At one point during a little league game, the coach calls one of his young players to the side, “Do you understand how important cooperation is?”The little boy nods, “Yeah, coach.”
“You know,’ coach continues, “it’s important we learn to be a good sport no matter what?” The boy nods yes
“So,” the coach continues, “when a strike is called, or you’re out at first, you don’t argue or curse or attack the umpire. Do you understand all that?” Again, the boy nods.
“Good,” says the coach. Then he points to a woman screaming in the stands and says “Now would go over there and explain all of that to your mother?”[i]
None of us like to lose. We need to learn to be good sports about it; we ought not to play to lose, but play to win. While this is true about games like baseball or Monopoly or competitions like the science fair, there are some struggles you simply cannot afford to lose.
You can’t afford to lose the war with temptation, or the battle against discouragement or despair. You must win the fight of faith, and the war with the world.
Scripture is full of admonitions on how to fight and win these battles. Tonight we focus on 3 keys to winning found in 1 Cor. 15:58. If you’re facing a battle tonight, or if you just want to be a little more prepared for future skirmishes, listen to what God says to you tonight.
The main theme of 1 Cor. 15 is the resurrection of Christ, and of His people.
Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who had a hard time swallowing the doctrine of the resurrection. I have a feeling they were influenced more by Greek philosophy that Christian theology. Paul reminds the church that apart from Christ’s victory over death and our victory over death, our faith in Christ is worthless. Because He rose from the dead, we know we will rise from the dead, and ultimately, our victory is certain.
But what about all the battles between now and the resurrection? Paul offers some help for victory here and now, beginning with the first:
1. Hold on to what you know is true. Be steadfast…
The truth is not just something you know—it’s something you cling to.
Several years ago in a NCAA cross-country championship race, held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. Only one of them, Mike Delcavo, stayed on course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. He was able to convince only four other runners to go with him.[ii]
Have you ever felt the pressure to run the wrong way? I have.
Sometimes it’s easier to run with the crowd than swim against the flow. Sometimes it’s easy to lose your grip on what’s true and settle for what’s convenient. Satan and his demons are professionals at deceiving us. We can rationalize and reason our way into doubting and disbelieving the truth.
Even folks who read their Bible, understand God’s truth, know right from wrong, can still allow their grip on God’s truth to slip. Slick talking preachers can twist and mold a lie until we end up embracing heresy instead of sound doctrine. Skeptics can cast just enough doubt in our mind to tip us into unbelief. When trouble or trials get hot and heavy, we can begin to wonder if what God said really is true. If God loves me, how could He let this happen? If God is all-powerful, why can’t He prevent tragedies? The voice of the ancient serpent whispers as he once did to Eve
Genesis 3:1 Has God indeed said…?
The truth is not just something you know—it’s something you must cling to.
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
If you want to win the battles of life, you must cling to what you know is true, and the one and only thing you can always be sure is true is what God says. Beware! The truth won’t always look true, won’t always feel true, won’t always seem true, but the truth will always be true.
When arguing with an opponent, Abe Lincoln said, “Let me ask you this: how many legs does a cow have?” “Four, of course,” came the reply. “That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?” “Why, five, of course,” was the reply. “Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” [iii]
God’s truth is an anchor for your life, a constant in the constantly changing world. The battles in your life cannot be won by lies; you must steadfastly cling to what you know is true.
When the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for his writing about the evils of the Soviet Union, he concluded his speech by quoting a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.”[iv]
Are you holding on to what you know is true? Are you grounded in the truth of God’s Word, able to stand steadfast against the deceptions of the devil? Be steadfast. Hold on to what you know is true. A second key to winning the battle is:
2. Don’t retreat in the face of adversity. Be…immovable…
Scientists tell us that in animals, there is what is called the fight or flight response. In the face of danger, most animals will run if they see a way of escape, and fight only if they feel cornered.
Many of us wisely follow the same pattern: we’d prefer retreat to combat. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is walk away from a fight. As Vance Havner used to say any bulldog knows it can whip a skunk, but they also know it’s just not worth it.
But there are times when the best thing to do is not to retreat, but to stand your ground and, if necessary, resist.
You can see some of this in our culture. For a the past few decades, a small but very vocal minority have been working very hard to keep Christians quiet. They demand we keep our religions to ourselves. They don’t want us speaking up in the high school, college or university. They want to gag us when it comes to political or moral issues. If that weren’t enough, they demands we embrace things that God says He hates: divorce, sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, keeping prayer out of school, and the “all religions are equal” mindset. They tell us, in effect, to stand down or be trampled down by the weight of progress. We must make a choice, either to retreat or resist.
