Summary: God calls us forth to equip ourselves to do battle against the spiritual forces that want to bring about our eternal ruin.
As you watch professional athletics are you impressed with what you see? I am a football and basketball fan. Every time I watch I’m amazed at what these human beings are able to do and accomplish on the football field or the basketball court. Apart from all the animosity about enormous salaries and prima donnas I must say that I admire these men who keep themselves in top physical shape. The things that they need to do on a daily basis in order to stay competitive at that level must be astounding. Their diets, exercise, sleeping, their whole life is strictly regimented so that their bodies are at their peak.
In our text for this morning the Apostle Paul encourages us to be like professional athletes. We too have a struggle before us and we need to be in shape. We have to be in shape so that we can Fight the Good Fight of Faith. In order to do this we need to discipline ourselves for battle. We need to be offensive as we face the struggle. Our duty in this fight is to guard the gospel.
In order to fight the good fight we need to be in good shape. Good spiritual shape. To get in good spiritual shape we need to begin by disciplining ourselves. What do we need to discipline ourselves against? Paul tells us – he says that we need to be discipline ourselves against the love of money. He gives us a couple of good reasons why we should discipline ourselves against the love of money.
The first reason is that wealth and earthly possessions are not lasting. New cars rust and their engines fail. New appliances eventually break down. New clothes wear out. Money can disappear overnight – just ask someone who invests in the stock market to confirm this. The truth about wealth and about earthly goods is that they do not last. Even if we buy things with a lifetime warranty, and even if we accumulate enough money to last us for our entire life – what happens to these things when we die? They aren’t coming with us.
The second reason Paul gives us for disciplining ourselves against the love of money is this: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” If we’re going to fight a spiritual battle we have to fight against evil. We can’t be the source. If that were the case then we would be fighting this battle on for the wrong team. That battle actually begins within ourselves. The battle is against our sinful nature that desires so strongly to tempt us to put our trust in wealth. Paul tells us what has happened to those who succumbed to this temptation. He says, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The battle is serious. In the gospel which I read just a few minutes ago we heard about the rich man and poor Lazarus. That rich man didn’t seem to have many griefs in this life, but what about after his death? He was no longer comfortable, in fact he was in torment we were told. The same will be true for all those whose sole desire is to accumulate wealth. They may have all the luxuries that this life has to offer, but the things they have last only for this life.
Paul gives a strategy which will help us overcome our sinful nature and its desire for wealth. He tells us that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Our true riches lie in godliness coupled with contentment. These two things are joined hand in hand. As Christians we put our trust in God to provide for our earthly needs. We don’t need to chase after perishing things. Rather we look to our God to open his hand and satisfy all of our desires.
Contentment is something which doesn’t come very easily to us. It is so easy to take a look around us – at our neighbors, or family members, or co-workers, and see all the things that these people have and start to get a little jealous. Contentment is just the opposite. Content people don’t compare the blessings God has given them, they just give thanks for those blessings. This is the best possible way in which we can head off jealousy and covetousness. Give thanks to God with contented hearts for everything that he has given you, whether you are rich or poor or somewhere in between.
If we are going to fight this battle we need to be in top spiritual shape. Train yourself faithfully and diligently. Self-discipline is necessary if you want to succeed in this spiritual competition. The stakes are high. To those who don’t succeed the punishment is severe.