What I have on my heart to share with you today is something the Lord taught me very early on in my Christian walk.
I actually have a “growth tree” that I’ve drawn where I illustrate the things the Lord has established me in since I was born again in January of 2000. And the very first thing He taught me was FAITH—the importance of not being moved by what we see, hear, feel or experience, but only to be moved by what we believe (based on what is written).
THE FIGHT OF FAITH
First Timothy 6:11-12 – But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
What the apostle Paul was telling Timothy to flee was all of the false teachings that have always tended to creep into the church, from obsessions to dispute and argue over words to the teachings of worldly, material gain. But these six virtues that he told him to pursue are what are truly important.
I remember when the Lord taught me something similar: Early in my Christian walk, I had been reading a book of a woman who had apparently visited hell and she said that there were preachers there for preaching false doctrine. Now whether you or I believe that is accurate or not, it shook me up back then (before I had started preaching but knowing I was called to). So, I remember going to the Lord and asking him to keep me from ever teaching or preaching things that were error. Well, the Lord took me over to Second Peter the following day and showed me that if I put my focus on my foundation of faith and work towards building myself up in all of these other godly virtues, I will never stumble in His Word (see Second Peter 1:5-11).
And I believe that is lesson for us here today: Don’t give your time and attention to things that do not promote edification and growth in these areas that Paul told Timothy to pursue. Honor the weightier matters of the Word, such as faith, mercy and justice (as the Master said). Give your attention to righteousness, godliness, love, patience, and faith. Then, we can be assured that He can keep us from straying from the faith—for our humility is our protection from deception.
But then notice how Paul transitions to the exhortation for Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Now by saying that there is a “good fight of faith” indicates that there must also be a bad fight. Now a bad fight would be characterized by the following terms: weak, cowardly, retreating. A good fight, on the other hand, is a fight where we are strong, bold, persistent and militant. And a good fight is always a fight that we win and have that winner’s mentality. Amen? It’s a good fight of faith when you do exactly what the Lord told you to do, regardless of how you feel.
However, I believe the key element that the Holy Spirit gave us here that makes a Christian fight a good fight is faith—for Paul calls it a “good fight of faith.” In other words, because it is a fight of faith, it’s a good fight in God’s sight.
And this is exactly where many Christians miss it. They are fighting all right, but they are not doing it in faith. They are fighting in the flesh—defending themselves, retaliating, etc. Let me give you an example of this: Say, someone comes against you—maligning, slandering and falsely accusing you of something. What is our tendency when this happens? To defend ourselves, bless God! And shouldn’t we? God helps those who help themselves, right? WRONG! That is not a Scripture! The truth is—God helps those who humble themselves under Him and do what He told us to do in these situations. But here is the truth: Whenever we respond like this (which is in essence like the world does), we are not responding in faith. No, we are not at those times, fighting the good fight of faith. What we are doing is trying to fight a good fight in the flesh—and that is always wrong.
You see, I think it is interesting that the example that Paul goes on to use in the verse immediately after this is Jesus before Pontius Pilate. You remember what happened there, don’t you? Jesus was being falsely accused, being done wrong, etc. and what He do? He fought the good fight of faith by not even defending Himself. And I love how Peter says that He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (First Peter 2:23). Here’s the truth: the more we are trusting God to defend us, fight our battles for us, etc. the less we will defend ourselves, retaliate, etc. That’s right—how we respond in the middle of tribulations & persecutions indicates how much faith we have in Him. Amen.
Now this does not mean that there is never a place for us to speak up or do anything in these situations. In all cases, we must be Spirit-led and act in faith on whatever both the Spirit and Word have agreed upon. However, what I am saying is that to respond in the flesh and be emotion-led is not going to be the response of faith.
You see, a big thing that we can gather from this passage of Scripture is that faith is a fight. Therefore, we are going to have to fight to not cater to the flesh’s impulses to do something to help God out and that self-preservation thing that we all have in us.
Some believe that if we live a life of faith that we won’t have any problems, but that is simply not true. The truth is, when you are living by faith, you will be swimming upstream and against the current—because we live in this world and everything in it will fight against us. Therefore, walking by faith is not easy.
For example, if we are walking by faith, what are we not doing? Walking by sight. In other words, if we are walking by faith, we are not living our lives according to what we see, feel, hear, or experience. This means that if we are going to walk by faith, we are going to have to fight the good fight of faith.
