift destruction. And many will follow after them in licentiousness
[that is low morals] through which the way of truth will be evilly
spoken of. And with covetous well fabricated words they will buy
and sell you.” 2 Peter 2:1–3. Paul is talking about the very same
thing as Timothy, and he has some very strong things to say. He
says that this person who comes in teaching a different doctrine
which is not according to piety or godliness, he says this person
who comes in teaching a doctrine that is not according to piety,
“he is proud, knowing nothing, but he has a morbid craving for discussion
and disputes out of which will develop envy, strife, evil speech,
evil conjectures. Constant irritation which spoils men’s minds
and deprives of the truth, supposing that godliness is a means of
gain.” 1 Timothy 6:4–6.
Both Paul and
Peter said they will buy and sell you. He said these false teachers
will make merchandise of you. Paul talked to the elders of the
Ephesian church in Acts 20. Over and over the apostles were warning
about this development that was going to come, and Paul is warning
Timothy here as though it is going to come, and Paul is warning
Timothy here as though it is going to come in his lifetime. He
says, Watch out for this. He continues, “For we brought nothing
into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. But
having food and clothing, with these be content. But those who
wish to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and to many unwise
and ruinous lusts, which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, which some
having aspired after were seduced from the faith and pierced themselves
through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things
and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience; gentleness
[sometimes translated meekness].
Paul says to
Timothy, this is what is going to happen. There will be people
coming into the church who are going to be preaching a different
doctrine; their teaching is going to be that godliness will enable
you to get rich. Have you noticed that in the news stands today?
Are there any books being written by people who call themselves
Christians that say if you are a Christian you are going to get
rich, because that is God’s will for all of the Christians? The
Bible said that was going to happen, and it is still happening.
People who believe that if you are godly then you will automatically
be rich. Paul says, actually, godliness is a means of getting great
gain. Godliness really will make you rich, but not necessarily
right here, right now, because you, he says, you have not brought
anything into the world and you are not going to take anything out,
so the great gain, the great wealth that godliness will bring to
you is not something that is in this world. It is something that
is out of this world.
Maybe you have
had discussions with friends about your retirement. In our day
and time people do a lot of discussing about this topic, because
America is getting old. The baby boomers are going to retire in
a few years so there is a lot of talk in the media about retirement
and whether your retirement funds are going to hold up and whether
you should have it in stocks or bonds or something else. I want
a retirement that is out of this world. No matter how much money
you might be able to get set aside for retirement, you cannot purchase
youth; you cannot get enough money to acquire it, but Paul says
godliness with contentment is a great means of gain, but the gain
is not in this world. That is what confuses people. They think
that the gain is in this world. It is their religion. It is fascinating
to me that the very thing the apostle specifies here has become
very popular with the evangelical Christian world today.
So Paul said
to Timothy, be careful that you do not get confused and think that
your treasure is down here, because you could make shipwreck of
faith. He talks about that, too. He continues, “You pursue righteousness,
piety, faith, love, steadfast endurance, gentleness.” Verse 11.
He said pursue these things! Are you pursuing those things? Paul
is not talking to someone who has just been studying the Bible,
thinking about becoming a member of the church. This person is
not only a member of the church, he is a minister; he is preaching
the gospel to other people, he is the pastor of churches; he is
doing evangelism. If we are faithful, one of these days we will
see Timothy. He will have a border of red around his garment because
he was a martyr—as were the great majority in the New Testament.
Paul makes this statement to a minister; “Fight the good fight of
faith. Lay hold of eternal life unto which you have been called
and you have confessed the good confession before many witnesses.”
Verse 12. A minister? Yes, advice for a minister. Some people
believe that as soon as you are baptized, or as soon as you profess
faith, you are saved. But this does not sound like that. This
is a fascinating text when you realize it was written to a minister.
Why did Paul not tell Timothy, You are saved, do not worry about
anything. That is not what he told him. Friends, whether you are
a minister, a teacher, whatever your station in life; mother, father,
wife, husband, child, elderly person, this is a biblical command
to you. Paul says, “Fight the good fight of faith!”
Let us think
that text through. If he says fight the good fight of faith, lay
hold of eternal life, is it implied that if you and I do not fight
the good fight of faith that we will not have eternal life? It
is definitely implied. There are several verses of Scripture which
show what a dominant teaching this is in the New Testament. We
will look at those and then we will come back and look at what the
fight of faith involves and how you can be sure to win.
