Fight the Good Fight of Faith!
O Lord God, our blessed Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier–be with us this day and guide as we enter Your house for worship. Lead us to sincere repentance over our sins. Instill within us a desire to sit at Your feet and hear Your Word. Move us to lay before You with thanksgiving our prayers and petitions. Send Your Holy Spirit to uplift and direct us today and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The apostle John concludes his first epistle by encouraging his readers to cling to and believe in Jesus Christ, through whom they have the certain hope of life everlasting. He urges them to pray with confidence and to do so also for those who have fallen into sin with the hope that the Spirit will lead such individuals to repentance. The world is indeed evil and will continually oppose believers. That is why it is so important to remain close to Christ!
In His “High-Priestly Prayer” Jesus asked His Father to bless us New Testament believers with unity–a unity with each other and a unity with both the Father and the Son. That unity of faith is brought about through the preaching of the gospel–a message the world simply does not understand, but which reveals to believing hearts the great love of God the Father revealed through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Text: Exodus 17:8-16
Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner, for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
In Christ Jesus, who would have us endure the struggles of this life, dear fellow redeemed:
This week the U.S. Senate held hearings on the appointment of General Michael Hayden to head the CIA. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas opened those hearings with an appeal that America not unilaterally disarm itself in the face of Al Qaida, a terrorist organization with which we are at war. It is very easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency in this war on terror. Our schedules are filled with youth baseball, slow-pitch softball, outdoor grilling, yard-work, and dreams of vacations. Unless one is directly involved, it does not seem like we are at war.
In the same way, it is quite easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with regard to the spiritual war in which we are all involved as children of God. On the front of your bulletins today you will find Paul’s exhortation, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Why is it that we must fight? With whom are we are war? Jesus tells us, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). We are at war with Satan and the unbelieving world, all of whom hate Jesus. They do so because He exposes their sins and condemns their pride. Jesus claims to be the world’s one and only Savior—a claim his enemies reject. When you and I embrace by faith Jesus as our Savior, we will inevitably face the opposition of all opposed to Him. To endure the opposition of Satan and his allies and remain faithful to Jesus is difficult at times, but to fall away from Him and lose His gift of eternal life would be disastrous. Therefore, it is important that we FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH! What can we learn about this fight from our text? We will see that Satan will attack—often at inconvenient times and using unexpected allies, that as believers we should always look to the LORD for help in the fight, that as believers we can and should assist each other in the fight, and that ultimately the fight is the LORD’s and He will help us win!
Yes, Satan will attack often at inconvenient times and using unexpected allies! The apostle Peter properly identifies Satan as our chief opponent when he writes, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Satan is always looking for opportunities to attack us, which means we must always be on our guard. It is a fact that he often attacks at inconvenient times and using unexpected allies. This is what he did to Israel as they traveled through the wilderness en route to Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt. Our text begins, “Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” Israel was passing through a dry and dusty desert region. They had camped at Rephidim but found no water. The people complained about Moses’ leadership and accused him of wanting to see them die of thirst. The LORD then had Moses strike a rock with his rod and miraculously water poured out of a rock to quench the thirst of the people and their animals. But as all of this was going on, the Amalekites attacked Israel’s rear ranks—the weak and weary stragglers who had not as yet arrived at the camp (cf. Deuteronomy 25:17). Who were these ignoble brutes who would attack the weak and defenseless? While the origin of the Amalek cannot be known with certainty, it would appear that these people were probably relatives of the Israelites—descendants of Esau (cf. Genesis 36:12)…individuals who should have known better—who should have helped God’s people, but whom Moses would later describe as individuals who no longer “feared” God (cf. Deuteronomy 25:17).
Attacking the weak…betraying relatives? It really should not surprise us, for Satan uses people’s unbelief to commit all sorts of similar sins. Think of David being betrayed by his own son, Absalom, who in turn was assisted by a man who had been David’s closest friend and advisor, Ahithophel (cf. Psalm 41:9; 2 Samuel 15). Think of Jesus being betrayed by Judas, one of his twelve disciples. Remember, that Jesus predicted, “Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death” (Matthew 10:21). There is no compassion in Satan. He will kick you when you are down, and he will do his best if at all possible to get those closest to you to kick you as well by misleading and betraying you. Consequently, when you are weak and weary—sick or perhaps facing financial crises—be prepared for battle! Satan will attack often at inconvenient times and using unexpected allies!