Now the term “faith” is key here. That means that if we are going to win the battle for our soul, then we are going to have to do some fighting without seeing anything and without feeling anything. And that is where we lose most “believers.” Most people are emotion and feeling led. They only look at the things which are seen. But if we are going to be “believers” then we can’t be “feelers” or “see-ers.” God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and has given us the tools to escape the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4) - giving all diligence, adding to your faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love - knowing that if these are in you and are increasing, you will be a fruitful follower of Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8). Note that in this list, faith is the foundation and love is the ceiling.
So, what I want to do today is to teach you how to fight.
WE ALREADY HAVE FAITH
But there are those who believe that some simply have been blessed with more faith than others, etc. That’s not true. We all have the same spirit of faith (Second Corinthians 4:13).
Now I just love the way the apostle Paul says what he did in Second Corinthians 4:13: He says, “Having the same spirit of faith…” Notice he said, “having”—not “having had” or “hoping to have.” No, having right now! So, this is something every born-again believer has the right to have right now.
In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter addresses his letter “to those who have obtained like precious faith” with him and the others who had called on the name of the Lord. What this means is that every believer has obtained faith, and not only just any faith, but faith that is of the same value and of equal specialness to that of even the great apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ! In fact, Peter is one of the ones included in this “with us” right? So, that means you have the same water-walking faith that Peter had! Wow! Now that is awesome stuff! We all have a measure of faith (see Romans 12:3)- not just some of us.
So we all have faith, and this faith is capable of growing exceedingly (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3). We all have the capability to walk in mountain-moving, devil-stomping, life-changing faith! But this gift of the Spirit differs from the measure of faith that we have all received in that it is a supernatural endowment of special faith that transcends what we could receive with our own faith.
You see, as we have seen, our faith grows. We have all obtained like precious faith—having received the measure of faith. But that does not mean that we have all arrived to the place of mountain moving faith. We must let our faith grow by first hearing the Words of faith and then by putting it into practice by exercise.
And this is a great lesson on the very subject we are covering here right now. Someone with the “spirit of faith” will take Scriptures like this one and say, “Bless God, a spirit of faith is mine right now!” Someone might even say to them, “Well, it doesn’t look like you have it, brother.” But this person of faith will say, “I am not moved by what I see. God said. I believe. That settles it. I have—right now—a spirit of faith! Amen!”
TAKING UP THE SHIELD OF FAITH
Someone might be thinking, “I don’t think I have much faith at all because I have not seen the results that others have.” The reason one might not have had the results that others have had around them is not necessarily because others “have more” faith than them. It is likely more because these other “faith giants” have decided to “take up their shield of faith” (see Ephesians 6:16).
You see, faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised in order to become stronger. And anyone will agree that if you haven’t been exercising, you cannot go in to a weight room and start lifting the heavy weights first. You must start with what your muscles can handle first. Likewise, when it comes to our faith, we need to exercise it first on what it can handle and let it develop so that it can handle the bigger stuff down the road. For example, we need to exercise our faith with a cold or a car payment before we start trying to believe God for something bigger. We have “more than enough” faith; we just need to exercise it.
Saints, we have a free membership to "God's Gym" - we exercise our faith by using it in each trial that comes. Notice that even Jesus grew His faith in the same way. Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus “learned obedience by the things He suffered.” He faced everything that came at Him in faith.
And that is another problem—so many believers do not know how to exercise their faith. In other words, they do not know how faith works.
Do you remember when Jesus referred to us having faith as a mustard seed? So many believe Jesus was referring to the size of their faith by the reference to the mustard seed, but Jesus never mentioned anything about the size of the seed except in one parable. In His teachings on faith, He simply said, “as a mustard seed.” In other words, you could make the point that He was referring to faith like a mustard seed. This is why I believe Jesus was referring to the manner by which a mustard seed operates. In other words, Jesus was not using a mustard seed to illustrate the size of faith that gets results; He was using a mustard seed as the example as to how we see these mountains removed.
So, in my experience and based on what the Word of God teaches us, I have found that the problem is not that God’s children do not have enough faith; the problem is they have never exercised their faith.
So, like the Apostle Paul said, we all have our own shield of faith - which is more than enough faith to cover everything in our life - but we have not all learned to “take up” our shield of faith—that is, learning to use it when our faith is tried.
