September 3rd Sermon at our Red Deer church – Fighting the Right Battles – Pastor Chuck Roth
This morning I’d like to talk to you about fighting the right battles. Have you ever heard the saying ‘you need to know which hill to die on’? In other words, you need to pick your battles. If you’ve raised kids, or especially if you’ve raised teenagers there are some things that if you fight they will blow all out of proportion. So, when you’re raising teenagers you need to understand that there are some things you just need to let go, and then there’s also other things that you need to deal with. But this isn’t just a principle that’s true with raising teenagers, although it’s especially true with that. But this is a principle in life in general, this is a principle for you when you’re at work with your coworkers, or this is a principle that we need to work with each other in the congregation. As your pastor, this is something that I really need to learn as well. There are things in life that if you don’t deal with them they’ll blow up, and there’s also things in life that if you do deal with them they’ll blow up. And so, a person has to be wise enough to know the difference between the two. That’s why it’s so important that we pray for wisdom so we know which things to just leave and to just ignore, and we also know which hills or which battles that we need to fight on.
If you get this principle in life it will save you a lot of frustration. And I want to go to a story in the Old Testament. The story is about David, and the setting is that David has not yet became king, he’s between 25 and 30 years of age and Samuel has just died. Samuel was the last judge so it’s like an era has is over. David is running from King Saul, he’s fleeing for his life. And David settles in a remote isolated location to try to get away from Saul. And he has about 600 men, and I assume there are families that are with him at the time. And can you just imagine how hard it would be to find supplies for 600 men and their families in the desert? Well David remembers a very rich man that lived in the area and his name was Nabal. And so what David has done is, he’s camped out amongst Nabal’s flocks and he’s looked after his shepherds, he’s basically protected them probably from wild animals and even people that would try to steal the odd sheep. And David’s men themselves, although I imagine it would have been tempting for them, have resisted the temptation to take anything of Nabal’s. And David needs supplies and so he remembers all of this, and so he sends 10 young men to go to Nabal to ask for supplies.
You see, Nabel is shearing his sheep, and I don’t know but I would imagine it would be kind of like if we have a branding today. Have any of you ever been involved with a branding? I come from a country setting so that’s kind of a party – you get all your neighbors and your friends and you get together, and yes you do the work, but it’s also kind of a fun time. And so I believe it’s kind of like this where David sends his 10 guys to go to Nabal and to ask him if he has any supplies for him, anything that he could spare. Well Nabal doesn’t take David’s men too seriously, and he sneers at them, and he basically belittles David in the situation that he’s in in life and he tell David’s men to get lost. And when David hears what’s happened to his men, David says, “I guarded this man’s stuff in the desert for nothing. Not one of his possessions was missing, yet he has paid me back evil when I was good to him.” In other words, David is mad, in fact, he’s beyond mad. He tells 400 of his men, he says, “Put on your swords.” And David put on his sword as well and he’s going to go and confront Nabal. And he’s basically going to wipe Nabal and Nabal’s family out. Can you imagine?
Well Nabal’s wife, Abigail, is a wise woman, and she hears how Nabal has treated these 10 young men of David’s. So she is wise enough to understand probably what’s going to happen. And so what does she do? She gets a bunch of supplies together really quickly and she sets out to meet David, to intercept David before David can come and do some stuff that he probably would regret later. So she gets a whole bunch of supplies and she meets David on the way, and she says to David, and I’ll just shorten it really briefly, but it’s in 1 Samuel 25, you can pick up the story. “Abigail says to David, ‘here is a gift I’m bringing to you. May it be given to the young men who were in your service. Please forgive my offence. The Lord will certainly give you sir a lasting dynasty.'” Now get this next phrase, “Because you are fighting the Lord’s battles.” “You are fighting the Lord’s battle” – circle that line in your handout. And then she says, “May evil never be found in you as long as you live.” Abigail was a wise woman and she saw some stuff that other people missed. She saw that David would have a long-lasting dynasty. In fact, David always had a son and a son’s son etc., that was sitting on the throne. But it was because David was fighting the Lord’s battles. Which battles are the right battles to fight in life? God’s battles; God’s battles. And if you want to know if you’re fighting the right battle or not, make sure you’re fighting God’s battles, make sure his priorities are your priorities.
So the first point I have this morning, if you need to know what to do make sure it’s God’s battles you’re fighting, and make sure it’s not your own that you’re fighting. The second point is also equally important. I guess I’ve said it already – make sure you’re when you’re fighting God’s battles you’re not fighting them with your own efforts. In 1 Samuel 25 David replies to Abigail, he says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel who sent you today to meet me. May your good judgment be blessed, also may you be blessed for keeping me from slaughtering people today” and this is the line to pay attention to – “and from getting a victory by my own efforts.” You see, Abigail stopped David from making a serious mistake. David was on the road to wipe out Nabal’s family, Abigail stopped him because what David would have been doing is he would have been getting a victory by his own hand. And we need to make sure that we let God fight our battles for us.
