Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV)
We are in our annual theme of “Called” where we are considering God’s teachings that tell us what we have called to be and do. We are able to see God’s beautiful intention and purpose for our lives. Please notice what God says that we were called to as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. You were called to take hold of eternal life. You have been called to eternal life. Listen to how Peter ends his letter.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)
You have been called to his eternal glory in Christ. Does this change how we look at life? You have been called to take hold of eternal life. You have been called to God’s eternal glory in Christ. Paul made a similar point to the Thessalonians.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11 ESV)
Notice how Paul states this truth in a different way. God has not destined us for wrath. Please think about that for a moment. God’s purpose for your life is not wrath. God’s goal for you is not to experience the wrath of God. Rather, God’s purpose for your life is to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we can have a false view of God. We may have been taught that God’s purpose for our lives is actually the opposite. How many of us have been taught that God’s purpose for us is wrath? We might have been taught that God’s purpose for you is eternal punishment and that God cannot be pleased with you. But I want us to see that God’s purpose for you is not wrath but salvation. God desires to rescue you. God has called you to eternity. Does this change how you look at life? Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. We are not supposed to experience eternal punishment. God did not make eternal fire for you or me. We have been predestined to adoption (Ephesians 1:5) and predestined to an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11), and not wrath.
This knowledge is intended to change how we live. We are supposed to know our purpose. We are supposed to be going somewhere. There are a number of ways in which the knowledge of our calling to eternal life is to change how we live.
Know We Are Different (Philippians 3:20)
We have not been called to this life but the life to come. We are not called for this world. We do not belong here. My family experienced this on our vacation this summer. We were blessed with the ability to take a trip to Europe. When we were in England we were living in a culture for a few days where we knew we did not belong. People drove on the wrong side of the street. When we would walk it was difficult because we kept looking the wrong direction to cross the street. The people there, though speaking the same language, had different meanings to their words than how we used them. The foods they ate were different than what we like. When I asked for bacon for breakfast I received something that looked more like a cross between ham and Canadian bacon. When I asked for sausage, it was not pork sausage that we were used to but another meat. I tried them both but they were not as good as what I like. We wanted our bacon and our sausage. We wanted ice cubes in our drinks. We were Americans and everyone knew it. We were different. We did not adopt their ways because we knew we belonged somewhere else. Rather than conforming to their ways, we tried to have them conform to ours because we knew we did not belong and we were not going to stay. We were ready to be home because that is where we belonged. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Philippians who were putting their hope in the physical citizenship of the Roman Empire.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20–21 ESV)
As citizens of heaven we do not conform to this world because we know what this world is temporary. Everything in this life is temporary. We have been called to eternity. We have been called to take hold of eternal life and not adjust to life here because we know we are going home.
Fight The Good Fight (2 Timothy 4:7)
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 Timothy 4:7–8 NIV)
Paul’s life perspective is very important for our consideration. Paul looked at his journey with Jesus as a good fight and a race. He pictures the Christian life as a great contest that requires discipline and purpose. He saw himself in a continuous struggle, running the race and fighting the fight. Fighting the good fight does not mean fighting with other people. Rather, we are striving toward God in this fight for our souls. Paul said to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience” in 1 Timothy 1:18. Run the race. Complete the battle. Maintain your discipline. Live with the goal in mind. The fight is against falling back and to maintain faith. The struggle is to keep on trusting in the promises of God. Our eternal life depends on fighting the good fight. It should be notable to us that the life of the disciple is never pictured as a stroll in the park or a walk down the street. It is always pictured as a struggle and a fight. There is nothing easy about our journey of faith. But we have been called to eternity with God and the struggle is worth our effort. Sometimes we do not fight because we forget where we are going.
Seek Glory (Romans 2:6-8)
I want to give one more picture of what this life journey looks like since we have been called for eternity with the Lord. Turn to Romans 2:6-8.
God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Romans 2:6–8 NIV)
Does this passage surprise you? It sounds kind of off, doesn’t it? Paul is observing a problem that we fall into. We seek dumb glory. What I mean by this is that we seek glory from people we know. We seek glory from finite created beings who are fickle and forgetful, rather than seeking glory that comes from the eternal and creator God. Self-seeking does not seek these things in the right way. Eternal glory is the powerful picture given to us to strive for. Self-denial is not apathy toward life but a renewed focus on the right goals. Eternal life is not given to the spiritually indifferent. Think about how often the scriptures describe the goal of life is receiving praise and commending from God. In fact, later in this very chapter, in Romans 2:29 Paul says that those who are truly God’s people look for praise from God, not people. In Romans 1:23 Paul said that the sin that led to spiritual catastrophe was that people exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.
Consider what Paul is teaching in the first couple chapters of Romans which fits with our picture of being called to eternity. We are to seek the glory of God as our highest treasure, not exchanging it for anything. Failing to seek the glory of god is the ultimate failure that leads to idolatry. Our glory is to know God’s glory. Our glory is to enjoy God’s glory. Our glory is to share in his glory. Our glory is to display God’s glory (cf. Romans 5:2; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:30). Paul says that it is this thinking that keeps our good deeds flowing. We desire to hear the glorious words of the parable, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). There could not be any better or more glorious words than to hear these words. These words are more glorious than anything your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, co-workers, or bosses could ever say to you.
You see the problem is not glory, honor, and immortality. It seems that God has put those desires in us. The problem is not with the goals, but with our means. We look for these in created things, not in the Creator. We need to seek them where they can be found which is in God. God will give eternal life to those who seek it by knowing him. Our efforts for glory, honor, and immortality will always fail completely when we seek these things through our desires and our ways. But seeking God will bring glory, honor, and peace (2:10). Think about what God just said. If you are self-seeking, then you will have no true glory, honor, or immortality. But if you seek the glory of God, you will have true glory, true honor, and immortality (true life). Seek glory and honor and immortality by perseverance in doing good as defined by God for his glory. We seek the wrong glory when we forget that eternity with the Lord is our created purpose.
Eternity is given to us as a positive motivation for life. We have been called to eternity which is to change everything about how we live and look at life. We need to know we are different and this world is not what we are living for. Fight the good fight of faith because the journey of faith is a struggle. It will not be easy but eternity is the beautiful goal that lies ahead. Seek glory, honor, and immortality with God, not through the creation. You were called to be with God. Do not give up your opportunity. Do not throw away your confidence of eternity with God by living without a view of the eternal reality.