Now, there is a reason why the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul used a shield to describe our faith: It is because our faith is what we use to resist the enemy!
For example, if you read further in Hebrews chapter 11, you come to find out that our faith actually accomplishes two things (see Hebrews 11:32-40):
Verses 33-35 tells us that faith certainly works offensively, producing miracles. It delivers from fiery trials and from the edge of the sword. It raises the dead and makes strong the weak. It subdues kingdoms and makes us valiant in battle. It shuts the mouths of lions, etc., etc., etc.
However, in verses 36-38, the writer says, “still others’” faith also caused many of them to simply not quit when they endured intense suffering and persecution like being tempted, stoned, imprisoned, impoverished, etc.
So, what I take away from this is that our faith in God will cause us to do two things:
And the latter is why we see our faith described as a shield in our spiritual armor.
You see, just as a shield is used to primarily resist an enemy’s offensive attacks, likewise our faith is what we use to resist the offensive onslaught of the devil.
There are a couple of passages of Scripture that make this same connection between our faith and resisting Satan: James 4:7 tells us specifically to “resist the devil” and 1 Peter 5:9 says, also speaking of the devil, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” So, by these two passages of Scripture, we can see that our shield of faith is what we use to resist the devil.
So, what specifically are we resisting? We are resisting the pressure that comes from the tribulations he causes in our lives. We are resisting the temptations to quit and compromise our faith.
But the end of Ephesians 6:16 describes what we are literally resisting in the midst of these tribulations and temptations: The end of Ephesians 6:16 says, “with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
You see, the enemy will stir up persecution, create temptations, and bring tribulations into our life, but these are not the “fiery darts” that Paul was referring to. These outward, physical things are just the vehicles that he uses to create an opportunity to shoot those fiery darts into our heart and mind.
You see, these fiery darts are spiritual, unseen weapons intended to wound our inner man. Just as the armor of God is spiritual and cannot be contacted through our physical senses, these arrows that the enemy uses are spiritual in nature and cannot be the physical, natural problems.
But let me tell you what the devil does. He will cause these natural trials and tribulations and then will attempt to capitalize on these things by sending thoughts and stirring up emotions on the inside of us that tempt us to let go of our faith. He will stir up troubles on the outside and then will fire these unseen arrows to wound us on the inside. This is the method he uses to penetrate our faith.
But by using the term “fiery darts” the Apostle Paul reveals to us exactly what these arrows are meant to accomplish:
The terminology “fiery darts” is actually a substandard translation. A better translation would be “flaming missiles.”
You see, back during the first century, many nations’ armies would use long, slender pieces of cane and fill them with combustible fluids. They would then light the tips of these combustible arrows and shoot them at their enemy. When the arrow hit, it would explode and generally burn up whatever it hit. This is exactly what these “fiery darts” that the enemy fires at us will do.
You see, these spiritual, unseen “flaming missiles” are shot at our heart and mind and if they hit, they can spread into a full-fledged “forest fire” of emotions, anxiety, and fear.
Many of us have experienced this, haven’t we? Maybe you received a bad report, and after you heard the bad news, what began to happen on the inside of you? Well, a fire of emotions can have a tendency to consume you. All kinds of thoughts seem to be fired at your mind and can even penetrate your heart to where you feel emotionally and spiritually wounded. These “feelings” that we experience are oftentimes a result of the enemy firing these “flaming missiles” at our heart and mind in an attempt to penetrate our faith and defeat us spiritually.
This reveals to us another important truth concerning our shield of faith:
Earlier, I explained how these shields were not made out of what we would traditionally think they were made out of… Their substance included wood and layers of animal hide. So, guess what might have happened when one of these flaming arrows hit their shield? Their shield was capable of catching on fire because of the material that was used to make the shield!
So, the Roman soldier developed a strategy to defend themselves from this deadly possibility… They would take their shield every morning and soak it in a large barrel of water until it was completely saturated - “water-logged,” if you would. So that when those arrows hit their shields, their flames would be “quenched.”
What does this teach us? It teaches us that if we want to be able to quench the flaming missiles of the devil, then we better saturate our shield of faith by both the “washing of water by the Word” and those “rivers of living water” produced by the Holy Spirit. It tells us that the quality of our faith is directly tied to our attention to God’s Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Spirit and the Word ought to be our first and foremost priority in our life. Without a daily saturation of these two things, our faith will become dry and susceptible to being burnt up. And this should not surprise us, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
So, what have we learned today? We have learned that our shield of faith is what we use to resist the devil and quench all of his assaults against our mind, heart and emotions. It is our defensive weapon, saints! So, we need to start “taking” it up when those fiery darts are thrown at us - and we do that by exercising our faith!
