Nobody fights the good fight alone!

Text:  2 Timothy 4 5-11 Commemoration of St. Luke, Evangelist and Physician
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In our text from 2nd Timothy today, Paul has made peace with the fact that he’s reached the end of his life. He’s in prison in Rome and death is imminent. He’s using the language of competition to talk about the life of faith. As Christians, Paul says, we win at life regardless of our circumstances. Whether we’re being poured out as a sacrifice for those around us, whether we get beat up and bloodied in the struggle of the ministry God’s given us to perform, even if we can only crawl over the finish line, as Christians we ultimately win at life. We have reserved for us the crown of righteousness –like the laurel wreath worn by an ancient Olympian. We have nothing to fear in facing death because, through faith, we trust that death is not the end for us, that it is only the finish line and that Christ Jesus waits on the other side to crown each of us with his righteousness.
As Christians, we have no fear in the face of death, but we certainly have experiences in life that cause us to cry out for God. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Each one of us has or will have a battle to fight in our life time. Each one of us at some point or another will find ourselves on our knees praying for a miracle, for God’s healing presence, for God’s peace to reign supreme in our hearts. For some the struggle at hand may be as common as the fall allergy season or adjusting emotionally to a new season of your life, for others it’s chronic back pain, still for others it’s recovering from surgery. Some struggle with addiction, while others suffer with depression and anxiety. Some fight against heart disease while others battle diabetes. Some struggle with fertility issues, while others battle post-partum depression. Some of us know what it feels like to be poured out like a sacrifice for the sake of our suffering children or for another family member in need of care.
Some know what it’s like to fight the long, hard, exhausting fight against cancer. Some of you are fighting right now, others have been there or have walked with a family member or friend in their struggle. The diagnosis comes as a shock and causes many to question: Will God come to my aid? Where is God’s healing presence in my life?…. Why is this happening to me?… Once the good fight has been won, we look back and wonder… is it REALLY over? Am I ever really safe from the looming threat of cancer? We all have a battle to fight.
Paul says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I, I, I….. Frankly, I have trouble believing he did all of this on his own. Paul laments that Demas, Crescens, and Titus have all left him. But Luke (whom we commemorate today) remains with him…. Paul did not fight the good fight alone. God was with him in every round. God surrounded Paul a community of love and support….
Like Paul, we do not fight our health battles alone. God makes God’s presence known even in our darkest moments and heals us through community. God places people in our lives to encourage us in our struggle- just like Luke was there for Paul, so God surrounds us also with community in our times of need. As surely as God works healing miracles through medical science, through doctors and nurses, through physical therapists and pharmacists; God’s healing power is made real for us through the love and prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I experienced this after the birth of my son. Rhys was our miracle pregnancy and we were thankfully both very healthy. I had built up in my mind that childbirth would be a deeply moving, spiritual experience. I studied and studied natural pain management techniques and meticulously organized my birth plan. I was excited; I was READY-until absolutely nothing went according to plan. I needed medical intervention and labored for 19 hours on an empty stomach. I’m told what I experienced is classified as a “traumatic birth.” Thanks be to God, Rhys was healthy aside for some major bruising and jaundice. But I was utterly defeated. My body was broken and my heart ached for the loss of how birth was “supposed to go.” When they handed him to me, I was so broken, I just cried and held him as he cried and said “It’s ok baby, mommy hurts too.”
That day, I experienced God’s healing presence through the labor and delivery nurses and through my midwife who all radiated God’s grace and carried us safely through that night. But I especially experienced God’s healing through the community of love that surrounded me. My husband, my mother, and my best friend all supported me through the night. When it was all over, when the nurses had cleared out of the room and there were no more medical procedures to be done, when our tears had stopped and Rhys and I just snuggled together in exhaustion, my best friend came to our bedside. She’s a pharmacist by vocation, used to healing people’s bodies, but that day she brought me wholeness in a way I never expected. She said “I brought some holy oil from my church, may I anoint you and the baby and say a prayer for you?” She marked us with the sign of the cross and blessed us, and in that moment she was God’s tangible healing presence–not through her extensive medical knowledge, but through her deep love for us and her faith that God would grant us peace and wholeness…. A weight was lifted. God supplied what I needed most when I felt the worst.
I hope that each one of you can spend some time this week thinking of at least 1 of the ways you’ve experienced God’s healing in your life.
No one can fight the good fight alone. Paul couldn’t. You can’t. God desires the community of faith to be a family: to bear one another’s burdens, to care for one another’s needs, to hold one another in prayer, to walk with one another in suffering. Your family, your friends, and your church family right here at St. James are God’s agents of grace and healing in your life. Community is miraculous.
You never fight the good fight alone. God’s presence is always active in your life, God’s healing is always close at hand. God will give you what you need to fight the good fight and the strength you need to finish the race.
Trusting that God loves you and desires for you to receive the gift of peace and the gift of wholeness, I invite you now to come together in solidarity around the altar and receive God’s healing through the prayers and support of your brothers and sisters in Christ…

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