I want to be fit for myself to know,
I want to be able, as days go by,
Always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don't want to stand, with the setting sun,
And hate myself for the things I've done.
I don't want to keep on the closet shelf
A lot of secrets about myself,
And fool myself, as I come and go,
Into thinking that nobody else will know
The kind of a man I really am;
I don't want to dress up myself in sham.
I want to go out with my head erect,
I want to deserve all men's respect;
But here in the struggle for fame and pelf
I want to be able to like myself.
I don't want to look at myself and know
That I'm bluster and bluff and empty show.
I can never hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself, and so,
Whatever happens, I want to be
Self-respecting and conscience free. (author unknown)
A life of integrity, that’s what Paul wants for Timothy. To walk with a sense of purpose and rightness. A good conscience is part of it. In this scripture a good conscience is one of three ways to live with integrity, to have that purpose, rightness, confidence, goodness, joy, delight. The purpose of 1 Tim. is summarized in one phrase from today’s scripture, Paul’s charge to Timothy: Fight the good fight. The fight must be good, noble, right, true. The way you fight must be good, noble, right, true.
Choose your battle wisely. Have you ever fought a battle that just wasn’t worth it? I see it all the time… People get overheated, depressed, over minor issues…
“Choose your battles wisely, and wisely battle.” This is the charge in 1 Tim… Ultimately, the battle Paul tells us to choose is truth, the truth of the gospel, the necessity and wisdom of faith, true faith, not compromising, not watering down, but a belief in God of integrity and wisdom. Choose your battles wisely and wisely battle. Paul equips Timothy with his wisdom. As I go around Sumas, I meet people who are struggling with less than perfect conditions…let’s make this a banner message: Fight the good fight -- for that which is true, noble, good, worthwhile. Two days ago over in the back corner of the RV Park I had a discussion with a small group of people about how important it was to have a purpose, to have a reason. How many times have I heard Bill Kamphouse talk about how a guy needs to work. As humans we need truth. We need the truth of God. We need purpose. You need to have a conviction of truth and remain firm in it. May it be your life blood. It’s worth it. Remain strong. Keep on going. Fight the good fight. May Sumas come to be known as a place where faith in God is built. Where lives are restored. Where people gain strength and remain firm in their convictions with high standards and honest consistent behavior. Fight the good fight. May Jesus Christ be proclaimed!
Paul offers three ways for Timothy to live by the principle of fighting a good fight. Never forget God’s calling, a good conscience, want the best for your enemies
1. Be motivated by the memory of God's call.
Look at verse 18 "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18)
I can't help but believe that in a battle, every soldier wonders for a split second why he's there. Every once in awhile you'll hear a report on the news of a soldier writing home and somewhere in the letter he says something like, "I'm fighting this battle to keep you safe and free." It's in those moments of difficulty that he finds solace in the reason he's there.
Timothy's fight shouldn't come as a surprise to him, When God called him to this task there was apparently a prophecy given to him that revealed his task would be fighting against false teachers.
Maybe your calling did not come in the form of a prophecy, but make no mistake, everyone of you has a purpose. Can you say that you know you are doing what God wants you to do? There will be difficulties, and the strength to face the battle comes from knowing that this is what God has called you to. When you are in the midst of a struggle, or when God has called you to a task that is bigger than yourself; reflecting on prior words of God are sometimes the thing to making you strong enough to make it through. Fight the good fight by remembering God’s calling on your life: you were chosen for a purpose…
Some of you might tell me you don’t have a calling, you’ve never heard from God. Then begin there, and start listening. I’ll help you, or there are 75 wonderful people in this church that will help you, but you must allow yourself to be known. In next week’s message I’ll talk more about the need for strong Christian people in your life.
Fight the good fight like a soldier needing a reminder of the reason he’s fighting.
2. Keep a good conscience
This is how the good fight is fought: With faith and a good conscience. 1 Tim. 1:19a. Faith as the primary ingredient of salvation, the only reason I did not add it to the list is because the rest of this letter details the faith and defines the truth of the gospel. a good conscience is the result of living with the truth which is the basis of that faith.
What is a good conscience? We all know that when we go against our conscience, we experience feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, fear, doubt and insecurity. There is confusion regarding the nature of the conscience. Many work with the premise that there conscience is their feelings given to show us the difference between right and wrong: If it feels good then its right and if it doesn’t feel good then its wrong. WRONG.
A conscience “is given to us so that when we know what is right and what is wrong, it insists that we do the right and avoid the wrong.” (Ray Stedman) We must find out what is right, and then release our god-given conscience to tell us what is right and wrong based on that standard! We have a standard regardless of how we feel, then a good conscience, peace of mind, tells us we are staying true to that which we know is right, and a guilty conscience tells us we are out of sync with truth. This is why we need the Word of God. A church family helps tremendously. Godly friends. Wise people. A conscience is a good thing. Activate it. Find truth. Live by truth. And look to your conscience to help guide you, to fight the good fight… to live excellently.
Ray Stedman says, “The Christian life is these two things working constantly: to know what is right, and, by the power and grace of God, to resolve to do it. Fight the good fight with faith in God, and an active and healthy conscience keeping you on track doing that which you know is right.”
3. Want the best for your opponents
One of the biggest problems with living an excellent life, fighting the good fight, is other people that don’t want you to. I can’t explain it. The world does not like people that live by convictions. There are people who want you to make bad choices like they do in order to justify themselves/give themselves company.
In the case of Timothy, some have rejected the foundations of truth. We don’t know the whole story, but in effect these men had tasted truth and rejected it by a deliberate violation of their own conscience. Having known what God wanted they had adamantly demanded that they would not obey his prompting in their soul. READ 1 Timothy 1:19b-20. The goal for these two men is not punishment but to find a remedy. Paul's hope is that the lesson these men gain will be not to blaspheme. That is: Not to teach false doctrine. The redemption of the shipwrecked is possible; but difficult. Paul is clearly hopping that their misery will drive them to repentance and thus restoration.
If there are those who want to sidetrack you so that you will be as weak as they are, there comes a time when you need to let them go and sink by the results of their own choices. I believe that’s what Paul means when he says to hand them over to Satan. But he’s not giving up, for the last phrase: to be taught not to blaspheme.
There is so much I do not understand. As I go around Sumas, the only people I help at all are those who give me permission. And until people hit the bottom of their choices and want to climb back up to find freedom, nobody can do a thing. I am not giving up in the ultimate sense, it is more that I am powerless, so I let them go and pray that they will soon be transformed and be ready. If you have people in your life that are dragging you down, and you are too weak, let them go. Dig in your heels and declare that you are at the bottom, and now you are going to go forward in faith, forward in truth, and seek the Lord Jesus Christ. If you need to let some people go, as Timothy was instructed, let them go, but do it with a blessing that they will one day find truth.
Fight the good fight. It’s a wonderful phrase encompassing that need to remain strong. To be faithful. Deliberately and purposefully growing in Christ. When you are in the middle of the battle and tempted to go backwards in your faith, remember your calling of who God wants you to be!, use your conscience as a guide based on the standard of God’s truth, and let go of those who are trying to drag you down, releasing them with a blessing that someday they will make better choices and choose to live the fullness of life God intends for you. (I’m looking forward to 1 Timothy, you are invited to join us each week.)