Therefore, when those pressures to quit, compromise and shrink back are fired at us, that’s when we are to take up our shield of faith and begin quenching those flaming missiles by actively and aggressively putting our faith into action! The more “weights” that are in your life, the more opportunity to grow stronger, if you respond in faith. Amen.
But not only does our faith put out the fires that the enemy tries to stir up in our souls, it also stirs up the things that we are called to walk in.
STIRRING UP THE GIFT
Now I want us to go over to Second Timothy chapter 1 and take a look at what the apostle Paul said to his son in the faith, Timothy, regarding this:
Beginning in verses 3-4, he says, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,”
Notice, first of all, that Paul acknowledged the hurts, pains, heartache that Timothy was experiencing by saying, “being mindful of your tears.”
So yes, there is a place for being mindful of other’s tears—for sympathizing with, and even weeping with those who weep. But here is an extremely important point you need to get: Your tears, your hurts, your pain, your sorrow, your heartache, etc. absolutely should mean something to me. But your tears, your hurts, your pain, your sorrow, your heartache, etc. should mean absolutely nothing to you. In other words, when it comes to me loving you, I should be touched with the feelings of your infirmities and show compassion on you. However, when it comes to you governing your own life—you shouldn’t be moved by your own feelings and “pity thyself.”
However, what good friends in the faith will do is, while they will be compassionate towards their friend’s hurts, they will also draw them back to faith. Notice what Paul said next.
He said, “that I may be filled with joy…when I call to remembrance the genuine faith...” (Verses 4-5). What filled Paul with joy, however, was remembering the genuine faith he had. So, what Paul was doing here was a good job of exhortation. He was not just remembering Timothy’s faith, but was reminding Timothy himself of what he had—because apparently Timothy hadn’t been using much of it.
So, when Paul said that this genuine faith that he knew was in Timothy’s grandma and his mama was in him as well, he said, “and I am persuaded is in you also.” In other words, what he was saying was—"You got it in you, boy! That same spirit of faith that your grandmama & mama had in them, it’s in you too!”
Then we get to this oh so powerful verse--Second Timothy 1:6. Paul says, ”Therefore…” In other words, “since you have this genuine faith in you, this is what you need to do—stir up that gift that God put in through the laying on of my hands!”
Now what did Paul mean when he said, “I remind you”? Apparently, he had spoken something to him before about stirring up this gift of God that was given to him. So, when did Paul tell him this—do we have any record of it? We sure do!
In First Timothy 4:14, Paul had told Timothy not to neglect this gift of God that was in him, given to him by prophecy and through the laying on of hands of the eldership. Well, guess what apparently happened? Timothy did exactly what most of us do—God tells to be sure to do something and then we fail to do it, and then He has to come and tell us how to get out of the condition we never should have gotten in, in the first place.
You see, the words “stir up” that Paul used in Second Timothy 1:6 come from a triple-compound word in the original Greek language. It comes from the word where we get “pyro” from, which obviously means “fire.” It also uses the word “zoe”—meaning life. And, finally, it uses the Greek word ana which means “up or again.” So, when you combine these three words together, the phrase “stir up” means to “bring a fire to life again,” or you could say it means to “rekindle” a fire.
Well, in order to “rekindle” a fire, that means that the fire had to go out. And that is exactly what had happened to Pastor Timothy—his fire had all but been quenched. So, his father in the faith was exhorting him to stir that fire back up—that fire of the gift of God which he had in his spirit.
But again—when do fire’s go out? When we neglect them! Therefore, Timothy’s fire went out simply because he had failed to give the proper attention to it. So, how do we keep the fire stirred up within us? By doing what Paul told Timothy to do in First Timothy 4:14—to give attention to reading, exhortation, doctrine, and meditating on these things, etc. (see First Timothy 4:13,15-16).
You see, saints, it all starts with just simply reading your Bible. You would think that this was a given to most Christians, but it’s not. Very few believers actually read their Bible on a regular basis. God’s Word is food for your spirit man, church! So, in order to stay nourished in the spirit, we must feed ourselves regularly on the Word of God. Amen?
