Written and preached by David P. Nolte

2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8

The rugged, faithful veteran soldier of Jesus Christ had served his Commander-In-Chief well.  Now he was nearing his discharge from earthly service. He looked forward to it with expectation. He was not going to be merely executed, but poured out as an offering to Jesus. He looked back without regret. Not that he'd been perfect, but that in good conscience he could say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" 2 Timothy 4:7. He was a true Veteran. As we honor our national veterans we acknowledge our debt and express our gratitude to them for paying the price for our freedoms. Let us all purpose to be Veterans for Jesus, willing to pay the price to serve Him. Let us, with Paul, so live that we may one day consider our life in retrospect without regret. What will that demand of us? What did it demand of our veterans?  What did it demand of Paul? Consider the text for our answer.

    1. "I have fought the good fight." Paul was not referring to the sort of thing that Charles Barclay, Shaq O'Neal and others have experienced lately: Bar-room or Basketball court slug-outs.
    2. Paul is using an athletic term from which we get the word "agony" and it depicts a wrestling match in which every ounce of muscle, fiber and body is pitted strongly and resolutely against a competitor.
    3. But Paul was not competing with flesh and blood. His struggle was not against merely human foes. His struggle, like ours, was:
      1. Against physical, mental and emotional passions. James 1:14-15 "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
      2. Against Satan himself: James 4:7 "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
      3. Against the world's encroaching, anti-God influences: 1 John 2:15-16 "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."
      4. Against untruth, error and superstition: John 8:31-32 "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
      5. A struggle that is day in and day out and to the finish!
    4. Speaking of such a conflict, on February 22, 1836 62 men led by Lieutenant Colonel W.B. Travis and Colonel Jim Bowie entered the Alamo prepared to withstand attack by Santa Anna's forces. Santa Anna demanded unconditional surrender and was answered by a cannon shot from the fort. The bombardment began and the siege lasted 12 days. On the morning of March 6 several thousand troops stormed the fort determined to kill everyone inside. Travis drew a line in the sand with his sword and asked all who were willing to fight to the death to cross over. All the able bodied men stepped across and one too sick to walk cried to be carried across the line that he might die even if he could not fight. The only survivors were 16 women and children.
Paul had the attitude of the Alamo defenders: never quit, never give up, but always see it through! Paul manifested a determined attitude to win the conflict. So ought we! Paul was a veteran, and like the veterans of our nation, fought a good fight.
    1. "I have finished the course." Paul viewed his life as a race and he completed the entire course. He had experienced staying power, endurance, determination. Note how he put it in the Philippian letter: Philippians 3:13-14 "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
    2. We are all running a race; we are all on some course; we are all heading to some goal. The problem with the race is that while it is easy to start, it is difficult to finish!
      1. We get hurt (sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally) and want to drop out.
      2. We get sidetracked and deviate from the course.
      3. We look away and get tripped up.
    3. The demand is:
      1. Keep your eyes on the goal: As the Hebrew letter says, we ought to be "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2.
      2. Run with perseverance and discipline.
        1. 1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win."
        2. Hebrews 12:1 "... let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, ..."
    4. A Greek runner showed this same finishing attitude. After the battle of Marathon when Greece defeated Persia, the Greek soldier ran all the way to Athens. He said, "Rejoice, we have conquered!" And then, due to his exertion, he fell dead. But he had completed his course.
Paul was a competitor, and like the veterans of our country, finished what he set out to do! He finished the course.
    1. "I have kept the faith!" Paul may have meant several things by that phrase.
      1. He may have referred metaphorically to the oath of Greek competitors in the Olympics.
        1. They pledged to a minimum of 10 months rigorous training.  If they did that, they kept the faith.
        2. They pledged to not resort to trickery or cheating to win.  If they did that, they kept the faith.
        3. They pledged to keep the rules of honor in the contest.  If they did that, they kept the faith.
      2. He may have used in the sense it was sometimes used in business:
        1. One who kept the faith kept the terms of the contract, or agreement.
        2. One who kept the faith was true to the engagement to which he had been hired.
        3. One who kept the faith had done what was expected of him.
      3. He may have used it in the sense of keeping his trust or confidence in Jesus Christ strong.
        1. He never quit trusting Jesus through all the ordeals.  He kept the faith.
        2. He knew whom he had believed and was persuaded that He is able to keep that which he had committed to Him against that day.  He kept the faith.
        3. He did not allow anything to make him doubt Jesus.  He kept the faith.
      4. He may have used it in reference to the content of his message.
        1. "The faith" was a term used in reference to the content of the Christian doctrine.
        2. He did not sway away from truth or shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God.
        3. He did not fail to preach Christ and Him crucified.
    2. Paul meant, in summation, that he had been true to Jesus, he had lived up to his charge and kept his doctrine pure.
    3. How imperative it is in this faithless culture, this unbelieving world, this skepticak age that somebody keep the faith!  If you are the only one, keep the faith!  If nobody else stands with you, keep the faith!  No matter what the cost, keep the faith!
    4. A Roman soldier kept the faith. Archaeologists have unearthed a tremendous monument to his fidelity. When they excavated the ruins of Pompeii and scraped away the aftermath of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, they found a Roman sentinel standing at his post, spear in hand, frozen in death. He refused to budge from his post even to save his life while the thunder roared and the earth quaked and the sky darkened and the sulfuric fumes sucked the air out of his lungs and the volcanic ash covered him. He kept the faith!
Paul was a veteran, and like the veterans of our country, kept faithful. Paul urges us to follow him; he challenges us all: "fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith." 1 Timothy 1:18-19. "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:12 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." 2 Timothy 2:3-5. At the end of the challenge is the crown, promised to all who, with Paul look back without regret because they have fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. Our veterans did that for our country! Paul did it for Christ! Many through the ages have done so as well! But the question this morning is, "Have you fought the good fight? Have you stuck to the course? Have you kept the faith? Have you?"

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