Trained For War
// ILLUSTRATION //
In Alice In Wonderland, Alice meets the Cheshire (Pronounced: Chessher) Cat.
And she asks the cat, “Which way ought I go?”
And the cat replied, “Well, that depends on where you want to get to.”
Alice said, “Well, it really doesn’t matter.”
And the cat quickly said, “Then, it really doesn’t matter which way you go.”
// INTRODUCTION //
I read a quote that said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will get you there.”
Unfortunately, too many us live our whole Christians lives like this.
We go through life with no real aim, no real goal, no real objective, no real purpose. We just exist.
Imagine if you tried to get to work like that. Just get in your car, and drive around with no idea of where it is, and hope that you stumble across your company’s building. That’s ridiculous.
If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to know where we are going.
Our conference theme is “Trained for War”.
When it comes to war, one of the most important things we must consider is our objective. You don’t deploy soldiers without an objective. What is our goal? What is the purpose of this war? What are we trying to accomplish? What is the end game? How do we know we won? What is our objective?
// WE’RE IN A WAR //
We’re in a war. Not a physical war, but a spiritual war – for our soul.
And if you put your faith in Jesus, you’re going to have to fight – our flesh, the world, the enemy.
- You’re going to have to fight to keep believing.
- You’re going to have to fight to overcome temptation.
- You’re going to have to fight to stay married.
- You’re going to have to fight to live holy.
This is why we must be TRAINED FOR WAR.
We’re involved in a spiritual war, and it involves every single one of us in this room. We are in wartime, not peacetime.
It might look slightly different in each of our lives, but there are things going on in every single one of our lives in this room.
There are things going on that are attacking our faith.
- Some of us are battling for our marriage.
- Some of us are battling for purity in our minds and our lives.
- Some of us are battling against lustful
- Some of us are battling against worry, doubt, and depression.
- Some of us are battling against materialism that is rampant across our culture.
- Some of us are battling against an addiction.
You might think, “Well, I’m not even a Christian. This doesn’t apply to me.” Absolutely, it applies to you. There is a spiritual battle raging for your soul at this moment.
We must win this war.
If we lose, we’re not just losing a championship. We’re not just losing a gold medal. If we lose this war, we lose everything, even our own soul, and we’ll be tormented in hell forever.
There is a God over this world who desires every single person in this room to be saved. And there is an enemy in this world who desires every single person in this room to burn in hell.
If we’re going to win this war, we need to know what our objective is.
We need to know what we are trying to accomplish.
// SCRIPTURE //
In our theme scripture for this conference:
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare
1 Timothy 1:18
Later in that letter, Paul tells Timothy:
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12
If we want to know what it looks like to win this war…
- If we want to know what our objective
- If we want to know what we are trying to accomplish.
- If we want to know how to finish well.
If we want to know what we need to be doing to ensure victory in our lives, one of the best things we can do is look at someone who finished well. One of the best things we can do is look at someone who has endured this war, and came out on the other side victorious.
Tonight, we will consider Paul. And more specifically, we will look at some of his last words in 2 Timothy.
Paul has some very specific things to say about what it looks like to finish well, and what our objectives should be.
At the time Paul was writing this letter, he was at the end of his days, locked up in a Roman prison, waiting to be executed.
No money, no prestige, no comfort, only his memories, only his reflections.
He would not start another church. He would not write another letter.
He was facing the inevitable. Soon and very soon, he would be marched off by Roman soldiers, and have his head cut off.
All alone, he writes his last words.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7
// FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT //
The Christian life is a struggle against sin and evil – in ourselves and in the world.
Paul knew that his death was near, but he had no regrets. He fought the good fight. He fought to live holy. He fought to remain faithful to Jesus. He fought to push the Kingdom of God forward.
Even when people attacked him, even when people abandoned him, even when life was tough, even when faced with death, even when he was uncomfortable, he fought the good fight.
Our first objective in this war is to fight.
- When our flesh wants to disobey God, we must fight to be obedient.
- When the enemy fills our minds with lies, we must fight to trust
Fighting means doing whatever it takes to obey God, to overcome sin, to not allow evil to take root in us, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world.
So much of our fighting could be done with simply praying, reading the Word, and submitting our wills to God.
Pray in faith, in humility, pray consistently, pray like God hears, pray like God cares, pray like God knows. And in prayer, God will give you peace, joy, power, strength, and a right mind and perspective.
For those of us that don’t read the Word every day, we need to change that. It is important for us to make time to digest the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is what is going to equip us know who God is, and what God desires. God’s Word is what is going to transform and renew our minds.
