Torstai 27.6.2019
Kun herään unesta, sinun läsnäolosi ravitsee minut. Ps. 17:15

I have fought the good fight

in English 20.11.2013 15:13 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
Apostle Paul was familiar with the contemporary culture and the value that was placed on sport. Since he knew that notions of competition were prevalent in people’s thoughts, he often compared the life of a Christian to the running of a race. He also wanted to show that the significance and destination of the endeavor in faith are much greater than any attainment of temporal goals.
Paul wrote to Timothy that bodily exercise is of little use, but that true faith is useful in all ways, as it involves a promise of both current and future life. He said that believers endeavor in faith because they believe in living God, who is the Savior of all people. (1 Tim. 4:8–10.)

Trust in God’s grace

A psalm writer talks about faith as a ”road” or a ”way”. He says he prayed day and night, calling on God for help and asking: ”Teach me thy way, O Lord” (Ps. 86:11). According to the Bible, man can only get on the road of eternal life through Christ.

Jesus said: ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: ”Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The Lord Jesus atoned for our sins, and not only ours but the sins of all people (1. John 2:2).

A person can find the way leading to eternal life by hearing God’s call in this world. The Lord of the heaven and the earth has established the ministry of reconciliation in his congregation. This ministry is a service done by God’s children. ”God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19).
Paul said he was running toward the destination, the greatest prize, unto which God had called him in Jesus Christ. He therefore said he would gladly forget what was in the past and would endeavor toward the goal ahead of him. (Phil. 3: 13–14.) The sustaining strength of those traveling on the road of life is God’s grace. It teaches them to abandon ungodliness and worldly lusts. (Tit. 2:11–12.)

Love, the distinguishing mark of God’s children

God’s word compares people to good and bad trees (Matt. 12:33). According to the Bible, a child of God is a “good tree” that bears good fruit. Jesus taught that a good man brings forth good things out of the good treasure of his heart, while an evil man brings forth evil things (Matt. 12:35).

Paul wrote that the love of God has been poured out into the believers’ hearts by the Holy Spirit given to them (Rom. 5:5). The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). The first fruit of faith is love.

Apostle John wrote: ”In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). This heavenly love radiates from a believer toward the Lord Jesus, other children of God, the work of the gospel, and unbelieving people, even those who seem antagonistic to the work of God’s kingdom. The apostle encouraged us to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love (Rom. 12:10).

In his farewell speech, Jesus said to his followers: ”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)

Taking care of one’s faith

As believers, we gather to hear God’s word. We do not want to live in a way that is contrary to God’s word. This is not due to a calculated choice or external compulsion, but to the instruction of God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. (Tit. 2:11–12.) Living faith cannot remain invisible in the life of a child of God.

People may sometimes say that God’s children are isolated outsiders. This is not so, however, according to God’s word and believers’ personal experience. Living faith helps us to live a true life in God’s kingdom of grace. We have been able to see in our own lives and in the lives of our family and friends that, if we remain obedient to God’s word, we are spared many of the evil things that keep some of our neighbors in bondage.

We know that all life needs nourishment. This is also true of the life of faith. Martin Luther wrote like this in his book ’Christian’s Freedom’: ”The soul has nothing else to live by either on earth or in heaven – – except the holy gospel, the word of God. That gives the soul enough nourishment, joy, peace, enlightenment, skill, righteousness, truth, wisdom, freedom, and all good things in abundance.” The Lutheran Christian Doctrine teaches us to take care of our faith: ”To remain in faith and to be strengthened in it, the Christian should make diligent use of God’s word and the Holy Communion, prayer, and Christian fellowship.”

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews instructs God’s children to take care of their faith like this: ”Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebr. 12:1–2) We can be relieved of our sins and burdens only by believing the gospel preached through the Holy Spirit, whose core is the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and blood.

The most important thing of life

Although life presents us with many demands and duties, there is only one thing that is necessary. The psalm writer said it like this: ”Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Ps. 86:11).

Jesus explained that it is not possible to serve two masters. He said: ”For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34) We therefore pray to God for strength to endeavor full-heartedly in his kingdom.

Where God does his saving work, the powers of the Enemy are often also active. This was true even in Paul’s time. For example, there had been false teachers traveling in Colossae and the neighboring towns, who based their preaching on other elemental spiritual forces, not Christ. Their purpose was to confuse Christians with vain philosophical ramblings and draw them away from the simple faith in Christ.

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, his words gave persuasive testimony of the power of the gospel and the strong foundation of faith. He exhorted Colossian Christians to walk in Christ even at times of temptation, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. In Christ the fullness of the Deity exists in bodily form. Children of God can possess this through faith. (Col. 2:6–10)

The controversy between God’s proclamation and the instruction arising from the corrupt human mind and between faith and reason is often visible in the lives of people in the Bible. Children of God may experience similar controversies in our time. Children of God instructed by the Holy Spirit, however, can be assured that their faith is strengthened in the fellowship of God’s congregation. In that congregation we are assured over and over again that the full divinity of God was made manifest in Jesus Christ.

Finishing a good race

In his farewell letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: ”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7–8) A Christian cannot win the prize by his own successful performance, but only by keeping faith in a good and clean conscience with power of the gospel of Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy: ”Hold on to faith and a good conscience!” (1 Tim. 1:19)

Text: Juhani Liukkonen
Published: SRK Yearbook 2001
Translation: S.-L. L. 

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