Those of you who made it to church last Sunday know that for my sermons this month I am using secular (that is, non-Christian) songs as fodder for sermons. This week we look to our neighbors up north, Canada, for inspiration.
How many here can name a Canadian band our musical artist?
Other than the group that led to this sermon, the ones that came to mind for me were Rush, April Wine, and William Shatner.
Now, I figure many or most of you have heard of Rush, if only because of their hit Tom Sawyer. As for April Wine, is anyone familiar with their song, "Just Between You and Me"? (Personally, I think "Gypsy Queen" is their best song.)
How about William Shatner? What do you think of his musical work?
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Yes, the William Shatner…as in Captain Kirk. Sometime check out his albums Has Been and Seeking Major Tom. Yes, he may be an acquired taste, but they have some really good songs thanks to him looping in some awesome musicians. As I was writing this I was listening to his version of "Iron Man" (originally by Black Sabbath) where Mr. Shatner got Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society to play the screaming guitar. If you fear permanent mental damage from testing Shatner's tracks, then at least give a listen the the title song off "Has Been." Not only is it musically well done and pretty funny, it has a strong message for naysayers.
Of course, Canada has produced far more great music than what I mentioned…if you take time to search on the web you'll find everything from the Guess Who (who may be most famous, of all things, for "American Woman") to Nickelback to Loverboy. I mean, who can't respect a country that gave us an album with a picture of a man's posterior in tight red leather pants and the party anthem, "Working for the Weekend"? 🙂
However, today's band is not any I've mentioned. Instead, it is one named Triumph. My favorite song by them is one called "Lay it on the Line." I still remember at the age of 15 playing it over-and-over on my Hitachi all-in-one stereo and record player…in the white pants I think my mom may have gotten second-hand…waiting to go on my first date…a high school dance with Dawna Malm. Well, it may have been my second date…there is a good chance I took her to "Bert and I" at the Lebanon Opera House before that. 🙂
(If you don't know what/who "Bert and I" is…it is worth a Google search. "Ayuh, you can't get there from here." :-))
As much as I'd love to do a sermon based on "Lay it on the Line," it does not lend itself well to one. Instead, as given away by the sermon title and today's Scripture, it's connected with another one of their great "air guitar" playing songs, "Fight the Good Fight."
Fight the Good Fight
As I mentioned last week, just because I choose a song doesn't mean all…or that matter, any…of it is actually good advice take. For instance, next week's will be a new tune by an American band called Hurt…and it says opposite what I believe.
And even though Triumph's "Fight the Good Fight" might even sound Christian, for example it sings that "the Good Book says it's better to give than receive," you'll definitely not want to (for instance) "take a look inside your heart" for the answer. But, as a whole the song has a lot of good points, including it's chorus, which says:
Fight the good fight every moment
Every minute every day
Fight the good fight every moment
It's your only way
Now, if you were a teenager in the early eighties who liked rock, you probably have a hard time not breaking out into serious air guitar as you sing those verses 🙂
What the Bible Says
As awesome a rock anthem as it is, it's time to set it aside and see exactly what advice the Bible gives for "fighting the good fight."
I will try to be like George C. Scott in the movie Patton barking advice out to his troops. 🙂
Our first bit of scriptural advice has to due with preparation and commitment.
Troops, let's turn to Luke 14:25-33):
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Great, you've all enlisted in the army of God! However, before you did that, did you (like the "king, going out to encounter another king in war") "consider the cost" first? Are you really ready to give up family? Riches? Grudges? The Internet? Your favorite hobby?
Because you never know what God will need of you and you must be willing to give up anything and everything…yes, "even [your] own life"…
Or you cannot be His disciple.
If you didn't consider the cost, then when the promised persecution comes (see John 15:20 and 2 Timothy 3:12)…or when a prayer isn't answered the way you want…or disaster falls upon you or someone you care for…you'll desert God's army. Or worse, you may find out you never were part one.
Military advice #1?
"Fighting the good fight" requires you first consider the cost.
Our next will help us start understanding how we should behave while we are on duty. Let's turn again to today's Scripture…along with a few extra verses:
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you (1 Timothy 6:11—21).
Troops, there is a lot we can get out of those words from God's army's manual. However, one thing not directly said there…but I felt important to say is our military advice #2:
"Fight the good fight" is not just a rallying cry, it's a command!
It's great to have inspirational phrases like "fight the good fight"…but Paul didn't just include it in his first letter to Timothy to give him a a Marine oo-rah moment. It's inspiration and command wrapped up in one.
It is not an option…you must fight the good fight.
Another related bit of advice is:
"Fighting the good fight" requires you follow all orders.
You must follow orders even when you don't understand them 100%, aren't personally committed to them, having a bad day, and so on.
When I was in the Navy we were reminded of this…and there was only one exception. Any ex-military members here know that exception?
It had to be a legal order.
As long as it legal, you cannot say no…and we know that everything God commands is legal.
Let me ask you this, what orders have you personally received from our Lord that you continue to refuse to follow?
Additional Military Advice
Looking back at the verses we just read, we get some other military advice.
Military advice #4 is…
You must know what you are "fighting the good fight" for.
For instance, verse 12 tells us to "take hold of the eternal life to which you were called"…and from a personal sense it's very important to remember that, for each of us, this fight has everlasting consequences.
