St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Keep Fighting The Good Fight

Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:6-16

Text: But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time — God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

On Jun e4, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave one of his most famous speeches before Parliament. A bit of background will help us understand why this speech was so important. The German forces were advancing throughout Europe. The Allied forces were being overrun. The British forces had to be evacuated from Dunkirk. It looked as through there would be no stopping the German forces. The fear was that the Germans would soon invade England. This is the background on which Winston Churchill uttered these famous words, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” He encouraged the English people to never stop the fight. You and I are also under constant attack. Paul encouraged Timothy, and we receive this encouragement, as well, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT. We will look at two areas of our fighting 1. Against Greed and 2. Against A Weak Confession.

We begin our study of this text by looking at one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. You will hear people say that money is the root of all evil. That is not the case, at all. As a matter of fact all of our wealth and all of our possessions come to us from our loving God. There are many wealthy believers in the Bible such as Abraham, David, and Joseph of Arimathea. Money cannot be evil, because it comes from God. Look closer at what verse 10 actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It is not money itself that is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of money. We might use the word “greed.” This is a common temptation for all of us. We are not content with what we have, so we do everything we can to accumulate more. We find ourselves cheating others out of things. We are all too happy when the cashier forgets to ring up one of our items. We try to pacify our consciences by thinking that it wasn’t a big ticket item. We say let the buyer beware. However, our greed has caused us to sin.

What’s so wrong with a little greed? Paul continues in verse 10, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” There are so many examples of this in the Bible. For example, we have the rich young man, who came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to be saved. The rich young man thought that he had fulfilled all of God’s commandments, but was still lacking something. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) At this, we are told that the man went away sad, because he had great wealth. He wanted to follow God, but not at the expense of his wealth. We think of Judas. He was one of the twelve disciples. Yet, we read in John 12:6, “He was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Later, his greed led him to betray Jesus into the hands of his enemies for thirty pieces of silver. He had the good start, but his greed caused him to eventually lose his faith. As you can see, greed can cause us to lose our salvation, because it has us put things in the place that God demands for himself. We read in verse 9, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” It is clear that greed is a very dangerous temptation.

The opposite of being greedy is to be content. Paul tells us, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (Verse 8) We have every reason to be content, for we God has certainly blessed in these areas. Do we have food enough? I don’t believe that any of us is starving. Our cupboards and refrigerators are full. Do we have clothing enough? How many of us have clothing that we don’t wear, because we have other things that we would rather wear? We have shelter over our heads. We don’t have to wonder if we will have enough, because God has promised that he will take care of us. In speaking of the basic necessities of life, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:32)  Rather than being greedy, we are to be content with what God has given us. Everything we have comes from him. Besides, think of how happy your life would be, if you were content with what God has given you. It would take out so much stress that we put ourselves under. No wonder, Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (Verse 6)

If we are not pursing wealth, we should we be pursuing? Paul gives us a list in verse 11, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” “Righteousness” in this case is not being in a right relationship with God. That has already been accomplished for us through the work of Jesus Christ. Rather, this is the Christian life that we live in thankful response for all that God has done for us. We pursue faith as we are in contact with God through his Word and the sacraments. We pursue love as we reflect the love that God has shown to us by loving others, even when the world would say they do not deserve our love. We pursue endurance as we, with God’s help, weather the adversities that come into our lives. Each and every one of these virtues will give us a far greater rate of return than any greedy pursuits that we might pursue. With God on our side, we are encouraged to keep fighting the good fight of faith against greed.

Another area of life where we need the encouragement to keep us the good fight is in regard to our weak confessions of faith. Paul reminds Timothy of the time “when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (Verse 12) This occurred when Timothy was brought to faith and was baptized. It was a common practice at that time to confess your faith in front of the congregation when you were baptized. Timothy had made a good confession of his faith at that time. It was loud and clear.

Why would Paul call to Timothy’s attention that good confession? Remember that Timothy was a pastor in a congregation that was dealing with false teachers who had arrived in their midst. It would have been very easy for Timothy to keep quiet and not stir things up. He could have had an easy ministry. Everyone would have liked him. However, that is not what God wanted him to do. God had called him to clearly testify to the truth of his Word, regardless of what the others thought or said about Timothy.

Most of us, also, have made a good confession in front of others. This happened when we were confirmed. We stood in front of the congregation and said that we would be faithful to the teachings we had learned from the Bible for the rest of our lives. We would not let anything, not even death, take this confession away from us. Yet, how often have we been tempted to give a very weak confession of our faiths before others? Our lives are at odds with what God’s Word says. When our faith is put on the spot, how do we respond? Do we stand up and say this is what God’s Word says? Do we, at times, hope that no one will ask us what we think about something, because we don’t want them to think less of us or make fun of us or not like us? It is such a great temptation to modify our confession to suit the tastes of the listener and make life easier for ourselves. Few things make the devil happier than when Christians keep quiet.

In contrast to the weak confessions that we make, Paul brings to mind another confession of faith. He speaks of “Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession.” (Verse 13) When Jesus was being questioned by Pontius Pilate, Jesus did not hold back, even though he knew that what he was saying would lead him to death on the cross. Jesus had nothing to gain for himself by his confession. Yet, he made that good confession for the sake of the sinners he came to save. This was part of the perfect life that Jesus lived in our place. Where our confessions have been weak and greed has overtaken us, Jesus gave clear testimony and was content with what his Father had given him. That confession before Pilate did lead him to his cross, where he suffered and died to pay for all of our sins. Because of his resurrection we are sure that our sins have been paid for and, as a result, we have something to live for. We have a new purpose in life and that is to serve our God in thankfulness for all that he has done for us. Even though we face so many temptations to make a weak confession of our faith and to be greedy, we are encouraged to keep up the good fight of faith.

How long do we have to keep on fighting? Paul writes in verse 14, “Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, it is a lifelong battle that we are in. Whether that battle comes to an end when Jesus comes back in glory or our eyes close in death, we keep on fighting. No, the battle will not be easy. It will seem, at times, as though we are completely surrounded and without any hope. Yet, we do not have to fight this fight all alone. We have Jesus there beside us. We receive the weapons we need for the fight from God. For example, in Ephesians 6:17, we hear of “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” When we are involved with hearing and learning God’s Word, we receive the weapons that we need to fight against all of the devil’s temptations, including greed and making a weak confession of our faith. There is no doubt about it. The fighting will be fierce and long.

We might ask ourselves if all of this fighting is worth it. Paul sets the goal before our eyes when he says, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called .” (Verse 12) That is what is waiting for us, when all of the fighting comes to an end. There we will have joy and peace beyond our comprehension. This is ours because of what Jesus has done for us. We fight the fight of faith to thank him for all that he has done for us. How wonderful it will be on that day, when we hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

When Winston Churchill made that speech before Parliament, it was before the United States entered into World War Two. The war would last another five years. During that time, the British people were constantly bombed by the Germans. There is no doubt there were some of the people who wanted to give up. The fighting was fierce and long. Yet, when they began to feel that way, they could recall those defiant words by Winston Churchill. It gave them hope during the fight. You and I are also involved with a fierce and long fight. There may be times when we are tempted to give up. May the words of our loving God encourage you. They are words that tell you of his amazing love for you in sending his Son to be your Savior. They are words that tell you he will never leave you or forsake you. We have his assurance that we will win. It says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Until that time, we are encouraged to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Hymn 551(Christian Worship) puts it so beautifully. It says in verses 5&6, “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, Steals on the ear the distant triumph song, And hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia! The golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon, to faithful warriors comes their rest. Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!” Amen.