Have you ever felt worn out while trying to live the Christian life? I have. There are times when doing what is right, going against the flow of culture, and living by faith is downright exhausting. But this is not how it’s supposed to be, and I can see that my problem is not my own weakness, but my attempt to live this life apart from the wisdom and strength God provides.
1 Timothy 1:18-19
18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.
Paul encourages Timothy, and the rest of us, to fight the good fight and to not shipwreck our faith, as some had done.
It looks like Timothy is a young pastor, possibly just recently ordained. Paul is telling Timothy to remember the truths that were spoken to him during his ordination. While we don’t have a transcript of what was said, we know that it was in accordance with the gospel and that those words gave the strength young Timothy needed during stormy times.
Paul uses two different kinds of metaphors. One is of a military nature and one is nautical. His point is that we need to be good warriors as well as good sailors.
As a warrior we have two jobs. One is to fight against those things that are contrary to God’s Word and His honor. The world calls us to come and rest in her comforts and to amass her fortunes. She tells us to accept her philosophies in order to find joy, and to link arms with those who oppose God. But comfort is not found in stuff, and our value and dignity cannot be found in the world, but only in our relationship with Jesus. We are to fight against lies and injustice, perversion and evil.
But we also have to fight against all those same things that lurk in our own hearts. We are tempted to disbelieve God and we must fight that impulse. We are tempted to dishonor God by being lazy, unkind, thoughtless, or greedy and we must fight.
The second job we have as warriors is to fight for the gospel; to fight for righteousness and goodness and truth. It is not enough to speak out against what is wrong, but to speak clearly for what is right, and to then follow such words with holy actions.
But we must always fight with love and grace because this is how the Captain of Armies interacts with us and we are to be like our Captain.
The second charge Paul gives us is to make sure we don’t shipwreck our faith. We believe that once you are saved you cannot lose your salvation. The sacrifice of Christ cannot be undone, the pardon cannot be taken back, and our adoption as children of God cannot be made void. Our salvation is secure, but we are capable of weakening and even wrecking our faith to the point of bringing shame on the name of God and earthly consequences to ourselves.
In order to be a good sailor we need knowledge and wisdom. We need to know how to spot false teachings that cause harm to people’s souls. We need to be able to distinguish between truth and error. We need to learn how to sail through different kinds of water, whether still, choppy, or turbulent. All of this knowledge and wisdom can only come through the study of God’s Word and communion with God through prayer.
Through all of this we need to remember that we cannot be strong warriors or smart sailors on our own. If you rely on your own strength you will become overwhelmed, fearful, worn out, and ready to give up very quickly. We must rely on the power and strength that God offers us on a daily basis.
Confess your weaknesses, ask for help, trust that God will answer, and watch him work in your life.