I hope you'll forgive today's devotional. Or, at the very least, that it will bring a smile to your face as you realize how crazy this Bishop is! I love a good fight.
My life verse relates to pressing on and taking hold. Today's verse puts some additional context around it. The Apostle Paul is delivering instructions to Timothy, his disciple, And, in so doing, he gives us some godly wisdom.
"Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Well, here's where the crazy Bishop shows up. When you begin to speak with me about being willing to fight, I instinctively have two contexts - karate and the US Marines. This morning I intend to "translate" some of the wit and wisdom spoken about the Marine Corps and apply it to you and me.
Big differences begin with deliberate choices. I recall a recruiting poster for the Marines Corps that says "IT'S OK TO BE DIFFERENT" while showing a large group of figures walking to one side of a fork in the road and a lone figure walking to the other. The emblems of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force line the pathway of the throng; the other road is emblazoned with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor of the US Marines.
As dedicated believers who are actively TAKING HOLD of the life to which we have been called, we are going to be different. We will certainly be different from the world. We will be lights shining in the darkness. But the sad fact is that we must also be different from many people who CLAIM to know Christ, but whose lives show little evidence of it. Devotion to duty is never measured by what you DON'T do, but only by the deliberate choice to be willing to lay down your life to accomplish the mission set before you. Unfortunately, while relatively few people who claim the name live lives of dedication to His mission, the majority seem satisfied with missional mediocrity. Some are satisfied with merely being loosely associated with Christ, and make no discernable effort to advance His Kingdom. We need to evaluate our call, our determination, our giftings and skills - and employ them with a deliberate focus aimed at overcoming the enemy and accomplishing the mission.
It has been said, "You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth -- and the amusing thing is that they are."
Christians have been accused of arrogance because we boldly announce that Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life; and that NO ONE comes to the Father except by Him. We unequivocally state that there is NO OTHER NAME given under heaven whereby we can be saved. In today's woke and diverse society, people tell us tat we are not supposed to talk like that. Others insist that there are many ways to God. Sadly, that's a lie. If there WERE another way for the great price of our sins to be paid, then the core teaching of the bible is totally wrong and the death of Jesus Christ is nothing more than a needless act of cruelty. When we, as Christ followers, declare that He is the ONLY way of salvation "the amusing thing" is that we are absolutely correct.
There is a "dictionary" definition that says "MARINE, noun; (Muh-reen). A person who can improvise, adapt and overcome more (blank) than the 98.7% of other people who will give up."
As we fight the good fight of faith and take hold of the eternal life to which we were called, we will face adversity. We are called to press on. As the Marines drilled into us over and over again … Improvise - Adapt - OVERCOME. Never give in, never give up. Be tough when you must and tender when you may - but be the victor always. As we who are called to make disciples of all nations leave our comfort zone to engage our mission, we must let the Lord Jesus Christ show us ways to improvise without compromise; because the foundational truths of the Church never change. We must choose to adapt new tools and methods without adopting the corruption that is in the world. And, most of all, we must overcome the enemy.
Fighting the good fight REQUIRES that we do more than acknowledge that we have an enemy. Winning the battle requires that we engage and defeat him. Totally. Unequivocally. Absolutely. You cannot defeat an enemy by ignoring him and hoping he will go away and leave you alone. I want to be so connected to Christ, so filled with His power and His Spirit that I fear only Jesus; and, in so doing, that the devil cringes in fear at the sound of my approaching footsteps. He will try to instill fear and doubt as Christ our Lord works to infuse us with FAITH and POWER. You and I choose which we will accept.
One night a powerful man of God from the UK named Smith Wigglesworth was awoken from a deep sleep by some horrible dreams. As he looked about the bedroom, he saw satan himself sitting on the end of his bed. Instead of reacting in fear, he looked at him and said, "Oh, it's just you." Then he turned over and went back to sleep. Don't allow the enemy to intimidate you either!
When the devil whispers in your ear and tells you, "You are not strong enough to withstand the storm" our reply ought to be, "I AM THE STORM! I am filled with the Holy Spirit and have mighty weapons with divine power to demolish strongholds. I destroy every argument and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. I take every thought captive to obey Christ. I AM THE STORM! And I am about to storm your gates, overcome your minions, break into your prisons, release your captives and grant them FREEDOM! I 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. IN CHRIST, I WILL HAVE THE VICTORY!"
Some of you reading this may not have made the choice to serve Christ with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength. To you, this level of commitment will appear crazy. I don't care. Ronald Reagan once said, "Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. Marines don't have that problem." Well, my friends, neither do committed servants of Jesus Christ. We are determined to TAKE HOLD OF LIFE, even if it costs us ours. We are determined to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT.
There's one singular characteristic that separates Marines.
None of us almost joined.