Summary: St. Paul encourages us to fight the good fight of faith, holding on tightly to the salvation that we have been given and being content with God’s blessings.
The United States has attacked Afghanistan. It has begun. The long war on terrorism. We don’t know how long it will last. We only know that it will be a long and difficult struggle.
This morning, Paul encouraged Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith”, to join in hand to hand combat against sin. It’s interesting to note that in the Greek the idea is of a continuous struggle, to constantly be fighting that good fight. In fact, Paul tells Timothy that our struggle in this good fight of faith will last until the “appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the end of the world. We don’t know when that day will be. We only know that it will be a long and difficult struggle.
Well, this morning we are going to talk about our constant struggle, our good fight of faith. In our text for this morning Paul gives us three important components of our good fight: 1) that we hold on to the eternal life that we have received, 2) that we seek godliness and 3) that we be content.
I. Hold on to eternal life
Paul tells Timothy in verse 12: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made you good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Good confession? Many witnesses? What on earth is Paul talking about? He’s making reference here to Timothy’s baptism. You see, Timothy was baptized as an adult. As is still our custom today, Timothy made confession of his faith before being baptized. An interesting note: the confessions that those early Christians made at their baptisms formed the basis of the Apostle’s Creed. Every time we say the Apostle’s Creed, we are confessing that faith into which we were baptized.
So, Paul is telling Timothy and us to take hold of the eternal life which we received in our baptism. Through water and the Word, we are “born again”. We who by nature are dead in our transgressions and sins, are spiritually made alive through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. And now through that faith in Jesus which we receive in Baptism, we also have eternal life in heaven. We have been adopted by the King of kings and Lord of lords to be heirs of heaven. God is truly the “life-giver” as we see in verse 13.
But now, a part of our constant struggle in this world, a part of our good fight, is holding on to that salvation, not letting it go. I’d like to tell you a little story. It’s about a three year old boy from Minnesota. Has anybody here ever been to Minnesota? In the wintertime it gets pretty cold, doesn’t it? Roads and sidewalks become iced over. Well, as I said, there was a little boy about three years old who went for a walk with his father. His father asked, “Would you like me to take your hand so that you don’t slip on the ice?” The little boy said, “No.” He could do it himself. Guess what happened? He fell, right? So the little boy looked up at his father and said, “OK. I’ll take your hand.” He reached up and grabbed his father’s hand and tried to hold on tight. But having such small hands, he soon lost his grip, slipped and fell again. This time he said sheepishly, “Daddy, can you take my hand?” And with his big, strong hand the father took hold of his son’s tiny hand and never let it go.
Because we are sinners, because we are weak, we cannot hold on very well to that salvation which has been given us. Paul warned the Corinthians, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.” So how do we hold on to that salvation that has been given us? Well, Paul told the Philippians that we can do all things through God who gives us strength. And how does God give us strength? Through Word and Sacrament, right? In the end of the book of Ephesians, Paul encourages us to put on our “spiritual armor” when we fight the good fight of faith. And our sword in this battle is God’s Word. He is the one that gives us the strength. He is the one that protects us. He is the one that holds on to us. He keeps us in the true faith through his Word and Sacraments. Make constant use of them and God will give you the strength to hold on to your salvation even in the middle of the fiercest battles.
And now that we have received salvation in our baptisms, now that we have the confidence that we are sons of God and heirs of eternal life, out of thanks to him we fight against sin. We fight against our enemies the devil, the world and our sinful nature who want to take away our salvation. Simply put, we seek godliness.