Jesus is speaking,
“Enter in through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and
spacious the way that leads to destruction and many there are which
enter through it, because narrow is the gate and restricted is the
way that leads to life and few there are who find it.” Matthew
There is another
verse, in stronger language. Again, Jesus is speaking, “Struggle
to enter in through the narrow gate, for many I tell you, will seek
to enter and they will not be able.” Luke 13:24. In Hebrews 12
Paul says that you are surrounded with this great cloud of witnesses,
people who have fought the good fight. The witnesses are listed
in Hebrews 11, they are the people who have fought the good fight—the
fight of faith. He says, you are surrounded with all of these
witnesses, so he says, “Lay aside every weight and the easily entangling
sin and with patience run the race that is set before you, looking
unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy
that was set before Him, enduring the cross, despising the shame,
is set down at the right hand of God. For you have not yet resisted
unto blood, striving against sin.” Hebrews 12:1–4. When you resist
onto blood, that is a fight! Did Jesus resist unto blood? Oh yes,
He did. In Luke 22 you can read the story how that in the Garden
of Gethsemane He was fighting with the devil and all of his angels,
and in the fight, it says, His sweat, His perspiration was like
great clots of blood dropping to the ground. He resisted unto blood!
Paul talks about
this to the Ephesian Church also. He talks about putting on all
of the armor of God so that you will be able to stand against the
craftiness and the trickery of the devil, because our warfare is
not with blood and flesh, but with rulers, with the authorities,
with the world rulers of the darkness and the spiritual wickednesses
in the heavenly places. Our battle, this fight of faith, is not
against flesh and blood—not against other human beings. That is
not where it is. Sometimes the devil tries to trick people up about
that. They think they are to battle with other human beings. Our
battle, he says, is with the world rulers of the darkness of this
age; with the spiritually wicked powers in the heavenly places.
James talks about this very same warfare. This idea is found throughout
the entire New Testament. He says, “Adulterers and adulteresses!
Do you not know that the friendship with this world is enmity toward
God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world sets
himself as an enemy of God. Or do you know that in vain the Scripture
says the spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? But He gives greater
grace, wherefore He says: ‘God resists the haughty, but He gives
grace to the humble.’ Therefore, subject yourselves to God, resist
the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will
draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your
hearts, double-minded.” James 4:4–8. Notice, he is talking about
this same warfare, and he says, if you get on the wrong side, which
is a serious thing to do in a war, God has a problem with you.
People who call themselves Christians want to be on the other side
of the battle, and he says, do you not know if you want to be a
friend of this world, you are an enemy of God?
Who is the enemy?
Remember, the enemy is not other people. We have already seen some
indication of who our enemies are, but we will look at two or three
more scriptures and further identify these enemies.
Here is a wonderful
promise to those who are engaged in the good fight of faith; “Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or
oppression [narrow circumstances—a word that means you have been
pressed into a corner and you are in trouble.] or persecution, or
famine, or lack of clothing, or peril, or sword? Just as it is
written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day; we are accounted
as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all of these things we are
more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded
that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present
nor things about to be, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any
other creation, is able to separate us from the love of God which
is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:36–39. There is a battle
going on here, and God’s children are accounted as sheep for the
slaughter. It looks like, in this world, we are losing, but we
To the world
it looked like Jesus lost when He was on the cross, but actually,
it was the biggest victory of all time. I say this for your encouragement.
Whatever it is that you are battling with, whatever trial is in
your life, even though it may be something over which you think
you may never get the victory—the very thing that appears to be
your worst battle, your worst stumbling block, your greatest weakness,
your greatest sorrow, your greatest affliction, your greatest loneliness,
your greatest defeat—if you will surrender yourself to Christ, out
of that you will have the greatest victory just as did Jesus. The
Bible tells us that God always causes us to triumph! Do you realize
that we serve a General who never loses a battle? Has Jesus ever
lost a battle? No, He has not! We may lose battles when we leave
Him, because we are fighting spiritual agencies that are stronger
than we are, and they will trick us. We read about the trickery
and craftiness of the devil. The devil’s greatest victories are
not won by force of arms; they are won by trickery and deceit.
about this. He says, “Be sober [just in case you wonder, this means
just what it says. Let me state it so simply that you cannot misunderstand:
If you are drinking alcoholic beverages, you are not sober. Keep
that in mind any time you read this verse, it means exactly what
it says—do not be drunk. The New Testament makes this very clear.]
Be watchful, your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion is walking
about seeking whom to devour. Whom, resist, steadfast in the faith,
knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren
in the world. But the God of all grace, who called you unto His
eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, He
perfects, will strengthen and set you immovable like a foundation.”
1 Peter 5:8–10. There is a battle going on, and he says, Resist!
who has been begotten out of God conquerors the world and this is
the victory that conquerors the world—our faith. Who is the one
conquering the world except the one believing that Jesus is the
Son of God.” 1 John 5:4, 5.
the New Testament it talks about this spiritual battle, and through
these Scriptures we have read who the enemy is. So the question
I want to ask you is, Who is the enemy?