Your adversity perhaps comes in the form of troubles. Christians in Haiti are experiencing this kind of adversity—sickness and suffering and death that surely must threaten to overwhelm their trust in Christ and the good God of the Bible.
There are many problems and pains that make it easy to turn your back on God, give in to your doubts and fears, slide down the slippery slope of unbelief.
We must make a choice, either to retreat or resist.
When I think about how to face such adversity without retreat, I think of two statements found in Scripture. The first one addresses adversity which comes in the form of persecution.
In Acts 4, the Jewish leaders wanted to keep Peter and John quiet about Christ.
Acts 4:18-20 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
They didn’t start swinging swords, but they didn’t retreat either. They resisted.
As for the other kind of adversity, listen to the words of a man named Job, who endure more troubles than any of us ever will:
Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.
Job was determined that nothing that happened to him would separate him from his faith in God. He didn’t retreat: he resisted. The apostle Paul once said to a group of Christians when he knew he was about to face adversity:
Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
There is a song in our hymn book based on this verse. Over and over it says I shall not be moved. If you want to win the battles of this life, you must make your stand with against adversity and persecution. You must make up your mind to never stop telling the world about Jesus, never stop trusting Him to deliver you from or through whatever happens to you.
3. Keep serving the Lord. Abounding in the work of the Lord…
Being steadfast and immovable doesn’t mean you stand still; it means you stay busy, pouring your life into serving the Lord. Let me suggest some ways you and I can abound in the work of the Lord.
· Always keep in mind you are serving Somebody Who loves you.
Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Who you serve makes a difference in how you serve. If you are doing something for somebody you love, you will strive to give it your best. You don’t serve them just to get something in return, but you serve to please them.
Christ wants you to enjoy serving Him. He wants you to serve Him with a thankful heart for all He’s done for you, because you truly love Him, not with a complaining attitude.
Psalm 100:2 Serve the Lord with gladness…
This is truly service with a smile, and is possible as you remember you are serving your Savior, Who died for you, Who is preparing a place for you in heaven, Who fills your life with good things. When you serve the Lord with joy, it is much easier to fight life’s battles.
· Be sure you know what your job is.
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…
God gifts each of us with certain talents, abilities, and callings. He doesn’t give us all the same job, but with different jobs that suit Who He created us to be.
He doesn’t call everybody to be a pastor or preacher, a teacher or missionary. Some of us are good at handling money (definitely not my gift!) Some of us He creates with good organizational skills to help with church administration.
He gives some musical talent, some with magnificent creative talents. He calls some of us to be craftsmen or athletes, others to be involved in medicine or farming. The most important thing is to find out what God gifts you to do, and then do it with all your heart for His glory. This is how all of us play our part in God’s great plan for victory in this world.
Don McCullough writes During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade…after the war. First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from [the battlefield.] Then would come the pilots who had driven the [German airplanes] from the sky. Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, ‘And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?’ And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, ‘We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.’” Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous. But it is often the people with their “faces to the coal” who help [win the war!] [v]
· Remember it always pays to serve the Lord. When I worked in the factory, I got paid my
wages, but it wasn’t very rewarding, standing in the same spot, doing the same thing over and over. But serving the Lord is different.
All of you Sunday School teachers are planting seeds in the hearts of your students, whether they be in kindergarten or grown-up. There will come a day when those seeds will sprout up and bring in a harvest of salvation and love for Christ.
Some of you who sing have no idea how God can use your song to life up a heavy heart, to help somebody feel the love of Christ, tugging at their heart.
Some of you who do the behind the scenes jobs here, one day will stand with the rest of us and hear the ultimate reward for our work for Christ: well done, good and faithful servant.
The most successful soldiers in the battles of life are those who serve the Lord with love, doing their best, looking forward to the reward.
Just hours before the first air strikes on Baghdad during the first rounds of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the President of the United States was in contact with all of his primary commanders. After hearing their reports and recommendations, the weighty responsibility of making the final call fell, as it always does, to the President - in this case George W. Bush. Before he proceeded, he asked each commander one straightforward question - “Do you have what you need to win?” Each one answered, “Yes.”
Tonight the Bible says you have everything you need to win, but only if you:
Hold on to what you know is true. Don’t retreat from adversity. Keep serving the Lord.
[i] The Executive Speaker, Bits & Pieces, November 10, 1994, pp.20–21Galaxie Software. (2002;
[ii] Loren D. McBain, Mesa, Arizona. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.
[iii] Bits and Pieces, July, 1991Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations
[iv] Swindoll’s Illustrations
[v] Don McCullough, Waking From The American Dream Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000