In the last chapter of his first letter to his protege, Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote these familiar and inspiring words:
"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)
Later in the same section of the letter he also wrote:
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Paul instructed Timothy to address the “rich in this present age.” Let me remind us that as Americans we live in the wealthiest nation on earth. This means we are being addressed here. This also means that of all the places on earth to live we have the most opportunities to “enjoy” all the things God provides for us (v. 18). Enjoying the good things God provides us in this world seems to be a great (maybe the greatest) concern of many believers in the American church in our day. There seems to have been a shift in the thinking of the average believer about what it means to enjoy God’s creation. It seems to have been born out of a reaction against legalism. Legalism is not the gospel. But neither is the pursuit of license in angry reaction to legalism. When I was a young believer in my teens attending a rather open-minded church, there were still certain practices that were associated with worldliness and other practices associated with godliness. Not all those associations were biblical in either case but there seemed to be pretty clear-cut lines. Many practices that were considered worldly have gone pretty much mainstream and are not only acceptable in popular culture but flaunted. Some of these things are rather harmless but others are morally unbiblical. What were once clear-cut lines are now blurred and becoming more blurry. And in the name of Christian freedom some believers are participating in practices that clearly distract them from the good fight of the faith and lead them into a bad funk of foolishness.
Please hear me: I’m not making a case for a return to legalism in the church. I’m simply asking us to examine our hearts with humility, and honesty in light of God’s word. I’m simply saying that with the lines blurred about what are "acceptable" practices for believers, it is extremely easy in our attempts to argue for our “Freedom in Christ” to miss the point completely. Are we perhaps setting our hearts on the “freedom to enjoy everything God provides” rather than setting our hearts on the God who provides. Paul told Timothy, “As for the rich in this present age charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." (v. 17) Are we to enjoy God’s creation? Yes, that’s why he provides it for us. But we are to set our hearts on God himself not on those things. We are fighting the wrong fight if all we are fighting for is the right to get a tattoo or drink craft beers or other enjoyments of this life. The good fight for the faith is when we fight in a way that shows our delight in the promises of God for the next life. Drink your beer and smoke your pipe. You are free to do so. But don't waste your time pod-casting about it. Fighting the good fight of the faith is a fight for true freedom in Christ which is making much out of your delighting in God. Delighting in God is the freedom that frees up the rich from his riches and inspires him or her to give generously and share with others. Faith delighting in God gives us the freedom to spend less time planning our next vacation or remodeling our home and more time getting rich in good works. Faith delighting in God frees us up from feeding obsessive collections and becoming pack-rats. Instead we are free to "store up treasures" in heaven. Faith delighting in God spends more time laying a “good foundation for the future” (v. 19) of eternal life than laying a foundation for retirement. Fighting the good fight of the faith isn’t about the right to drink a craft beer or get a tattoo. It’s about what you set your hope on.