25th September 2022 (Pentecost 16)
Sermon Title: Act Now & Fight the Good Fight of Faith
(1 Timothy 6:11-19 & Luke 16:19-31)
By Heeyoung Lim
26 Korean words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary last year. With these additions, “we are all riding the crest of the Korean wave” the OED says in a statement. Many words come from Korean origin, but several words are new formations or new senses of existing English words. For Instance, the interjection “fighting!” is used to express encouragement, incitement, or support, another way to say, ‘go on!’ or ‘go for it!’ (BBC News, 5 October 2021) It is not about real fights. When a Korean says, “fighting!”, it means, do not give up, you can do it, I believe in you, I will be rooting for you, cheer up, I know you are going to get through it, and so on. The word “Fighting!” is simple, but the meaning is complicated and positive. Today’s text invites us to fight the good fight of faith.
Paul called Timothy as man of God and told him to flee from all ungodliness. The Christian is to escape from the traps and temptations of money and selfish ambition. We are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. (v.11) These six qualities mark the life of a Christian, but intention and effort are needed. As Hebrew 12: 1-2, we are to run with perseverance fixing our eyes on Jesus. Paul’s list of Christian characteristics closely matches the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22.
Timothy was to pursue personal behaviours, attitudes, and habits which would reflect his companionship with Christ. He was also to fight the good fight of the faith. He was to defend truth as a leader. (v.12) Those who follow Christ are to exhibit God in this world. We do this through our words, deeds, and the good fight of faith. In our lives, our public witness and private disciplines are necessary for the good fight of faith.
Paul told Timothy to take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. The eternal life which believers enter is not limited to a future hope. It is also a present reality. We take hold of this eternal life when we live in the power of God and values of God’s kingdom. We will not experience the fullness of Christ’s reign until Christ returns, but eternal life is still accessible at the present time on earth as a future hope and present reality at the same time. May we live in harmony with God and His Spirit. Eternal life is not reserved for a certain level of people. It is available to all who believe in Jesus and live out the gospel and fight the good fight of faith. True faith cannot be hidden. Timothy testifies that he trusted in Jesus Christ in public.
Paul said in the sight of God who gives life to everything. God is sovereign over all life. All we exist by God’s mercy and life-giving power. We are cared for by his strength and goodness. The fact that God cares for us brings comfort as well as gratitude. Our lives begin with faith and confession, and they grow in intimate fellowship with Christ. Christ had a calling to reveal God in this world and to provide a way to be saved by holy living, death on the cross, and resurrection. Paul also delivered his command in the sight of Christ Jesus. May we testify Jesus and the love of God in the sight of God and in the sight of Christ.
Paul extended the charge to Timothy: keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a temporary determination but a lifelong pursuit and commitment until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we have a high expectancy of the Lord’s return even though we do not know when. Such a glorious prospect helps to overcome the difficulties as well as the temptations of this life in faith.
Every good thing comes from God, who is generous to all. Through 1 Timothy 6, God invites us to learn personal contentment in all circumstances. Money is one of Paul’s major concerns in this chapter. It sometimes means temptations, disappointments, and destructiveness. However, God leads us to recognize God’s generosity and show it to the world.
For most people, becoming a Christian does not entail radical changes in occupation, living conditions, salary, or neighbourhood. Christ calls us to extend His kingdom from the place we now live. Contentment, the pursuit of godliness, and living with Christ are foundational to genuine Christian living. Becoming a disciple of Christ does not release a person from obligations or unpleasant conditions. Instead, being a disciple presents us with a higher standard or divine goals in all relationships and circumstances.
The Word of God is sufficient to lead us to salvation and faith growth. No matter what God does, some people do not listen to His Word. In Luke 16, with no transition statement, Luke introduced the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In this parable, a rich man enjoys the most luxurious life possible. His dress and his food set him apart from other people. Lazarus owned nothing, but Jesus honoured him with a name. Lazarus is the only character in Jesus’ parables who is named.
What we know about Lazarus is his name and his need. Lazarus’s empty stomach and life are gnawing at him, and his gaze is set on the household of the rich man, where he hopes only for the leftovers or less. There was a gulf, boundaries, and walls between the two. There was no “going” or “crossing” from the rich man when Lazarus really needed the rich man’s help. Can we break the walls between us and others? Can we cross a gulf between us and God? Who is on the other side of that door?
The poor Lazarus died, one day death also visited the self-righteous and self-centred rich man. There were differences between Lazarus and the rich man as to what happened after death in this story. Lazarus died and went with the angels to heaven, but the rich man did not. Now the situation was reversed. Lazarus received the comfort he had sought for all those years, but the rich man had slipped from the comfortable life to agony. Lazarus gets nothing, but angels carry off the poor man to Abraham’s bosom in this story. God cares for him and leads him to heaven.
The rich man had the opportunity to do all Jesus had commanded when Lazarus lived on the street beside the rich man’s gate and needed help. He could invite the sick to his banquet table. He could show his generosity in using his material resources for the kingdom of God. He could restore a lost man who was almost dead to life and join in heaven’s joy. He could even sell his possessions to help others. But he did not do anything for Lazarus who was in need. He ignored Lazarus and went about his luxurious life. It was too late.
The rich man’s life was disobedient living. As in 1 Timothy 6, rich people can do a great deal of good with their resources. If the rich are not to devote themselves to things, then they are to invest themselves in doing good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. Disciple’s life is obedient living. Eternity marks a radical difference in the experience of followers of Jesus and the experience of self-righteous people.
The pursuit for certainty often becomes an excuse for not acting. We are called to act based not on an absolute certainty in the divine command, but on our faith in Jesus’ words and love. God invites us to act right now to help others and show the love of God. God cares for us. May we act right now for the Lord, share for those who are in need, and fight the good fight of faith. “Fighting!”
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)