About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Our Fight Of Faith


The book of Acts ends with the Apostle Paul living in house arrest for two years.  While waiting for his trial before Nero he preached the gospel to anyone who would come and listen to him.  There's no Biblical record of Paul's trial or what transpired afterwards.  We do know from Romans 15:24 and 28 that he wanted to eventually preach in Spain.  There is credible historical Christian evidence that Paul was acquitted by Nero and did visit Spain as planned.  Upon returning to Rome from Spain in or around 66 A D he was arrested again.  This time Nero did not acquit him.  It is believed that he was beheaded in typical Roman fashion.


Paul most likely wrote his second letter to Timothy from a prison in Rome just before he was executed.  2 Timothy 4:6 and 7 was meant to encourage Timothy.  "The time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith".  As this passage indicates, Paul's life on earth would soon end.  His fight with a hostile political, social, and religious world would soon be over.   


Timothy would have agonized over Paul's words.  The thought of Paul being strapped to a Roman chopping block would have ripped his heart into a million bleeding pieces.  He knew Paul's fight.  It was his fight too.  The idea of his head being sliced by a Roman sword would have tied his stomach into a thousand knots.           


Paul compared God's calling on his life to a race, but if he was alive today he might compare it to a football game.  You catch the football.  You run as fast as you can.  You maneuver your way through the tangled web of those who oppose you.  You get flattened to the ground.  You get up and start the whole process over, only to have your face smashed onto the turf again.  No matter how many times you're trampled upon, and, no matter how painful it feels, you never give up.  You push your way through opposing forces until you cross the goal line.  Only then, and not before, do you celebrate victory.  That was Paul's existence in a society that opposed his every move.      


Timothy must have felt sick to his stomach.  The man whom he served Jesus with, loved in the Lord, and learned so much from, would soon be dead.  Tears must have drenched his face with the thought of a future without Paul.  No one would stop him now; not Nero, not the devil.  He'd be a fearless fighter for the faith.  


Paul had many opportunities to forsake the faith.  He could have recanted as the Roman soldier swung his sword downwards to Paul's neck.  Once Paul's head fell to the ground into a puddle of blood that was shed for his Saviour, the fight was over.  The finish line was in sight.  Paul's extermination was his final witness for Jesus.   


Not all Christians kept the faith back then.  Timothy would have known some of the defectors.  With unwavering resolve he would vow to never be found among the unfaithful.  He'd remain faithful to the end. 


Life provides us with numerous opportunities to forsake our faith.  In the midst of the Jesus People Movement in 1972 I admonished a group of us to never give up on Jesus despite the many opportunities we'd have to do so.  I was openly rebuked for inserting what some perceived to be a negative word into the gathering.  The fact of the matter is that if those in the room would have taken my admonition seriously, those who eventually forsook the faith would still be faithful today.    


Paul fought the fight, ran the race, and kept the faith.  The sword that slivered its way through his throat didn't prevent him from crossing the finish line.  Christians in today's western world have no clue what Paul endured.  Paul's grueling race to the finish line has been our stroll in the park.  Paul's frightening fight for the faith has been our whispered words in support of the faith. 


The first century Roman Empire that Paul wrestled with was brutally dictatorial, sexually immoral, and religiously pagan.  I suggest that if you peer into the horizon, you'll see the same political, social, and religious environment dawning on our world today.  A sexually soaked paganism is seducing many.  Corporate new age style meditation meetings mixed with erotic stimulation arouses both men and women.  Corruption in politics, finance, education, law, and religion, is par for the social course.  Christians that once found protection in government now search to find protection from government.  Beheadings that were commonplace in Roman society are today's reality among Islamic extremists and their western world copy cats.  


Nero wannabes are maneuvering their way to the top of every political heap of rubble.  One such Nero wannabe seems to be the mayor of Houston, Texas.  Recently she has subpoenaed sermon notes, emails, and recorded messages from pastors in a Hitler style attempt to catch them espousing a socially unacceptable view of sexuality. 


The door to the rule of law based on Biblical ideals is beginning to close.  The door to dictatorial decrees based on the doctrine of relevant tolerance is now ajar, and once ajar, will soon be wide open.  When that door opens, the words of the German poet Heinrich Heine (1797 to 1856) will ring true.  "Where books are burned, they will, in the end, burn people too". 


My point is simple.  Paul's fight for the faith is now our fight.  Our stroll in the park is over.  Our casual Christianity must end.  Let's fight the fight, run the race, and keep the faith, until we all cross the finish line.




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