I Have Kept the Faith and the Faith Has Kept Me 10/29/00

II Timothy 4:6-8

JESUS CHRIST gives life a purpose, power, and propulsion. He wants your life to have meaning. He knows that no individual can live a full and meaningful life without a goal.

We are a goal-oriented society. Clinics, conferences, and seminars are held on goal setting. Yet, few people envision their life as having an overall goal.

Take you, for example. Have you ever written out your over-all goal for life? Let’s be a bit more specific. In life who do you seek to please in every decision you make and every deed you do? Is it a friend, yourself, “the gang,” or if you are a youth, your parents? Jesus Christ is our worthy standard.

Defined goals result in refined lives.

Often I find meaningful quotes authored by persons with whom I have little philosophical kinship. I find it acceptable to quote such statements because the Scripture says, “if there be any virtue, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). In other words, a diamond found in a pig pen is still a diamond.

A diamond from the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, is worth our attention. He said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

A Biblical example of one who found such a worthy goal is the apostle Paul. In his mature years he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, addressed two of the books of our New Testament to his young friend Timothy. In II Timothy 4: 6 – 8 he wrote in retrospect of his life’s goal. It is a good statement for us to use in guiding our prospect. He spoke of – – –

I. DESTINY Verse 6
He wrote of his life and death in beautiful symbolism that can help our understanding of death. He spoke of life as being “poured out as a drink offering.” This graphic translates the Greek word SPENDO. In the temple priests often dedicated various liquids to God. The ceremony involved pouring the liquid on the altar. That was the purpose for which the liquid existed. Is your life being “poured out” for Jesus?

It was natural for Paul to speak of his forthcoming martyrdom as a sacrifice, for God’s word appeals to each of us to make our life a “living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

Another expression is used to describe destiny: “the time of my departure is at hand.” The New Testament Greek word so translated is ANALUSIS. It was used in several ways that help our comprehension of death.

-It was used to describe a yoke being taken off a beast of burden.
-It was used to depict ropes being removed from a person who had been tied up.
-It was used to picture a ship that had been loosened from its mooring. Set free to sail.

In every sense of the word it depicts being set free for fuller use. Are you confidently heading toward such a destiny?

II. DIRECTION “I have fought the good fight”
The word translated “fight” is the Greek word AGON. It is the root from which we get our word agony. It did not necessarily refer to a boxing match, but any athletic contest and the agony of preparation and participation involved. The Olympic Oath says in part: “The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle…Not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

This expression often is thought to mean he fought well — and he did. However, what it means is the fight he chose to fight was worth the effort. A bulldog can beat a skunk, but is it worth the fight?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of our nation’s greatest former Supreme Court jurists, said, “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” What is your direction in life? Where is it going?

Like Paul I want to be able to say, “I fought,” not “I sat in the bleachers.”

As a young minister I saw within my denomination doctrinal error, a lack of Biblical integrity. I had friends on both sides of the divisive issue. I wavered as to whether to leave the denomination and concluded that if I did I would be abandoning it and forfeit all rights to criticize what I was not willing to try to help. I decided to say in it and to what ever small degree I might influence it to try to do so. Little did I realize that in 1999 – 2000 I would be privileged to be a member of the committee appointed to rewrite the “Southern Baptist Faith and Message” statement. This document anchors the basic tenants of our denomination. I chose a fight worth fighting.

A long time ago I resolved – – –
I believe in the undiminished deity of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
I believe in the undeniable divinity of the Written Word of God, the Bible.
I believe in the verity of the Son of God.
I believe in the veracity of the Word of God.
I believe in the incomparable and invincible Son of God.
I believe in the infallible and inerrant Word of God.

Each attests to the authenticity of the other.
Validate one and you venerate the other.
Debase one and you demean the other.
Revere one and you respect the other.
Inveigh one and you eviscerate the other.

The Living Word and the Written Word each supports the other. Together they form a bootstrap effect. Each laced with the other takes us higher and binds us tighter.

For the believer the Bible is the credenda of what we should believe as well as the agenda for how we should behave.

Martin Luther said: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however fondly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steadfast on all the battle-front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

For what are you fighting?

Bumper stickers reveal persons who are fighting for whales, seals, eagles, and owls. All of us fight battles. Have you chosen a good one to fight? Does it honor Christ?

Again a philosophical source with which I have little in common provides us wisdom. Victor Frankl said, “Life only has meaning if there is a task, and the more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

If your task, that is your goal, is to please Christ, you have chosen a worthy and difficult one. It is deserving of your optimum effort — your best.

The world has thrilled in recent weeks at the heroics of Olympic athletes. The extent to which these competitors have gone in order to compete is stimulating. Many inspiring stories that are true to life have come from these games. A lesson of unpreparedness and resultant frustration came from the boxing arena. The pity on the face of the boxer who came to the ring pointing to his ungloved fists and pleading with his coach to find his gloves will long be remembered. They gave him three minutes to find his gloves. After years of training he couldn’t find his gloves and was declared the loser.

