I’ve never been a fighter.
I’m not the kind of person with clenched fists or the kind of person to throw a punch. It just isn’t in me to hit another person. I wasn’t the kind of parent who used my hand to discipline.
But make no mistake, I have fought for many good things. I have fought against some nasty enemies, too, and sometimes I have felt like a boxer who just encountered Muhammad Ali in the ring.
Nehemiah is a great leader in the Old Testament. In the fourth chapter of his story, we find him making progress rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. But there were people in the neighborhood who did not want the wall rebuilt; they threatened to get their friends, show up unexpected at the wall, and use their fists and other weapons to stop the wall builders.
They said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” The wall builders were understandably afraid. So Nehemiah equipped the people with swords and spears and bows and stationed them around the wall in a way that gave them a sense of security.
And then he told them to fight. He said:
“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Another great biblical leader, this one in the New Testament, admitted to his fight with sin. In verses found in Romans 7:15-24, Paul says:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am!”
When someone faces a battle in life and somehow pushes through it, we call them a fighter. All of us at some point in life fight battles that are fierce and often unseen.
There are some battles that must be fought, and all too often, we choose to fight these alone for fear of being judged or rejected by those we love. There are other battles that need to be fought that we ignore, or maybe we’re too lazy to fight them. I’m talking about the battles for our “families, sons, daughters, wives, and homes.”
After nearly thirty-seven years in church ministry, I’m shocked, saddened, and frustrated, at the busy lives people live and what gets put on hold or shoved to the side when the fatigue of busyness steps in: family, relationships, God, church family.
When our kids were small, we often felt as if they were growing up in a minivan. In those days, families were warned about the danger of raising kids in the drive-through lanes of fast food restaurants.
Between the three kids playing a sport and never missing a church activity, we often wondered if the kids might one day resent all the time spent in the van. We took some fairly major steps to eliminate van time by selling a house we loved, on a piece of property we still miss, and we moved closer to the church, the schools, and the epicenter of our lives.
We still miss that house and yard, but it was one of the best things we ever did for our family at that stage of our lives. I guess I can say we decided to “fight for our family.” We preferred less time in the van and more time around the kitchen table. In the summers, it was our house where the kids and their friends would come after church on Wednesday nights. There were many evenings when Kim and I would say, “this is why we moved.”
Now we fight for different things. As grandparents, we will help fight for those two boys as they grow up in a world we could never have predicted or imagined. We fight for our church family. We still believe the phrase made famous by Bill Hybels: “the church is the hope of the world.”
We still believe--in fact, we believe it more than ever--that a family is much better off when they have a great church family. We believe kids are more fulfilled growing up around caring adults in the halls of a great church. We believe marriages are stronger when couples journey with other couples who want to center on Jesus.
We fight for our single friends, some of whom have been through difficult divorces, and others who have lost a spouse who was much too young to die.
We fight for the elderly--those saints who are our heroes--who were young families when we first married, who gave us an example of what Jesus-centered love looked like. They can often feel insignificant or irrelevant due to their age or health problems. We frequently remind them we would not be the church we are had it not been for their wise, steady, generous, and tireless leadership.
We fight for drug addicts, sex addicts, and ex-convicts by providing a church that understands pain. We fight for single moms, orphans, prisoners, or, as a pastor down in Texas once said, “the battered, the bruised, and the broken.”
We don’t fight alone. We believe we are fighting for the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons.
And let’s be clear: we are not fighting with other people. We are fighting an unseen yet powerful enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
We are not fighting because we’re mad; we fight because we care.