- We have an
enemy. We read it in 1 Peter 5, James 4, and the devil is the
enemy. The word Satan comes from the Hebrew word saton,
which means adversary. He is your adversary. Peter says, in
James 4, resist! Are you resisting? The devil is busy 24 hours
a day bringing temptations to God’s people. He brings temptations
to people in the world, too, but he is not concentrating as much
on them because he already has control of them. They have already
fallen for it. So the devil concentrates on those who have decided
they want to follow the Lord—that is you! What temptations does
he bring your way? This is your second enemy.
- He uses the
world. What is in the world by which the devil tries to get God’s
people? 1 John 2:15–17 tells you what the devil uses—it is the
craving of the flesh. The sinful nature—the craving of the eye.
- The ostentations,
or the pride, of life. The first thing he usually uses is the
craving of fleshly desire—appetite or passion, something related
to that. If he cannot get you that way, then he comes to you
with the craving of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Your first enemy
is the devil; your second enemy is the world. But they are not
really your worst enemies. Your worst enemy is the third enemy—our
worst enemy is us. My worst enemy is me; your worst enemy is you.
Why? Because, as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, every descendent
of Adam and Eve has what we call a fallen nature, a sinful nature.
We have the root of sin—the natural selfishness in the human heart.
From the pen
of Inspiration, we read this statement; “We have no enemy without
that we need to fear. [That is encouraging, is it not? You have
no enemy without whom you need to fear. Then what do we need to
fear?] Our great conflict is with unconsecrated self.” Review
and Herald, March 5, 1908.
What is the
great conflict in our good fight of faith? Who are we really fighting?
We are fighting our natural, sinful, fallen nature and we must win
over it. Do not think it impossible! If it were impossible we
could not be saved. We have to win the fight, but the good news
is that it is possible! It is the devil telling you that you cannot
do it, but Jesus tells you that you can. Who do you choose to believe?
wrote, “Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible,
than the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on the
merits of the Saviour. God would send every angel in heaven to
the aid of such a one rather than allow him to be overcome.” Testimonies,
vol. 7, 17.
It is the devil
who is telling you that you cannot overcome your sinful nature,
because he wants you to give up. He knows if you give up, you are
lost. But if you will not give up, even if you have fallen 1,000
times, you must keep crying to the Lord and asking Him for victory
and help—and if you will not give up, God will not give up and you
are going to win.
Who is the enemy?
Yes, the devil is our enemy; the world is our enemy, but we need
to really be concerned about our fallen, sinful human nature. That
is our most dangerous enemy.
wrote the following statement about ministers: “His enemies may
be those of his own household, his wife and children, or they may
be his own hereditary and cultivated tendencies which continually
seek for the mastery. Man is human and defective in character and
must battle for the victory. Everyone who begins aright must begin
at his own heart. Let the fervent prayer go forth from unfeigned
lips, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ and it will bring the
response, ‘A new heart also will I give you.’ In Psalm 51, David
realized he was lost and he cried unto God, ‘Create in me a clean
heart.’ Please remake me inside because I am ruined. Through the
prophet Ezekiel the Lord said, ‘I will give you a new heart.’
You do not have
to worry about what is on the outside; you do not need to worry
about the devil or the world—Christ has already overcome both the
devil and the world; but what you and I need to worry about is what
is inside our heart. Do we have the victory over our sinful propensities;
our sinful inclinations; our fallen sinful nature, do we have the
victory of that? That is what the fight of faith is all about.
That is who the real enemy is.
Is there a war
going on in your life? Did we not read in the New Testament that
the Christian life is a warfare? Yes, we did. If that is the case,
then why is it that many Christians today appear to not be having
any warfare? Have they already arrived? What is the matter with
the rest of us? The reason that there are some Christians who are
not having a warfare in their life is because they have laid down
their weapons and the devil is winning. We are going to be in a
warfare until Jesus comes back again. When He comes back again,
the warfare will be over and you will not have to fight any more.
But do not lay down your weapons before the war is over!
life is a warfare. The apostle Paul speaks of wrestling against
principalities and powers as he fought the good fight of faith.
Again he declares ye have not resisted unto blood striving against
sin. Ah no! Today sin is cherished and excused. The sharp sword
of the Spirit, the Word of God, does not cut to the soul. Has religion
changed? Has Satan’s enmity to God abated? A religious life once
presented difficulties and demanded self denial. All is made very
easy now. And why is this? The professed people of God have compromised
with the powers of darkness.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 222.
Is there a war
going on in your life? Let me tell you, if there is not a war going
on in your life, you better go to your closet and pray and ask the
Lord for the armor and the weapons, and get in the fight! Because
if there is not a war going on in your life, the devil is winning!
The devil has declared war against the government of God and against
everyone who wants to be part of the government of God, and he will
not allow you to walk into the kingdom of heaven without a fight.
Remember where the fight is—the fight is with the carnal, sinful
propensities; the carnal, sinful nature. We must fight; we must
overcome, or we will lose everything.
us that the victory, eternal life, is promised only to the one who
I want you to
know that God has provided for you all of the help that you need.
If you are the weakest, most sinful person, you can win if you do
not give up! God has made it possible. Not one person will be
able to accuse the Lord of not having received enough strength to
“When our souls
are filled with self-esteem and pride we cannot realize the need
of divine power, but when we are aware of our own insufficiency,
our hearts cry out, ‘Other refuge have I none,’ and we hang our
helpless souls upon Him who is mighty to save.” Signs of the
Times, February 10, 1888. Christ did not wish His disciples
to engage in the warfare in their own strength, thinking that they
could break down every opposing influence, for then they would be
taken unawares by the enemy. God has provided for you and for me
all of the help that we need.”
ascended to the Father He did not leave His followers without help.
The Holy Spirit, as His representative and the heavenly angels as
ministering spirits are sent forth to aid those who, against great
odds, are fighting the good fight of faith. Ever remember that
Jesus is your helper. No one understands so well as He your peculiarities
of character. [Do we all have peculiarities of character? Yes we
do. We are different. Not every one of us has exactly the same
trials, different ones have different trials depending upon our
background, temperament, and how we have lived our life. But Jesus
knows exactly what your peculiarities of character are; He knows
exactly what kind of help you need. Is that good news? Yes it
is.] He is watching over you and if you are willing to be guided
by Him, He will throw around you influences for good that will enable
you to accomplish all His will for you.” Sons and Daughters
of God, 35.
Is that not
wonderful news? If you are willing to be guided by Him, He will
surround you with heavenly influences (angels) that will enable
you to fulfill His will for you. It is God’s purpose for you to
escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. (See 2
Peter 1:3, 4.)
“Will we reject
the words and sayings of men and look to God through the One Mediator
for grace, for strength and power. We will never look in vain.
Angels are waiting as messengers to minister unto those who shall
be heirs of salvation. They are close by, every one who needs their
help while fighting the good fight of faith.” Manuscript Releases,
vol. 9, 277.
Are you in the
battle, or are you just a spectator? Some people want a spectator
religion; they come to church; they visit this church or that church;
they want to see if the Christian religion works; so they watch
to see if the Pastor is Christ-like and if the elders are Christ-like.
If they have Christian relatives they are watching with eagle eyes—does
this Christian religion actually change this person’s life or do
they still lose their temper, of whatever their besetment is.
That is all right, as Christians it should not matter to us whether
anyone is looking at us in our home or anywhere else, because the
whole heavenly universe is watching us, so what is the difference
if someone in this world looks at us?
But if you are
looking at someone, you are just a spectator watching someone else
fight the fight. You cannot be saved just by watching someone else
to see if they are going to be victorious. If they keep asking
the Lord they will be victorious on every point, but you cannot
go to heaven just watching someone else fight the fight. There
is a lot of spectator religion today. People want to find out if
it is true, so they are looking at Christians to see if it is true
or not. It is up to us to demonstrate that it is true, and the
Lord can give you the victory over whatever your besetting sin is.
You must get in the fight yourself! Would it not be terrible to
watch someone else fight the fight of faith, be saved, and be taken
to heaven, and you not make it? A lot of people are doing that!
They are watching someone else with eagle eyes. Once in awhile
the Lord gives us a glimpse of just how close people are watching
us—because we do not have any idea. We must be sure that we do
not do or say anything that would cast a bad reflection on what
we teach or believe.
Are you going
to fight the good fight? Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight
and lay hold of eternal life.” Do not let the devil tell you it
is impossible, it is possible. It is more than possible. It is
absolutely certain if you put your trust in Jesus and commit your
life to Him. God has promised that if you are willing to get in
the fight, He will give you the victory. Victory does not always
come the first hour or the first day—especially if you are battling
with a habit that has been entrenched by years of practice. Have
you been impatient 25,000 times? Do not expect to overcome that
habit in a week; it took you longer than that to establish it.
Sometimes it takes a long, hard battle, but if you dedicate yourself
to the Lord, commit yourself to Him, HE IS going to give you the
victory, but I cannot tell you the exact timing.
not just watch someone else fight the fight—join the fight yourself,
and one of these days the Lord will say, The fight is over. You
are a good and faithful servant, come with Me.
are translated from the original Greek text by Pastor Grosboll.)