Keeping the faith

Keeping the Faith
Robert Wurtz II

 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul is writing to young Timothy prior to his appearance before Nero and his eventual martyrdom. 2 Timothy is loaded with figurative language comparing the spiritual life to to our physical lives. Here he uses a favorite figure of fighting the good fight of faith, as it were an athletic contest. This is how Paul explains the life of faith. Many run, but one receives the prize. We are to run that we might obtain. Paul gives insight into his approach to the life of faith telling us that he brought his body into subjection lest when he had preached to others he himself would be a castaway. (1 Cor. 9:27) Some of the Corinthians desperately needed teachings concerning sexual immorality, so the language employed is particularly strong. The passage means to “hit under the eye.” This is not a literal smiting, but to take himself by the scruff of the neck, if necessary, to keep control of his natural physical desires. This takes discipline. He was conditioned to fight a good fight. Why? Because he wanted to finish his course. 

Finishing our course

When Saul was confronted by Jesus on the road to Demascus, He was given a task to complete that would consume the rest of his life. He was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, preaching the Gospel in places never before reached. Paul states at the end of life, I have finished my course. The word course (dromos) is used by Luke (and Paul) to first describe the ministry of John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Christ and when he had “completed his course” of preaching repentance declared he was not worthy to loose the shoes of Christ. (Acts 13:25) It is used by Paul in Acts when he tells the Ephesians that he wanted to finish his course with joy, in spite of the fact that the leaders wept hoping he would remain there. (Acts 20:24) Writing to Timothy at the end of life he could declare, I have finished my course. He did everything necessary to bring his body into subjection that he might fight a good fight. This set the stage for the lifetime accomplishment of finishing the course that had been set before him. He worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It’s what we all have to do if we are to share Paul’s testimony.

Keeping the faith 

It would be beyond the scope of these thoughts to even begin to explore the great many sufferings and trials that Paul endured over the course of his life. He suffered the loss of all things and was frequently alone being tested for his faith. He was a true leader that knew Him in whom He had believed. His trust was in Christ. In his own words, I have kept the faith. What a staggering miracle! He had been beaten enough times to kill multiple men and yet, he could say “I have kept the faith.” He lived with a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan buffeting him, but he kept the faith. He watched as people he had ministered along side abandoned Christ, but he kept the faith. His life was one dramatic act of suffering after the next. He confessed at one point, For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus. (2 Cor. 7:5-6) The Devil threw everything he had at him, but he kept the faith.

The battlefield of faith 

I wish to end this entry with a passage from the writer to the Hebrews:

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39)

Our word here for draw back is hupostello and it means to furl the sail. When a ship was going into battle it might lower the sail or ‘draw back’ so as to avoid the danger. As believers we must keep the sail raised and at full mast. that is to say, we must allow the Holy Spirit to carry us along to what He has for us. There will be a great many trials along the way. Some will be very difficult. This was Paul’s experience. His ultimate destination was martyrdom under Nero. Not all people end their life this way. Some suffer terribly with sickness or loss. Keeping the faith at these times will come as a result of walking with God all the other times. We must bring our bodies into subjection and be disciplined for this fight of faith. All that we are experience right now is preparing us for our future. Paul was ready when the time came. He could state with confidence, For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
 
 
    

      

Backsliding in the Latter Years

Backsliding in the Latter Years
Robert Wurtz II

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1 Kings 11:4)

It is hard to imagine how the wisest man that ever lived, save our Lord Jesus Christ, could be deceived into serving other gods. Here is a man that when dedicating the Temple saw the Fire fall from heaven to consume the sacrifices and the glory of God filling the house. He wrote the vast majority of the Proverbs and at one time was the most powerful man in the Middle East. But something happened. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods. 

Growing Old

Conventional wisdom would lend us to think that it is the youthful man that turns against God, sows his wild oats, and then later when he is old returns to God. Not in this case. Disobeying God started to catch up with Solomon. Striving to give himself to all manor of pleasures soon took their toll. He woke up one day and it seems that the glorious experience he once had in God was but a distant memory. As the cliche’ goes; ‘out of sight- out of mind.’ For years he was caught up maxing out the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Solomon had it all in super abundance. God had warned the future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:17,  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. Although familiar with these and other verses, Solomon somehow began to carry himself as if he were above the Law of God. This is very dangerous. 
Examples Unto Us

 Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11, Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Paul spends several verses leading up to this passage showing the people at Corinth that they were capable of committing the same sins as did the Children of Israel. Pastor D.L. Burch used to say, “When you get out from under the hand of God, you don’t know what you are capable of.” Certainly we are capable of doing anything that happened in the Old Testament. That would seem impossible for the Born Again. Theology gets real fuzzy when sin comes into the picture. All the charts and graphs seem to break down. Yet the warnings are clear, all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition. 

Above the Law

What was true in our youth will be true in our old age. Time does not shield us from the harsh reality that we still live in a sinful world and among devils plotting to take us out. The passing of sands in the hour-glass cannot assure us of a continued faith and trust in God; we have to go on working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart serving the Lord. We never get too old to obey God. He is not like our parents that we somehow reach an age that we gain our autonomy and do what we wish. We are forever subject to His precepts. If we ever get hardened and deceived by sin, we will soon believe we are above the laws of God. We can come to assume we can pick and choose what we have to adhere to. Solomon lived out this reality. The older he got, the more carnal he became; all the while maintaining his wisdom. A very sobering thing to consider. 

Trappings of Old Age

One of the great dangers of gaining life experience is that many of them are very negative. Life experience can either be an asset or a detriment. How easy it is to become cynical. He easy it would be to become bitter. Why? Life has a way of hardening us. Pretty soon nothing surprises us. Disappointments and disillusionments with people can lead to the notion that almost everyone is a hypocrite. You might be tempted to believe that they are all fakes and pretenders. Nothing works anymore- everything is doomed to failure. Pessimism can take over and rule the mind. This is Solomon in Ecclesiastes. It’s all just vanity and vexation of spirit. What’s the use? These are the type of thoughts that can dominate the mind and sour us in this present evil world.

Keeping a Good Spirit

We have this passage in Hebrews 12:15, looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. It is a picture from Deut. 29:18 and a strong warning against the widespread destructiveness of sin. When a person gets a bad spirit and begins to grow cold in God, they are at risk of failing in the grace of God. The consequence? Not only they, but others can become defiled in the process. No man or woman is an island. There is a sense in which we are all connected together and when one goes down the others suffer as well. The solution is prevention. We have to maintain a good spirit. No matter what happens in life, no matter how many disappointments, no matter how many people backslide, we have to keep on serving God. We need to be renewed daily before the Lord. We need to allow God to go through and reset the dials and make sure we are ready to face each day fresh; not carrying over the misadjustments and baggage of yesterday. We need to be refreshed before the Lord each day and in so doing we can finish this race ready to be offered, having finished our course, having kept the faith. 

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