Notice, that Paul never mentions winning all his fights. He says he has fought the good fight, but he never says that he never lost a battle. Can I tell you something? Sometimes we lose battles. Sometimes, we are weak and we give in.
But that doesn’t mean we lost the war. We don’t lose the war if we lose a battle. We only lose the war if we stop fighting. So, if you’re not fighting, if you’re not putting up a fight to live for Jesus, you need to join the fight. You cannot win the fight by standing on the side lines. You must enter in and join the fight.
There is a tendency for us to get comfortable and stop fighting.
When we obtain victory, when we achieve success, when things are going good for us –
- We have a tendency to ease-up.
- We have a tendency to let our guard down.
- We have a tendency to get comfortable.
For some of us, before we got married, when we were still dating:
- We were exercising.
- We were eating right.
- We did our best to look good.
- We did our best to smell good.
Then we got married, and all that stopped.
We won. We got comfortable.
In the early stages of our relationship, we put our best foot forward.
- We are opening every door (car door).
- Hand writing special letters just because.
- Sending things to their job (gifts).
- Sending nice texts randomly throughout the day.
- Just lavishing love on them.
Then we get married, and we get comfortable in our victory, and all that stops.
We stop fighting for our relationship, because we think that the war is over, we won.
We can’t settle for past victories, we can’t get comfortable with our past successes, we must keep on fighting.
The tendency for us is that once we experience a little victory in our lives, we get comfortable. And when we get comfortable, we let our guard down. And when we let our guard down, we become vulnerable to sin and temptation.
We’ll have a good day in our marriage, no arguing, no fights, no talk of divorce, no one got kicked out of the house, and then we rejoice in that victory, and we get comfortable, we let our guard down, and then the next day, we blow it again.
Or, we come to the altar, we cry, we pray, people lay hands on us, we feel the presence, we feel freedom, we feel delivered, only to go back out and blow it a few days later.
Why? We stopped fighting.
We thought that our victory meant no more fighting.
You see, when we’re fighting this spiritual war, the reward for winning a fight is not peace. Victory doesn’t mean no more fighting. We must not only fight to obtain the victory, we must fight to hold on to it.
I heard a pastor put it this way, “the reward for winning a fight is another fight, on a greater level.” That’s a principle of spiritual growth.
Victories are good, and necessary. But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. So we need to keep fighting.
This is why we fail so often, especially in our marriages, because we fight to get what we want, and then we stop. We need to fight to keep what we got.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. We need to keep fighting.
The same thing happens to us when it comes to sin.
We’ll be praying for God to help us overcome some sin in our lives, and we’ll even be on knees crying and repenting. And God will deliver us from an addiction, He’ll help us overcome some serious sin in our lives. And so what do we do? Often times, we stop praying about that. We think, God delivered me, I’m good. That is partially true. But what we’re doing in that moment, is letting our guard down.
So many of us fall back into the same sin, the same circle, over and over. We’ll experience a moment of victory, but then we’ll end up right back where we were. Why? Often times, it is because once we tasted victory, we let our guard down.
// FINISH THE RACE //
Paul is telling Timothy that he had put every effort into the work of proclaiming to all the gospel of salvation. He had completed the course set before him; he had left nothing undone. He was ready to cross the finish line into heaven.
Paul is saying that he had done accomplished all that the Lord had for his life.
Our first objective in this war is to fight. And our second objective is to finish the race.
God has a plan for your life. God has a purpose and a destiny for your life. You have a role to play in God’s plan of salvation for this world. He wants to use you to push the Kingdom of God forward.
You have a part to play in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus across the world. You have a part to play in making disciples of all nations.
Not to mention, you have been entrusted with personality traits, skills, natural talents and abilities, money, resources, and opportunities, to use for the glory of God.
Starting well is relatively easy. Finishing well is a different matter.
Starting a new diet or exercise program is kind of fun, but hanging in over the long haul is the real test.
Getting married is exciting and relatively easy. Staying married through the struggles, adjustments, and trials is not always an easy matter.
The same is true of the Christian life. Becoming a Christian is relatively easy: confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, repent of your sins, and believe God raised Jesus from the dead. You cannot work for salvation nor do anything to qualify for it. God gives it freely to all that recognize their need and trust in Christ alone.
But then comes the hard part—hanging in there as a Christian in a world that is hostile towards God and His people. The world constantly dangles in front of us all that it has to offer in opposition to the things of God. From within, the flesh entices us to forsake Christ and gratify our sinful desires. The enemy hits us with temptation after temptation. The real test of our faith is, will we endure?
