Summary: I was raised NOT to fight. My Father told me since I was knee-high that fighting was wrong and that I would get a “whoopin’” if he ever found out that I had been fighting.
The first fight I ever had was unofficial if you will and it was between a local farm-boy and myself. I was defeated, although it took awhile, and I ended up with two black eyes and some swelling to my jaw.
I never asked for the fight but it happened and I was ill-prepared to defend myself.
That stuck with me for a long time. I began to condition myself as though my next fight would be the following week or month. Because of my size, everyone wanted to fight me. It was so ridiculous looking back, but then it was a threat that I had to deal with.
So, I took Karate and excelled in it. Because I was now prepared, the fighting stopped and I could live a somewhat normal life...I could stop looking over my shoulder for the next “whoopin’.”
Today’s sermon reminds me of Paul. Paul on several occasions said that he had “fought the good fight.” Our sermon today is titled ‘Preparing for the Fight’ and is the first sermon in our new series “GET IN THE RING.”
Jesus spent three years training and conditioning His apostles and followers for the fight that they would be fighting. In some ways He was conditioning their physical as well as their spiritual side. They walked a long way, while He taught them the lessons they would have to employ later in their own fight
We will be addressing several points this morning. Point #1: Know what is Required; Point #2: Conditioning is imperative and Point #3: Expect Rejection.
Know what is Required.
Jesus told His apostles that they, like Him, would have to take up their crosses. Literally, He did indeed take up His cross. But He explained that in order to save one’s life they would have to lose it. The opposite was also true and that is one loses his or her life if they try to save it.
What did that mean? They were certainly confused but they would eventually figure it out. What is means is that if you grasp onto what this world has to offer you, you will NOT see the kingdom of God. Your eternal life will be lost—meaning all that you had and grasped on will take you to a place of isolation and trepidation.
Notice how Jesus uses several open-ended questions: 1) Who does man think that I am, 2) Who do you say that I am?
From my educational background, I have learned that if you ask close-ended questions, all that you will get in responses are YES and NO. But with a open-ended question, your responses will be in more than a single word.
Peter responded with “You are the Christ! You are the Son of the Living God!” I am sure there were other answers or murmurs, but Peter’s seemed to be the one that stood out—one that Jesus wished to answer and use as an example to the others (in their training).
He informed Peter and those standing or sitting by Him, that “the gates of Hell shall NOT prevail!” Yes, there would be a fight but the fight would be worth it. What will a man lose if he saves his worldly life, was the question of the hour.
What Jesus was offering was an eternal life that was much more rewarding than this physical life and its challenges and rewards.
He promised that He would reward them with heavenly things, much more precious than those of this world.
Conditioning is imperative.
Jesus would talk for the three years in parables. Parables are stories that some understand and some do not. There were many that His apostles did not get and He had to condition them, by explaining what He had meant by them.
There was so much to learn and such little time, but through His parables and teachings, they would all eventually master what they had been taught and they indirectly are conditioning you and me through their testimonies.
Take Paul for one. This man did NOT have an easy life, once He had become a follower of Jesus. He took up the cross and gave all that he had...those things that were worldly and precious to many...he gave them up and hence took on the fight of his life.
He had a prodigy son by the name of Timothy. In many ways he considered him to be his son for Paul was never married. Listen to what his quasi-father said to him in a letter.
Paul starts this passage (an excerpt from his letter/epistle) by telling Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” In other words, keep the faith for others will try to beat it out of you.