“Fight the good fight of the faith.”
1 Timothy 6:12
I’m not a fighter. It’s just not in me.
I have never raised my hand against anyone in anger. I may have been tempted once or twice, but knowing how ill-equipped I am for such things, I have always sought a peaceable solution, or an escape. If it is a fight or flight option, I think it’s clear which I’ll choose.
But it is not lost on me that as a Christian, as one called to be a disciple of Christ the King, whose reign and rule is at odds with the tyranny of corruption in this world, I am called to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). Jesus said that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33), so Paul calls all Christians to take up the full armor of God (Eph 6:11) as we contend against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). The followers of God are called to be strong and courageous (Josh 1:9), even as we “wage the good warfare” of the life of faith (1 Tim 1:18).
The call of Christ is a call to arms. This call is not for the faint of heart, but one in which we must constantly be on guard, be strengthened in the Lord, and find shelter in His presence.
Christianity is a fight. But let me be clear, it is not a call to be argumentative, divisive, or a troublemaker. We are not called to fight against one another in the Church, neither is are war directly with those who are opposed to the faith. Christians often forget where the battlefield really lies, and who the enemy truly is, and we we often point our weapons in the wrong direction. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
J.C. Ryle, in his book, Holiness, points us to the enemy. We must wage war against our own sinful flesh, against the temptations of the world, and against the devil himself.
We fight against our own sinful flesh – “Even after conversion man carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart weak and unstable as water.” The Westminster Confession teaches that our Sanctification is “imperfect in this life; there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17; 1 Pet 2:11). In the power of the Holy Spirit, we daily take up our cross, put to death the old man, and rise as new creations to follow after Christ. We must fight.
We fight against temptations of the world – “The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven and must be conquered.” We measure the success of the Church by worldly standards. We ask ourselves, “How much can I look like the rest of the world and still be a follower of Christ?” We are sympathizing with the enemy when we do this, and in danger of being found a turncoat in the trenches. We must fight.
We fight against the devil himself – “Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour… Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls.” To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.
Christian’s Combat with Apollyon
Pilgrim’s Progress, 1850
Christians, we are called to fight. But we are also called to remember that we fight a battle as those who are already victorious. We fight, knowing that Christ is the captain of our Salvation, that through His death and resurrection he has already defeated the enemy of sin and death, they have lost their sting (1 Cor 15:55). We engage in the war, knowing that, “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:4–5)”
Hearing a call to war is terrifying until you know that the victory is assured. Then, in the triumph of Christ, we can be happy warriors, ready to fight the good fight and keep the faith.
Quotes taken from:
Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.
Westminster Assembly. The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition. Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851. Print.