Flee, Pursue, and Fight

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 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. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

In verse 11 I want us to first focus in on two words that help frame the verse and are also two words that can and should frame our lives. The two words are “flee” and “pursue.”

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11)

Paul draws distinctions regarding what Timothy should flee from and what he should pursue or go after. This is clear, helpful, really vitally important information for us. Now if we think about it, apart from what Paul teaches us here, regardless of this instruction we are already, each one of us, actively fleeing from some things and pursuing other things. We just are, right?

I think it is good for us to think: what are we already doing, and are we fleeing from and then pursuing the things that God wants us to flee from and pursue? Because in life, we may get this backwards, even as Christians we may get this reversed.

What are some things that we flee from?

We may be, some may be fleeing from God. Fleeing from righteousness, fleeing from doing godly things that may seem hard, fleeing from holiness, fleeing from the faith, running from what we know is right in God’s eyes because He has told us what is right.

At the same time we may be pursuing ungodliness, going after false philosophies of life, pursuing simply what makes us feel good or what meets our felt needs.

What we flee from and what we pursue tells something of our relationship with Christ or a lack of it.

What are we going after in life and what are we leaving behind? This is what we need to figure out, we need to know this and we need to evaluate the merits of each. From what are we fleeing and what are we pursuing?

What should we be fleeing? Paul says, “these things.” What are these things that Timothy and that we should be fleeing? Well good thing we are studying this book in full so we all know already what “these things” are that we should be fleeing from, right? He has already told us. But just in case you missed last week I will review them for us.

As a person of God, we should recognize that there are some things that we should constantly be fleeing. To flee is from a Greek word where we get the English word “fugitive.” What is a fugitive? He is one who is running from the law. He is fleeing from the law. The thing about a fugitive is he is always running. Being a fugitive he has adopted a lifestyle of running. He is not one who tries to avoid detection for one night or even one week but for a lifetime. If he doesn’t he will be caught, he doesn’t want to be caught.

What is a man of God, a woman of God to flee? What are we to be fugitives from? The direct reference is that we are to flee from loving money. That is what we had been talking about in verses 9 and 10.

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

So all the evils associated with loving money, we are to run from. We talked a great deal about this last week. We talked about desires and how desires can move from a simple want to something that seems to control us.

We need to recognize too that fleeing from the love of money is also fleeing from false worldly philosophies, which has also been a major theme in this book. The world tells us to go after riches, there will be happiness in riches, there will be peace in riches, there will be satisfaction in riches and in all the things that riches will buy. That is what we hear shouting to us as we go through life. And so my point is that fleeing from the love of money is also a part of fleeing from false philosophies of this world that often times elevate money to sort of God.

The other day at my house I saw an example of what it means to flee. I was sitting in my office and I heard our chickens outside cackling. I got up, looked out the window and quickly saw that they were running from a coyote that was right on their tails. All this was just a few feet from the window. I stepped outside and saw that not only was the coyote pursuing the chickens but my dog was pursuing the coyote. The chickens running for their lives and the coyote running for his. Now, I know if the coyote had gotten a chicken, the chicken would have been killed. The chickens really were running for their lives. If the dog had actually grabbed the coyote, well, I’m not sure what would have happened, but the coyote at least perceived that he was in danger, so he fled.

Fleeing was a serious matter in my backyard that day. I’m not sure that we take fleeing so seriously. We are to flee, run from, with passion, temptation for the love of money and the things it will buy. We are to also run with passion from the temptation to buy into any worldly philosophy that the world has to offer that goes against God’s Word. Are we fleeing those things? Do we take sin and temptation seriously? As a person of God, flee these things!

We are not just runners, we are to be pursuers. We don’t just turn away from things, we embrace things. We are not driven in life by the avoidance of all things around us, but we are driven by a pursuit of Christ.

Some of us grew up in a religious environment that said only, “Don’t do this, don’t do that!” If that was you then you missed out on the beauty of pursuing a vibrant life in Christ. Some of us were taught that Christianity is about avoidance alone. I’m glad it is not all that. Paul says: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” There you go! We are to run toward what is pleasing to God, to go after it, to pursue these things!

In some cases there are subtle nuances to these words. For instance godliness and righteousness. Righteousness means to do what is right in relation to both God and to man. So do what is right in God’s eyes, as He defines right for us in His Word, and to do what is right regarding our neighbors, in all our relationships. This describes our outward behavior. It is what is seen by others. What do people around us see in us? What are we doing, how are we acting? Do we get up in the morning and say, “How can I, today, live my life in a way that my actions will be right in God’s eyes and right in relation to my neighbor?” These are things we can think through, things we can even measure, “How did I today live for God and for others, what did I do to accomplish this?” This would be pursuing righteousness.