That is why as believers we should always look to the LORD for help in the fight! We are told in our text that when Amalek attacked, Moses instructed Joshua to gather an army to go out to fight. He then went up to the top of a hill overlooking the battlefield. From that vantage point, visible to both armies, he held up the rod of God to heaven in prayer seeking God’s help for Israel. That rod of God—a simple stick familiar to any shepherd, had come to represent God’s power. It had been used in connection with the ten plagues that led to Israel’s departure from Egypt. It had been used to divide the waters at the Red Sea. It had just been used to bring water out of a rock. When the people saw it they would be reminded of the importance and presence of the power of God. Moses held the rod up to God in prayer. In Old Testament times people did not pray with their hands folded and heads bowed, but rather with their hands and eyes raised to heaven—the realm of God who bestows every good and perfect gift (cf. James 1:17). Consequently, Moses’ actions were highly symbolic and the symbolism proved true to reality. Whenever Moses hands were held up towards heaven, the Israelites would prevail in the battle, but every time Moses’ hands grew tired and dropped down, the Amalekites would beat Israel back and begin to win the battle.
My dear friends, as we go through our battles—whatever those battles may be—as believers we should always look to the Lord for help in the fight! He has promised, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). One of God’s little known, Old Testament prophets named Hanani once told King Asa: “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). It is because the LORD is strong and so very faithful, that we can with confidence say with King David, “The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1b) and with the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Dear friends, let us not trust in ourselves, but in our God!
As believers we can and should assist each other in the fight! The most memorable part of this account, in my estimation, is the roll played by Aaron and Hur. Aaron, of course, was Moses’ brother and spokesman. Hur, it is believed, was Moses’ brother-in-law, the husband of Miriam. These two men, seeing that Israel’s victory was only assured when God’s power was present and that God’s power was present only when Moses’ arms were uplifted, got a stone for Moses’ to sit on and then they stood on either side throughout the entire day holding up Moses’ arms with that rod of God clearly visible to all below. Their actions were immortalized in that great mission hymn “Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying” In its third stanza we read, “If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall, pointing out the path to heaven, off’ring life and peace to all, with your prayers and with your bounties you can do what God demands; you can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands.” (TLH 496:3)
Dear friends, let us devout ourselves to helping one another overcome in our individual and collective battles in life. Life is not easy and when Satan and his allies come to try our souls, it becomes that much more difficult. We need each other! Your pastors, teachers, and council members need your help to carry on our collective ministry. But we all need each other individuals. When individuals think only of themselves then all the difficulties that arise can easily seem intolerable. When someone is sick, therefore, or in prison, let us visit him. When someone is hungry, let us feed him. When someone is depressed or disconcerted, let us listen to them and encourage them using that which we know to be true—the Word of God. When someone is being persecuted for his faith, let us stand with him. Let us lift up our hands and hearts in prayer, for as the Scriptures assure us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b). Aaron and Hur provide us with an excellent example of how we can step up and assist one another, so that we will all be able to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH!
Finally, note that ultimately the fight is the LORD’s and He will help us win! The final portion of our text tells us: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner, for he said, ‘Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’” Historically, these words revealed that the Israelites of many generations to come would continue to meet Amalek in battle, until they would finally be destroyed under King David. Spiritually, however, God was revealing to Moses and so to all of His people a spiritual reality. From that time forward even until the end of time, God’s children would face many different Amaleks. Oh, the names would vary, but there would be battles between Satan and his hosts and God and His children until the end of time.
Should we be fearful? Should we simply despair? God’s answer is emphatically, “No!” Our text points us to the hope of every child of God, when it speaks of an altar named: “The-LORD-Is-My-Banner.” Picking up that thought, the prophet Isaiah later said of the coming Christ: “In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people, for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). In the midst of every battle we must face, we can look with confidence to Jesus! Jesus assures us that “the gates of hell” will not prevail against His Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation John saw and recorded for our benefit the following: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword that with it He should smite the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe an on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” (Verses 11-16)
Dear friends, we Christians face many spiritual battles in our day. Christians in some part of our world must risk their lives simply to confess that faith. We here in America face lesser challenges to our faith—think of the teaching of evolution promoted in our public schools or the present debate over the historical inaccuracy of the movie “The DaVinci Code.” Think of the challenges we face within our society regarding the sanctity of life, or the biblical teaching regarding human sexuality and marriage. Let us be ever aware of the battles going on. As God’s children we cannot but be involved. We need not fear, however, for ultimately the battle is the LORD’s and He will help us win! Therefore, LET US FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH!Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting