Well this is week 2 of a series I’ve entitled “I’m a Fighter”, where we’re discussing the fight of faith. And how exactly it is that we fight when we are in seasons of adversity and challenge.
And I want to read 2 verses from the book of Psalms. Psalms are a collection of hymns and poems and journal entries believed to be primarily written by a man named David, who I was named after.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:33)
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (Psalm 18:34)
“He trains my hands for battle.” The King James translation says, “he teaches my hands to war”.
Title: Training Camp
Attitude and Altitude
There’s a well known quote from great man named Zig Ziglar that I’m sure most of us have encountered which says: Your attitude determines your altitude.
Now if I was to rewrite this quote to add some additional clarity, I might say something like this:
How far I go and how high I go, is not just dictated and determined by who I am. It’s also equally impacted by how I am.
That it’s not JUST having the right actions, it’s also about having the right attitude when I do the things that I do.
Lion and Lamb
We see this at work in Jesus.
The Bible is filled with all types of animal-like metaphors used to describe the nature and character of Jesus.
But there are two dominant metaphors that we see repeated over and over.
The first is a lamb:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Now there’s a couple things that can be said about this metaphor.
Of course the theological interpretation is that the sacrifice Jesus makes for us on the cross is functionally similar to the practice of animal sacrifice found in the Old Testament. Which is how people would atone for their sins.
But the lamb metaphor is also used to describe the part of Jesus that is meek and humble, and lowly of heart.
And I believe it’s important to be Lamb-like.
- To not be proud
- To not be arrogant
- Not needing to be the center of attention.
But the other dominant metaphor used to describe Jesus.
Jesus is not JUST the Lamb, he’s the Lion.
Revelation 5 describes Jesus as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”
And so if you are to walk like Jesus, you have to manage the tension of being Lamb-like and Lion-like.
You’ve got to know when to be lamb-like and humble and reserved.
- To not say what you could say.
- To not do what you could do.
- To be meek. Because only the meek use power responsibly.
And then you’ve got to know when to be a lion, when to be determined, and powerful, and when to express your power.
People that know how to say to the adversary: “If you hit me, I’m gonna hit back. And the one to fall will be you.”
And this is a tension.
Some of us are far too Lion-like. And we need to learn humility, and meekness.
And some of us are far too Lamb-like. Where humble and meek are all we know. And we don’t know the first thing about throwing a punch and fighting back when life puts you in a ring.
This is huge theme in the Old Testament narrative.
This is what the battle imagery in the Old Testament is all about. Israel having to overthrow the Canaanites is a powerful picture of us having to overthrow the opposition that’s inhibiting us from possessing what God promised.
That God’s promises are preoccupied with opposition.
God promises his people a land to call their own. But it’s not a vacant land. It’s preoccupied, and if they are to OCCUPY it, they have to drive the Canaanites out.
And the same is true for us.
- We don’t get peace without opposition.
- We don’t get joy without opposition.
- We don’t fulfill your purpose without opposition.
- We don’t get the family God promised us without opposition.
And our willingness to overthrow opposition determines whether or not we possess the promise.
- Peace, fought for
- joy, fought for
- purpose, fought for.
And so I’ve got to learn the skill. The skills required to fight well.
This is not works righteousness. This isn’t inconsistent with possessing by faith. On the contrary, The willingness to fight is an expression of faith.
Being willing to fight for something is evidence that you believe it’s yours.
If something is stolen from you, you’ll fight for it if you know it’s yours. But you won’t fight for something you don’t believe is yours.
- You wouldn’t object to someone taking a laptop off a desk. But if it’s YOUR laptop, you will. Because it’s yours.
- You wouldn’t stop someone from taking a drink of coke at a restaurant, but you would if it was YOUR coke.
When you’re convinced “That belongs to me.” – You’ll fight for it.
Psalmist doesn’t say he always fights for us
And I want you to notice what the Psalmist says. And I also want you to notice what he DOESN’T say.
He says “He trains my hands for battle.” He says that.
What he DOESN’T say is “God always goes to war FOR me.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t time when God fights for you.
There are battles when God says to us what he said to Moses ”Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
Sometimes it takes just as much faith to do nothing as it takes to do something.
- To NOT say what you could say.
- To NOT do what you could do.
- Where God says ”Sit back, I got this one.”
So that does happen. I’m just saying that’s not what the Psalmist is saying here.
Here the Psalmist says ”Instead of fighting for me, God trains my hands for battle.”
And I think this is an opportunity for you, because you’ve been mislabeling things.
You’ve been saying you’re in a trial, where I’m saying “You’re in training.”
This isn’t gonna take you out. This isn’t the end of the story.
Look, I’m sorry that this is happening to you, I really am, but you can use this for training.
God doesn’t just want you to know something different as you come out of this, he wants you to be somebody different.
You get training in a ring.
So let’s think about boxing.
- You can’t get training for battle in front of a computer.
- You don’t get training for battle by reading articles.
- You get training for battle in a ring.
It doesn’t matter how many videos we’ve watched. You don’t know whether or not you can actually fight until you get in the ring.
And so learning how to fight is not something to avoid. Learning how to fight is something to be celebrated.
To say “Man, this is awful. I don’t like getting hit. But you know what? I’m gonna use this time to learn how to fight back.”
“I’m not looking for fights.” And you don’t need to look for fights, the fights find you.
“But when the fight comes to me, I can use this to make me weaker, or I can use this to make me stronger. So I’m gonna use this to make me stronger.”
When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, the devil punched him when he was hungry, and Jesus punched him back.
And as one of your pastors, I’m telling you, this is your season to learn how to punch back.
Few Things I need
He trains my hands to battle. So fighting well requires training. And so to win a fight, there are a few things that I need. And I could do a bunch of them, but I have 4 of them for you that you can write down.
1. The Right Trainer in Your Life
Now listen to me, this is important. I believe this is a blind spot for LOTS of people.
There’s no area in life where people assume they can win without assistance except for life.
The most elite athletes all have a trainer.
- Michael Jordan – All kinds of different trainers.
- Tiger Woods – All kinds of different trainers.
- Floyd Mayweather – All kinds of different trainers.
People understand in sports, you will not be your best, without a trainer.
- Strength and conditioning trainers.
- Speed and agility trainers.
And here it is: **Too many people never advance in life because they don’t want to be trained, they want to be coddled.”
They are more concerned with feeling good than doing well.
Because training doesn’t feel good.
Go do as many pushups as you possibly can, till you literally can’t do one more, and tell me if that feels good. It doesn’t. It feels horrible.
And in the same way, having a mentor tell you “You’re being selfish. You’re being childish.” Doesn’t feel good. It feels horrible.
By the way I did a message in my last series called ‘The Ministry of a Mentor’ that you should check out.
But see, the whole idea of a trainer is someone who helps you with what you don’t know, and what you don’t see.
See, for a trainer to be helpful, you can’t always have agreement.
A trainer is not a fan.
It’s not their job just to tell you how wonderful you are all the time.
Because if we only agree, I’m not training you. I shouldn’t be seeing something you don’t.
Batting Cage Story The other day I was at the batting cage. I’m trying to get good enough to just only hit home-runs. I don’t think that’s gonna happen but I’m trying. Well I was next to this dad that was pitching to his son. His son was probably 12. And the boy was hitting pretty good, but he wasn’t keeping his head down. He would swing and by the end of his swing he was looking at the ceiling.
I could see it. The dad could see it and his dad kept saying “Keep your head down.” And the boy would say “I am!” (He wasn’t.) And the dad would say “No you’re not.” And the boy would say “Yes I am.” – Well me and the dad kinda gave one of these (head nod) to each other. We both knew the truth. So the dad came over with his phone and he said “Can you record a little video of the swing?” – I said no problem, I took a video of the head not being down, the dad showed it to the son, the son didn’t say anything. But after that, he kept his head down.
That’s a trainer.
If the dad was just saying “Oh wow son, what a great little hit you had there! Wow, nice contact on that one. What a beautiful pop-fly. You’re the best hitter in the world.” – That’s a great fan, but it’s not a trainer.
- You need a trainer that says give me more push ups.
- You need a trainer that says Don’t you quit, you got more in you,
- You need a trainer that will not let you settle for less than your best.
Now notice I didn’t say A Trainer I said The Right Trainer
Now listen here: Not everybody that loves you can train you.
I don’t have time to get into ‘Bad Ideas that we learn from good people.’
Just because you’re a good person, doesn’t make that good advice.
Just because your uncle is a cool dude, doesn’t mean he can teach you how to treat women.
Sometimes I think it’s the people with the worst ideas that are the most eager to spread them.
Now how might you be able to tell the difference between a good trainer and a bad trainer. THEIR FRUIT.
Jesus said you’ll know a tree by it’s fruit.
And so if someone wants to give me advice, the first question I ask myself is “What is their fruit?”
You’d be amazed how eager people are to give me advice on how I ought to do this (pastoring) better.