Next we are to pursue godliness. This is very closely related to righteousness but would be more of the inner attitude toward God and others. Godliness speaks of motives. Unfortunately we can look righteous and at the same time have no godliness at all, meaning, we can sometimes do what seems right but inside we are covering up our real motives. Maybe we are helping a neighbor, but our goal is to get something from our neighbor. Maybe we are praying to God as the Bible tells us to, but our motive is to make God think we are righteous. The Pharisees seemed righteous but they were not godly. We may look righteous, but we may not be in any way godly.

It is godliness that must be mixed with righteous behavior if we are to truly please God. Are our motives pleasing to God? Paul says pursue godliness, or you could say pursue godly motives when doing acts of righteousness.

You may say, “Well, okay, I’ll do the right thing but I’m not going to like it.” Well, if that is the case, cry out to God, ask God to change your motives, ask Him to purify your motives, beg Him to help you do the right thing for the right reason. And that is out of a love for Christ who has died, given Himself for you!

Paul doesn’t stop with righteousness and godliness but adds faith and love next. As a believer you’ve got to love these. Faith is a dominate feature of the Christian life, it is a necessary part of the Christian life and though we have it we can pursue more of it. Faith is a confident trust in God. A confident trust in God for everything!

I think about this and I am driven to say, ”Lord give me more faith!” Can you imagine having such an abundance of faith that in everything that comes your way you fully trust Him? That is worth pursuing. A full trust in God to fulfill all of His Word. God gives faith, are we seeking Him for greater faith?

We are in addition to faith to pursue the virtue of love. Love here is agape love. It is a love that is unrestrained. It is a love that does what is best for others expecting nothing in return. It is a radical love, it is a radical way to live. It is a place where we think nothing of ourselves but only of the other person’s good. Love sacrifices for others.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The more we love the more we have put to death selfishness that resides in us. They don’t coexist. We cannot love biblically apart from God’s work in us through His Spirit, it is impossible on our own. We may do things that look loving, but true love must be infused to us through Christ.

Here is how Paul says it in Romans 5:5. Get this: “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” God’s love has been poured into our hearts. That is what we need more of, God pouring love into us. Do we ask Him for that, do we want that, are we pursuing it?

Also we are to pursue steadfastness and gentleness. Steadfastness is perseverance. It means to “remain under.” It is like a purposeful unwavering loyalty to God and His ways. It is to remain faithful.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)

It is interesting, I think, that he adds gentleness to his list of what should be pursued. It simply means kindness and humility. Pursue kindness and humility. This too is a Christian virtue that is pleasing to God. There is no place for arrogant behavior in the Christian. Yes we have the Word of God, yes we are a part of His everlasting Kingdom, yes we will be with Him forever in paradise, yes we are chosen by Him, but none of this is of ourselves, none of these things are ours as a result of our actions or our goodness or our intelligence. It is all of God. We owe all to Him, and apart from Him we would be helpless and hopeless in this world and beyond this world. There should not be any hint of pride in our words, in our actions. But we know that there often is and so we are to pursue gentleness. Pursue it.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. That is a lot to pursue, that ought to keep us busy!

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)

We are to be fighters in this faith. To fight is where we get the English word agonize. It is a word of discipline. It is like in sports, you work hard to the point of agony to achieve the goal, or in the military you drive yourself to the point of exhaustion as you ready yourself for battle. We are to exert significant energy in this life of faith. We are never to be passive, we are to be active, working, fighting the good fight of faith. That is to stay in the Word, to pray for God’s power and strength, to practice obedience, to pursue all the things we have already looked at – righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. We are not to simply go our way or kick up our feet and hope for these things, but exert energy and pursue them.

Paul even says to take hold of eternal life. Again this is not passive. We get to participate in it. To grab hold of eternal life in the sense of to make it your own in life, so much so that it affects all that you do. It is like you are holding it close in your mind, it is always there, it matters to you and changes how you live. It is remembering your salvation and all that is still to come. This is some of what Michael will talk to us about in a moment when he administers the Lord’s Table, it too is a remembrance. A remembrance of what? Of our Lord, of our new life in Him, of our salvation. Take hold of it, carry it close, remember.

Timothy had made a public profession of faith in Christ. We see that in verse 12, at the end of verse 12. He is to be faithful to that profession he made. Isn’t that true for each of us? If you have made a profession of faith in Christ, how are you today living for Him? Are you living for Him today?

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 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 6:11-12)