God has not called us just to start this race. God has called us to finish this race.
That means we need to do whatever it takes to keep moving forward.
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
Whatever would hold us back from making it to the finish line, we must cast it aside, whether it is:
- A family member.
- A friend.
- A hobby.
- A job.
- A sin.
We need to have a sense of urgency and purpose that drives us to do all that God has called us to do. We don’t have time to take detours. We don’t have time to take a break. We need to make it to the finish line.
God has a plan for our lives, and we need to pursue it.
What matters most is not how we start the race.
What matters most is how we finish the race.
// KEEP THE FAITH //
When Paul says that he has kept the faith, he could be meaning several things:
- That he remained faithful to God.
- That he never lost faith in God.
- That he guarded the truth of God.
We are going to focus on that last one - he means that he has carefully guarded the truth about Jesus Christ that God had entrusted to him.
He had not bought into any of the errors about Christ that were circulating in his day. He had not compromised the truth of the Gospel. His life and his teaching had held to sound doctrine.
Our first objective is to fight. Our second objective is to finish the race. Our third objective, and the final objective we are going to talk about tonight – is to keep the faith.
Are you keeping the faith? Are you guarding the truth? Or are you compromising with it?
What do say about homosexuality? Do you say what the Bible says? Or do you shy away or compromise because same-sex marriage is legal? Or because you have a family member or friend who is gay? Are you guarding the truth, or are you compromising the truth?
We can compromise the truth without ever saying a word as well. We can compromise the truth by our actions. What do your actions say about essential truths of scripture?
- Are you talking and living like church is important? Or are you talking and living like it is just another thing to do?
- Are you talking and living like preaching the Gospel is important? Or are you talking and living like preaching the Gospel is for Christians who just want extra credit?
- Are you talking and living like holiness is important? Or are you talking and living like it is optional?
- Are you talking and living like Jesus is the only way to Heaven? Or are you talking and living like all religions lead to God if they are good people?
You can’t keep a faith that you are unclear about. To be able to look back on your life and echo Paul’s words, “I have kept the faith,” you need to be clear on the essentials of that faith.
One of the most tragic things in Christianity is that we live in a time when the Word of God is more accessible than ever before, and yet, Bible literacy is lower than ever before.
We need to know the truth. We need to know the truth of the Word of God. When we don’t know the truth, we become vulnerable to all sorts of false doctrines, false ideas, and false teachings.
Trust me, many people who call themselves Christians are living under false teachings today – all because they aren’t grounded in the truth of God’s Word themselves.
We need to know what the Bible says about:
- The Church
- Holy Spirit
How do we learn all this? By coming to church once or twice a week? Get this, we learn this by reading the Bible.
If we are rooted and grounded in the truth of the Bible, we will not fall for false teachings, and more important, we will not spread false ideas, false doctrines, and false teachings.
// CONCLUSION //
If we are going to be trained for war, we need to understand the objectives. We need to know what the goal is. We need to know what we are trying to accomplish.
Tonight, we talked about 3 objectives:
- Fight the good fight.
- Finish the race.
- Keep the faith.
Imagine what it would look like if we all chased after these objectives? Imagine the impact in our churches if we did this? Imagine the impact we could make in this city, in this world.
These are not easy objectives. These are not easy tasks.
The good thing is that we do not need to do this all alone. When we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit Himself comes down and dwells within us. And He helps us fulfill these objectives. The Holy Spirit convicts us, changes us, transforms us, teaches us the truth of God, gives us the strength and the power to do what is right, and gives us the power to be effective in ministry.
The Holy Spirit gives us:
- The ability to fight the good fight.
- The strength to finish the race.
- The wisdom and courage to keep the faith.
So, I want to ask:
- Is there a struggle you are currently dealing with, and you need victory, you need the Holy Spirit to supercharge you and help you with it?
- Is there something weighing you down in your race that you need to let go of?
- Do you feel stagnant, or complacent, or comfortable, and tonight, you want to move forward?
- Do you feel like you haven't devoted yourself to growth in the Word, or that you haven't learned the truth, and you want to make a change tonight?
- Do you feel that your words or actions have been promoting a doctrine that is contrary to the truth, and you want to repent and get that right tonight?
As we close this out tonight –
- Maybe you've been struggling with your fights.
- Maybe you feel stuck in your race not moving forward.
- Maybe you have been compromising with the truth.
I want to tell you, it ain't over til it's over. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you have not lost this war, there is still hope, you can still win, you can still fight the good fight, you can still finish the race, you can still keep the faith.