Verse 20 also enjoins us to "guard the deposit entrusted to you." Looking at the rest of that verse and the one that follows, the "deposit entrusted to" us is the truth.
We fight for eternal life and for the truth. Of course, Jesus is the Way, the Life, and the Truth (see John 14:6).
We fight for eternal life. We fight for the truth. We fight for Jesus Christ. We fight for God!
Military advice #5 troops has to do with the types of verbs we see through Paul's words to Timothy:
You must "fight the good fight" with action and energy.
Being part of God's army isn't a sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat potato chips kind of life. Look at Paul's words to Timothy and you see a lot of action:
- Flee these things
- Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness
- Fight the good fight of faith
- Take hold of the eternal life
- Keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach
- Charge them not to be haughty
- Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions
- Guard the deposit entrusted to you
Paul is almost Patton-like in what he expects out of Timothy…and God expects no less out of you and me.
You must fight the good fight with action and energy.
Get off the couch troops!
Military advice #6 comes before the reference that shows it.
You must "fight the good fight" with the weapons God gives you, not your own.
No matter what you think…
- You aren't smart enough
- You aren't strong enough
- You aren't fast enough
- You aren't ingenious enough
- You aren't clever enough
- You aren't pretty enough
- You aren't entertaining enough
- You just plain aren't enough…
To win a battle or the war. Instead, Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us what your proper, God-given weaponry should be:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
No knives, no guns, not even Tomahawk missiles, instead our weapons are:
- Readiness given by the gospel of peace
- The Word of God
- Prayer and supplication
And also notice how those verses in Ephesians start off confirming me telling you not to depend on yourself to fight the good fight. You are to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might," not yours.
Finally, from that section, verse 12 brings military advice #7 in:
To "fight the good fight" you must know who (or what) you are fighting.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
That's why we can't do it ourselves…not even Chuck Norris can. 🙂
Actually, before we leave Ephesians, I want to extract one more bit of military advice. Remember verse 18?:
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints
We are to pray at all times (and in the spirit)…we are to keep alert with all perseverance…
Military advice #8:
You must always "fight the good fight."
There is no shore leave, no vacation, no weekend passes. You must fight 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year of your life. You don't even get a lunch or coffee break…or recess for our elementary school members. 🙂
If that seems an unreasonable expectation troops, I refer you back to military advice #1:
"Fighting the good fight" requires you first consider the cost.
One of the greatest sins you can make in the military…it has been considered a capital offense by some…is falling asleep while on guard or sentry duty. And we are not just talking about the Roman army here…I was reading about how a couple of Brits were shot after falling asleep during sentry duty suring World War I.
That may seem harsh, but if you are supposed to be alert and watching for the enemy, and you doze off, you can cause the death of your entire unit.
And it's no different here at church. If you aren't alert…it's not just your own well being at risk…letting a little "leaven" into our fold can spoil the whole church. You can only "guard the deposit entrusted to you" by staying alert.
All the time.
You Can Do It
We have one more Scripture before my talk wraps up. Interestingly enough, the "fight the good fight" phrase not only occurs in Paul's first letter to Timothy…it also occurs in his second letter to the young man he so loved. Let's turn together to 2 Timothy 4:6-8:
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
The military advice I want you to take from those verses might seem odd…but military advice #9 is:
"Fight the good fight" knowing you can do it!
Of course, you can't do it yourself, but God has promised the right weaponry…the right back-up…the right everything.
And you have the same power behind you that was behind Paul and that allowed him to write those words.
- Paul fought the good fight.
- Paul finished the race.
- Paul kept the faith.
With the strength of God behind you you can do the same.
And for you will be a crown of righteousness…because, as Paul says, that crown is not just for him, but also for "all who have loved his appearing."
Amen. Come Lord Jesus! (See Revelation 22:20.)
The Complete List
Now, in case you don't have a great memory and weren't taking notes…let's quickly review our bits of military advice.
- "Fighting the good fight" requires you first consider the cost.
- "Fight the good fight" is not just a rallying cry, it's a command!
- "Fighting the good fight" requires you follow all orders.
- You must know what you are "fighting the good fight" for.
- You must "fight the good fight" with action and energy.
- You must "fight the good fight" with the weapons God gives you, not your own.
- To "fight the good fight" you must know who (or what) you are fighting.
- You must always "fight the good fight."
- "Fight the good fight" knowing you can do it!
Hmmm…in a world that has lived with David Letterman's Top Ten list for a long time, stopping at nine pieces of military advice just doesn't seem right.
Lucky for us, there is a 10 bit of advice that is going to sound like a repeat of the first, but it isn't. Troops…
"Fighting the good fight" requires you consider the real cost.
Yes, you must be willing to give up everything. Yes, you must be willing to bear you own cross as mentioned in Luke 14:27…
But Jesus would not have mentioned your cross if it didn't point to the true cost of this awful war.
The true source of all victory.
The real cost you need to consider is what Jesus did on the cross for you and me and everyone else who calls upon the name of the Lord.
There is no greater cost, and there is not greater reason to join God's army. No wonder Paul told the Corinthians he "decided to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Troops, when you consider ignoring any of my first nine pieces of military advice, I beg you to consider the final one.
"Fighting the good fight" requires you consider the real cost.
If the real cost sinks in, you'll be a faithful soldier in God's army, where our rallying cry is:
"Jesus Christ and Him Crucified!"