So, you getting in the Word yourself is the first and foremost way in which we do not neglect the gift of God within us, and therefore, keep that fire stoked. But then Paul says to also give attention to “exhortation.” This is exactly what I am giving you today—a good exhortation! But did you know that you do not have to wait until Sundays, Wednesday or Thursdays? You can “exhort” yourself in the Lord. We will get more into this momentarily. And, finally, Paul lists the third and final way in which we give attention to the gift of God within us and not neglect it—through “doctrine.” Now “doctrine” simply describes “teaching.” So, what this means is that we need to regularly sit under good, solid teaching like you are hearing here today. Can I get an, amen?
Then, in verses 15-16, Paul goes on to describe other important factors to keeping the fire burning in our hearts—namely, meditating on these things (i.e. what you have been reading, are being exhorted by, and what you are being taught). In other words, it is important for you to take the things you’ve heard, and give even “the more earnest heed” to those things lest you drift away from their truths (see Hebrews 2:1)—that is, aggressively and purposefully meditating on these truths afterwards.
And, finally, Paul tells Timothy to “take heed” to himself. This has a wide range of meaning too. First of all, we need to learn to take care of ourselves by not burning the candles at both ends and experiencing “burn out.” There is certainly a natural side to this as well. But it also describes “watching ourselves” in regards to making sure that our flaky flesh and squirrely soul don’t start this pity party, “woe is me” stuff we’ve talked about.
A good example of all of this I’ve been describing to you that happened to Timothy is how so many of us go to a camp-meeting, a youth retreat, or some other time of spiritual refreshing and we get “fired up.” But what happens almost every time? The fire begins to subside. What once was a bon-fire of zeal and excitement begins to wane and we wind back down to where we were before we ever went. Do you know why this happens? It is because we let the fire go out by not giving attention to it and continue to throw logs on the fire. And we throw more wood on the fire by doing these very things Paul told Timothy in First Timothy chapter 4.
But what I want you to see also is the other reason Timothy had let his fire go out:
We see this second point in Second Timothy 1:7 when he said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
So, Paul turned his attention to the things God had given him (the benefits, if you would)—power, love, and a sound mind, saying, “Man of God, exhort yourself! Tell your soul who you are and what you have! You have power, love, and a sound mind!”
HOW TO STIR UP THE GIFT
Now the very meaning of these words “stir up” also describes to us how we are to do this. Fire is involved! In other words, some zeal, fervency and passion are necessary to doing the “stirring.” Romans 12:11 says, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame” (The Message).
And one thing that needs to be understood is that what is being stirred is “the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”
Now it is rather clear that Paul is referring to a ministerial, spiritual gift that was given to Timothy during a time of laying on of hands. He said in Romans 1:11 that he desired to come to that body of believers in order to impart to them some spiritual gift—which I believe was at least partly through the laying on of hands like in Timothy’s case. But here is the point I want to make: Paul said that he was persuaded that the same genuine faith that was in his family was in Timothy also. And then he said, “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…” Now the gift of God Paul was referring to was not the genuine faith he had in him. We know this because faith does not come through the laying on of hands. Faith comes by hearing, not through going through some prayer line!
So, the genuine faith that Timothy had was what he was to use to stir up the gift of God that was already in him. So, when we have those times where we are tempted to get down and be discouraged—throwing a pity party and wanting everyone to come help us feel sorry for ourselves—that is when we need to grab ourselves by the ear and say to ourselves, “What are you doing!?! I’m a believer, not a whinny baby. I am changing my attitude right now and picking back up that spirit of faith that I am persuaded is in me.” And hopefully you also have some good faith buddies who will smack you across the face if you start poor-mouthing it, and say to you, “Get a hold of yourself! We don’t talk about how bad it is; we talk about how good He is! Let’s rejoice together until we regain the victory!”
Therefore, I believe we can see a principle here. When it comes to any of God’s gifts that are in you and I—whether that be the anointing for ministry or any other gift God has placed in us—we “stir up” those gifts through our faith that’s in us! No, we don’t stir it up by sitting there crying and saying, “Oh woe is me! It’s so hard! I’m hurting. Nobody loves me.” When we are tempted to feel that way, we need to pick ourselves up and stop being wimps! That’s not the spirit of faith! Begin to stir yourself up in Him! Amen!