So look, thanks for the feedback, but you’ll forgive me if I give more weight to the people who have not just done this, but done it successfully then an arm-chair pastor. You know what I mean?
And that applies to you an every arena of life.
We’re learning from the people we’re watching or listening to, who don’t even have verifiable consistent fruit that their practices are the best practices.
And that’s what you gotta remember.
Men, there’s lot of opinions in the world about what makes a good man.
But just because that dude from work is well spoken, and wants to offer his opinion, doesn’t mean he should be your trainer.
Jesus cursed the tree that had leaves but no fruit.
He says “On the outside you look good, but you’re not producing anything good.
That’s all TALK is: leaves.
And some of us are too impressed by, and too deceived by LEAVES.
So they’re talking, but we should be saying to ourselves “Ok yeah, but where’s the fruit?”
See this isn’t judgment, this is discernment.
The Right Student
So you need the right trainer, but you also need to be the right student.
So here’s the question. The question is not JUST “Is this person good enough to train me” it’s also “Am I healthy enough and humble enough to be trained?”
I’ve been a pastor for quite awhile and I’ve been amazed at how often people reject advice that’s right.
If you feel like you’ve been getting the same bad results over and over, let me ask you a question:
When we look at your track record, what about your track record makes you feel like you should trust you?
And then over here you have someone with verifiable fruit. And what they say makes you feel bad so you reject it? The people with the best fruit get to have the opinion.
So let’s say you need help in your marriage, and your best friend WANTS to give you lots of advice, but she’s just finishing up her 3rd divorce. I mean, she can teach you what NOT to do, but that’s about it.
Find someone who HAS the fruit that you WANT, and learn from them.
But it requires humility.
Scripture says ‘Pride comes BEFORE the fall’.
So the fall comes AFTER pride. So hear me: So that means there’s a season where we’re in pride, but we’re still standing.
And it takes time for the pride to make you fall.
2. The Right People in Your Corner
If you ever watch boxing, between rounds, the boxer goes to his corner.
But he doesn’t go to his corner for isolation. He goes to his corner for rejuvenation.
Because he has people in his corner that give him water so he doesn’t pass out.
And I’m telling you, there’s lots of people of people who have their friends in their corner, but their friends don’t know what to give them.
So the question is not: “Do you have people in your corner?” The question is “Do you have the right people in your corner?”
Do you have people in your corner that know what to give you when you’re about to pass out?
That when you say ”I can’t go back out there” they look at you and say ”Yes you can.”
That when you say ”I don’t have another round in me.” they look at you and say ”Yes you do.”
Now listen: the right people in your corner don’t just tell you what you want to hear.
They don’t tell you you’re winning when you’re losing.
They say ”Now listen, you got to go out there you got to take this round.”
And I’m getting ready to go somewhere you’re not expecting: the right people in your corner also know when to throw in the towel.
You need people in your corner that tell you ”It’s time to move on from this.”
You’re too smart to be that unwise. Stop.
You may know the ‘Rocky’ movies. And in one of the movies, Apollo Creed dies because he didn’t let rocky throw in the towel.
Because the right people in your corner want to see you live to fight another day.
Apollo, this isn’t over. This is just one fight. Regroup, retrain. try it again.
3. The Right Skills for the Ring
In preparation for this sermon, I watched some boxing basics videos on YouTube. So I’m basically what you can call an expert now. Just kidding.
Have a Strong Stance
The first they said is you need a strong stance.
They had this guy in the ring that didn’t know what he was doing. He had his gloves on but he didn’t have the right stance, so the trainer who was holding this pad, walked right up and pushed this guy with the pad, and the guy staggers back.
And until this guy learned a strong stance, every time he would get hit with the pad, he would keep getting pushed backward.
See, some of us keep going backwards instead of forwards because we got the wrong stance.
Your stance is your beliefs.
And a weak stance is fine till you get hit.
This is one way to explain the faith crisis that college age people can sometimes go through.
Their faith in God was fine they assume, till life knocks em around a little bit.
If you wanna be able to take a punch, you need a strong stance.
Ok, you believe in healing. Cool.
It’s just hard to know how strong that stance is until you get hit. You get hit with a concerning doctors report. Ok.
Did your whole belief system fall over or are you still standing in faith?
Keep Your Guard Up
The next thing rookie fighters do is they keep their hands too low. They think they’ll have time to put their guard up once they see the punch coming. That’s not true.
You have to keep your guard up because you don’t know when a blow is coming.
And if your opponent is any good, the blows can come when you least expect it.
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, (2 Corinthians 2:10)
in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
See, Paul is making sure that your heart is healthy.