Now there’s some stuff that we need to do. Yes, of course, we need to be stewards of the resources that God gives to us. But it’s one thing to let God fight your battles for you, and it’s a whole other thing to take things into your own hands and make things happen yourself. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. We have to let God get things right, put things in order in our own life. It’s so easy. And what we want to do is take matters into our own hands to make things happen. But we need to fight the right battles and we need to fight them God’s way. So what is his way? What is God’s way? In 1 Peter 3:8-12, Peter says, “Finally, everyone must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble.” Don’t pay people back with evil for the evil they do to you, or ridicule those who ridicule you. Instead, bless them because you were called to inherit a blessing.” Whoever said Christian life was easy.
Really what we need to do, how do we fight battles? We fight them with love. We fight them with love. We live in harmony, we’re sympathetic, we love each other, we have compassion on each other, we’re humble, and we don’t pay people back the evil for what they do to us. In my life, I’m not saying I do this all the time, but I do get it right once in a while. Have you ever heard the saying even a blind hog finds an acorn once a while? Well I was thinking it was about 15 years ago, and I was pastoring in another community. And in the home church, in my home church that I grew up in there was a set of circumstances that happened – I’m not going to tell you what they were. But there was a set of circumstances that happened and people started to tell lies about me. And even my friends in the community that I grew up in, were still my friends but they bought in to some of these things that were said about me. And I realized really quick that I couldn’t win this fight, and so I didn’t fight it. I didn’t phone up people and try to defend myself, I just left it alone. And you know what’s so cool? God is so good. Within a few years of me doing nothing there was something that happened in that community and everything was exposed, and in one setting, in one church service my name was cleared; isn’t that cool? And I didn’t do anything.
You see, God is a God who looks after us, and we can let him fight our battles for us. We need to trust him enough to do that. A really good question to ask this morning is, “What are the battles that God has that I’m supposed to fight?” Because you could take what I’ve just said and you could think all I’m saying is go lay on the couch and do nothing, and that’s absolutely not what I’m saying; I wish I could say that. But what are the battles that God wants for us to fight? In 1 Timothy 6, the Apostle Paul told Timothy, he said, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” And then he also says, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” So fight the good fight of the faith, and take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. And then in verse 14 he says, “I insist that until our Lord Jesus Christ appears you obey this command completely, then you cannot be blamed for doing anything wrong.” The Apostle Paul isn’t just making a suggestion here, he’s telling the people to fight the good fight of the faith. We need to fight the good fight of the faith, and we need to take hold of the eternal life to which we’re called. And then if we do this we can’t be blamed for doing anything wrong. So we need to understand the significance and the seriousness of it.
So the first point is, the first thing I want to concentrate on for a little bit is that we need to fight the good fight of the faith. So what does it mean, and how do we do that? I’ve heard people who’ve talked about this in the past, and they say what this is a fight to get your doctrine right. Well, I’ll reluctantly sort of buy into that. But I really believe it’s so much more than that. And the Apostle Paul mentioned some things and the rest of the chapter. He says, “Don’t place your trust in wealth.” And then he says, “If you’re wealthy don’t be arrogant.” He says, “Do good and be generous.” He says, “Place your confidence in God, not in your wealth.” And he tells Timothy to “turn away from pointless discussions and guard the good news that has been entrusted to you.” And you can look at this and you can say, “OK, this is how we fight the fight of faith.” But I think what he’s doing when he’s saying these things is he’s just giving us a snapshot of different things of what fighting the good fight looks like. And I want to take it in a little different direction – I think the Apostle Paul is being really specific when he says these things, but I want to paint it with a little broader brush. And trust me, I’m not trying to improve on what the Apostle Paul says; I may be arrogant but there is a limit to my arrogance. So hang on to the thought of what we’re trying to do is understand what it means to fight the good fight of the faith.
Let me take you to 2 Corinthians 11:2. The Apostle Paul says, “I promise you as a pure bride to one husband, Christ.” And in Revelations 21:2 the Apostle John is saying, “Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven dressed like a bride ready for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘God lives with humans, God will make his home with them and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God.'” He saw the New Jerusalem dressed like a bride ready for her husband. Revelations 19:7, he says, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory because it’s time for the marriage of the Lamb.” The bride has made herself ready. What point am I trying to get across to you? We are the bride of Christ. And yes, this is a figurative thing. But I also believe it’s a literal thing, because I believe in the not-too-distant future there’s going to be a wedding ceremony where we as his church and where we as individuals are really his bride. We’re his bride. What does it mean to fight the good fight of the faith? It means for us to understand the reality that we’re his bride. Think of the implications of that for just a moment.
I just about hesitate to mention this because I know it’s going to be painful for some of you. But probably one of the most hurtful things that can happen in a marriage relationship is adultery, right? That is something that’s very hurtful. And if we’re the bride of Christ, and we’re supposed to be devoted 100% to him, do you realize when you look to things other than him in life to meet your needs rather than Jesus Christ, when you… this nailed me between the eyes when I heard this, when I thought about this. When I realized that when I’m being rebellious against God and telling God that I just want to do things my own way and I want to head out and do things in my own time frame and do things by myself and not want him to be a part, do you realize that’s just like me committing adultery in my relationship with Jesus? It kind of puts sin in a different light. Do you know what sin is really? Simplified down, do you know what sin is? It’s trying to get our needs met through something other than Jesus Christ. But when we do that and when we say that and when we head in that direction, really what we’re doing is we’re committing adultery with a relationship that we should have with Jesus Christ.