If you intend to “fight the good fight,” don’t forget the necessities of a vital Bible knowledge, a viable prayer life, and a virtuous lifestyle.

III. DRIVE “I have finished the race”
The arena in Barcelona was filled with nearly 70,000 spectators awaiting the start of the men’s 400 meter race. The outstanding British runner Derick Redford, along with other competitors, awaited the starter’s gun. Streams of dreams of a lifetime were in that moment flowing into the pond of reality. Redford was running well when an athlete’s dream turned into a nightmare. He pulled a hamstring muscle. Pain of unimaginable extent caused this stalwart man to grimace and grab his leg as agony painted itself on his now tear-flooded face. Every move sent shock waves of pain through his leg. Nevertheless he hopped and hobbled toward the finish line. He fought off would-be medics who pleaded with him to quit and lie down. When it became apparent he couldn’t make it to the finish line alone, his dad rushed to his aid and putting his arm around him, helped his crippled son go those last yards to the finish line. He finished the race.

He did so because long before he even went to Barcelona he had his eye on that goal. Nothing could keep him from his goal. That is the will needed to follow Christ. When you have your mind set on pleasing Him, nothing will cause you to give up and quit.

The term used in our text does not speak of winning but finishing. Marathoners know only one person will win. That is great, but there is honor and valor in finishing. You may not be a heralded “winner” in life’s race for Jesus, but be sure you are faithful and complete what you have begun. Few who enter the great Peachtree Road Race have any thought of winning. With pride all of them wear their peach-colored T- shirts symbolizing they had finished the race. Doing so gives a sense of fulfillment and joy. The same should be ours each day as we conclude it having been
faithful to Christ.

Write out your lifetime goal statement. Engrave it in the corridor of your mind through which all thoughts must pass and let them be influenced thereby. Such a goal statement is neither magic nor a cosmic exercise in clairvoyance. It is a Bible-based understanding of what our Lord wants of you. Resolve to finish the race.

Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman have authored an insightful book entitled “In Search of Excellence.” Their research revealed that excellent companies have a tendency to focus on a few key business values and objectives which enable them to define their priorities. The authors call this tendency “stick to the knitting.” In knitting, there
is an object in mind and the devoted knitter doesn’t quit until it is finished.

In your own hands you are knitting your lifestyle. With Christ as your pattern, your goal, stick to the knitting that it might please Him. Don’t neglect to obey the truth you claim to believe.

IV. DISCIPLINE “I have kept the faith”
“I have kept the conditions of my contract.”

The expression “kept the faith” means I have competed in life’s marathon according to the rules. The athletes of the era in which this was written took a solemn oath before the games that they would compete honorably and honestly.

When you accept Christ as Savior He makes a commitment to you. He commits Himself to forgive your sins, to be your constant companion through life, and to receive you unto Himself in heaven. He keeps His word.

In coming to Christ you, too, make a commitment to Him. In summary, it is to give Him your life. That means you will keep your vision focused on Him and strive to please Him in all you do. Keep the faith contract.

In was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. Her goal was to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. Long-distance swimming wasn’t new to her. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

The water was numbing cold that day, but that would not deter her from her goal. Several times intimidating sharks had to be scared away by rifle fire. They would not cause her to miss her goal. A fog so thick she could hardly see the boats accompanying her shrouded the area.

After 15 hours of swimming, she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer pleaded with her to continue since her goal was so close. All Florence could see was the fog. She quit … only one-half mile from her goal.

Many times we too fail, not because of the peer pressure or because of anything other than the fact we lose sight of our goal. That is why Paul later described himself by saying, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

I love non-word words. That is, words you won’t find in a dictionary but once you hear them you know what they mean. The Greek text translated “press toward the mark” means with all “stretchoutedness” I press toward the finish tape. If you have watched any of the Olympic races you have seen it. Well-conditioned runners come to the moment of competition to extend themselves. As they near the finish line with muscles on the verge of cramping, their lungs on fire begging for air, their nostrils strutted, their eyes straining, and their jaws open, they stretch out to the finish line.

Does that depict the extent to which you are willing to compete in the moral, ethical, and spiritual competition to reach your goal of pleasing Christ?

Two months after her failure, once again Florence Chadwick walked off the same beach into the same cold shark-infested channel and heroically swam the distance, setting a new speed record because she could see the land, her goal, all the way.

One of these hopefully distant days when your life reaches its conclusion, may you be able to happily say, “I have kept the faith.”

Keeping the faith is like a sailor keeping a ship. The sailor who keeps the ship is kept by the ship in turbulent times. If you keep your faith in Christ, the Christ of your faith will keep you.