I’m walking in forgiveness, I’m walking in peace, I’m keeping the lines of communication open with God, I’m ready to fight anytime.
I learned that only rookie fighters stand still in the ring.
When you’re standing still, you’re an easy target.
It takes work to move, because standing still is much more comfortable. But if you’re always moving, you’re harder to hit.
That’s why for me, I’m always growing, I’m always learning. Did you know the word ‘Disciple’ means ‘Learner’?
I’ve been following God my whole life, but I’m still learning.
- I’ve been preaching for 20 year if you can believe it, but I’m still learning.
- I’ve been married for 14 years almost (I think), but I’m still learning. I’m still paying attention to what my wife needs from me. And when I mess up, I learn from my mistake and keep moving.
- I’ve been a father for almost 5 years, and I’m still learning. And you know what? I’m gonna be a better dad next year than I am this year.
We gotta keep moving.
Throw your body in the punch
So they say rookie fighters punch like this (punch with no body), but skilled fighters put their body in it. Their feet are involved in the punch, their legs are involved in the punch, their hips are involved in the punch.
And see for some of us, when we do what God told us to do, we do it like this (punch with no body), not like this (punch with body).
We’re too timid with it. We don’t commit. It’s like “Yeah, you did it, but you half did it.”
4. The Right Stamina for the Rounds
Look, I think this is gonna help somebody: Don’t confuse a round with the fight.
Some of you are defeated and depressed because you thought you lost the fight. But that bell you heard was not an indication that the fight was over, the bell was an indication that that was the end of a round.
And I know it hurts to lose a round, but you are capable of a comeback.
And if you’re gonna win, not just a round, but a fight, you’re gonna need the stamina to sit down, take a drink of water, and get back out there.
Listen to me: The best victories are comebacks.
Look, you lost. We all know it. But that was just a round. The fights not over.
And the bell is getting ready to ring again. And it’s time for you to get back out there and fight.
And I believe, a second wind coming for you.
I believe the stamina is coming for you to fight the long haul.
Now listen to me: Because some fights last longer than others.
And sometimes people quit right before the turnaround.
I’m talking about an attitude that looks at the adversary and says ”One of us is gonna eventually quit and it’s not gonna be me.”
You wanna know how that story ended with Jesus and Satan in the wilderness in Matthew 4? Jesus outlasted Satan. Read it. Jesus didn’t leave Satan. Satan left Jesus.
You know what happened with Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4? He outlasted Satan. The Bible didn’t say (read it) Matthew 4, the Bible didn’t say Jesus left Satan. Read the text. It says after the third time and it didn’t work, Satan left Jesus.
Satan made a finite number of attempts. In Jesus’s case it was 3. But Jesus kept fighting back, and eventually Satan took off.
I’m gonna tell you something. For most of my adult life, I underestimated the importance of stamina.
I didn’t realize how long the fight was.
Eugene Peterson, a hero of mine, wrote a book called ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’.
It’s not just how strong you can believe. It’s how long.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: (Hebrews 10:36)
Notice: After. You receive the promise AFTER. So there’s a time when you’ve done the will of God and haven’t received the promise. And the writer of Hebrews and I both agree that the solution to that issue is endurance.
And I believe that some of us pray for thing we don’t yet have the endurance for.
But life offers us the opportunity to build up our stamina.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Your Future is Worth Fighting For
Early on when I was thinking and praying through this series I wrote something down and it’s this:
Your future is worth fighting for.
You won’t know what that means until you get to your future.
That’s the crazy thing about future blessings. You miss it, and you don’t know what you missed.
But I believe there are plenty of people in this room that can look back at God’s faithfulness in their life and say ”That was worth fighting for.”
I’m sure you’re so bored of hearing about mine and Jordan’s adoption of our daughter Grace. But let me tell you something. It was a fight. But it was worth fighting for.
We just knew the only option besides fighting is quitting.
We didn’t know what would happen if I fought. But we did know what would happen if I quit.
It’s that we would live with regret for the rest of our life.
Wondering what might have happened, if we would have just got back in there and given it one more round.
And I don’t know who, but I’m talking to somebody in here right now that is tired. But I’m telling you to get back in that ring. I know you’re tired. I know. I know. I know you are. So sit down, have a drink of water, and get back in there. Because your future is worth fighting for.
Father, I pray for grace to finish and grace to fight. I pray for every person in whatever area that’s struggling with the fight. They’ve stepped out of the ring. May today be the day you put their gloves back on and give them the strength to fight the good fight of faith. In Jesus name. Amen.