And so, what is fighting the good fight of the faith? It’s grasping this concept that I’m talking to you about this morning. It’s grasping this concept and it’s saying I understand that. And as much as I am tempted a thousand different ways Sunday to go my own way and to do my own thing, I understand the reality of this and I am going to give my life with all of the grace that God gives to me. I am going to make Jesus the number one thing in my life, I am going to follow him, I’m going to do things his way. Do I get it right all the time? Do you get it right all the time? Absolutely not. And boy, if you’ve never been thankful for Jesus’ death on the cross, let me tell you this morning you need to be thankful. But your forgiveness comes at an incredible price, at an incredible cost is what I’m trying to say. We are the bride of Christ, and let’s be faithful to him, and let’s go all the way for him. And this isn’t me. I hope you guys know me well enough, and for those of you who are visiting with us this morning, this is not me hollering at you about sin. But this is me encouraging you to give yourself wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ, because there’s so much in store for you if you do. This is not about me telling you that there’s a whole bunch of rules and regulations that you need to have in life. If you know me you know that I don’t have a whole bunch of rules and regulations in my life. In fact, rules and regulations are just for people that don’t know any better, right? There’s some truth to that.
In my relationship with Joyce, and we’re going to celebrate 40 years this January together. [Applause] Give me a little freedom, huh? Thank you for being so… When you start there’s rules and there’s regulations, and as brain dead husbands we learn really quick there are some things that you don’t do. We hadn’t been married very long, maybe a month or so, and I come home and Joyce is having a shower, and so what I did is I snuck into the bathroom and I stood up on the toilet and I poked my head over top of the shower curtain. I learned really quick there is a rule against doing those sorts of things. I didn’t get the response I was expecting. I know you guys are a lot smarter than I am. But you know what, is it a rule that I don’t come home and scare Joyce when she’s in the shower by herself? That’s not a rule. But would I ever do that again? Absolutely not. And you know what, it’s not in my heart, it’s not even a temptation. And it’s not because of the consequences that I suffered at that time either. But you see, we don’t have a lot of rules. We have a love relationship for each other, and so we treat each other in such a way – do I always get it right? No. Does Joyce always get it right? Most of the time. But can you get the point I’m making?
You see, we’re the bride of Christ. He’s put his spirit inside of us, he’s forgiven us for the things we’ve done wrong. And so do I live by a bunch of rules and regulations and thou shalt nots and etc.? No. But this is who I am. And I want my relationship with Jesus Christ to be what it can be. And I haven’t experienced all there is to experience yet. In fact, I’ve only experienced about 5% or 2% or 0.1% of what there is to experience in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and so I want to go all the way with him. This is so much more. Maybe to start with, a person needs to have some guidelines set for you. But man, after you’ve been a Christian for more than about 20 seconds you understand that there’s so much more to this life, there’s so much more to this life than living by… God is so good to us, he’s so good to us. And we should have an incredible relationship with Jesus Christ. His love should compel us, and we need to recognize that we’re the bride of Christ.
My second point is we need to take hold of the eternal life. And as I’ve said before, eternal life is not just life without end. Eternal life, if you’ve study that in the Greek, which I don’t, but if you study that it’s talking about the quality of life that we have now, the quality of relationship that we can have with Jesus Christ. And we need to take hold of this. In Acts 17:28 it says, “For in him we live and we move and we exist.” We take hold of the fact that we’re the bride of Christ, we take hold who we are as a bride of Christ, who he’s made us to be. And we’re willing to even sacrifice for our husband. Reality is another thing that we don’t want to hear, but reality is that most of the time the kingdom of God advances through sacrifice. The kingdom of God advances through his people being willing to make sacrifice, make sacrifices of themselves and be willing to give themselves for Jesus, and in doing so be willing to give themselves for other people. That’s what God has called us to do, and God has called us as a congregation to really love each other and to care about each other. And you know what, this isn’t a congregation of superstars. I’m sure not one. But this is a congregation of people who are willing to overlook other people’s faults and be willing to love them anyways, and to accept them, and to make them feel loved and make them feel as if they’re a part of the body. And you know people, if we get away from that, if we just start to just spend time with people that we like and think alike and we ignore other people, we’re not going to go very far because this church is called to come alongside people and to love them and to bring life to them. This is who we are, and this is what we’re called to do.
We need to take hold of the eternal life, we need to take hold of Jesus Christ. And let me tell you that this is a way better way to live. It’s not taking things into our own hands like David was tempted to do with Nabal, but it’s letting God fight our battles, and it’s us grabbing hold of him and even be willing to sacrifice. And you know what reality is? Sometimes it even means pulling back and resting, grabbing hold of the eternal life that he has for us, living the life of faith. That doesn’t mean that we run. One of my favorites, we run until we’re dead – it means that we spend some time resting in his presence.
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