” Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called…”
( 1 Timothy 6:12)
When the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, he wasn’t just preaching, but he was practising what he preached. At the end of his second letter, he was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim. 4:7) Without question, Paul’s life and ministry epitomized true Christian service, in which he “endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and did not entangle himself with the “affairs of this life: that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim.2:3-4).
What is the Christian’s warfare?
Paul’s letters contain military vocabulary in his description of the Christian life. In his letter to the Ephesians, he used some of that vocabulary when he warned, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph.6:12). So, the Christian life is not a physical battle but a spiritual one — against the three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Against these spiritual enemies, we will continue to wage war throughout our lifetime. That’s why Paul also laid out the Christian’s armour so clearly for us, directly after his description of the enemy.
There is an unscriptural notion that, when people accept Christ, they no longer have to grapple with sin and temptation, but can sit back and just allow the Christian life to happen. But that’s not the teaching of the Word of God. When we are saved, we are certainly secured eternally in Christ, but at that moment we are enlisted — as the children’s chorus puts it — in the “Lord’s army.”
We can get a more specific understanding of what it means to fight the good fight of faith when we look at the original language here. The word “fight” in Greek is agonizomai from which we get the English word to “agonize.” This word means to “struggle” or “contend earnestly.”
This same word is also found in “Strive to enter in at the straight gate…” (Luke 13:24). All of these words, as well as “war a good warfare” (I Tim.1:18) suggest that there is a significant challenge involved in the good fight of faith.
Regarding the fight of faith, CH Spurgeon said, “From this it is evident that if he lays hold on eternal life, he will have to fight for it and that if he has to fight, he can only fight by laying hold upon eternal life with a tenacious grip. Every Christian man is a soldier and no man will war a good warfare unless he lays hold upon eternal life with all his heart and soul.”
John Calvin said, “For the purpose of encouraging him
The hymn writer John Monsell, summarized the Christian’s warfare in his well-known hymn:
Fight the good fight with all thy might;
Christ is thy Strength, and Christ thy Right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and Christ the Prize.
Cast care aside, upon thy Guide,
Lean, and His mercy will provide;
Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove
Christ is its Life, and Christ its Love.
Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear.
Only believe, and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.
John Samuel Bewley Monsell
Born in Londonderry, N. Ireland
The fight of faith is not a gloomy, hopeless struggle for the Christian because we are more than conquerors already through Him that loved us! We must be encouraged to ask for strength from the Lord in this conflict. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). We need the Lord’s power to fight our strongholds, our spiritual enemies. We cannot do this on our own. But, there is abundant power available from the Lord if we would only ask!
How should we fight the good fight?
We must “lay hold on eternal life.” We must take hold of our eternal possessions in Christ and enter into their power and authority in our lives by faith. These are our weapons and they are mighty through God in our lives. Using these weapons is the key to success in the warfare for truth and righteousness in which we are engaged. That includes the power of prayer. Oftentimes, we underestimate the power of prayer in the battle!
The good fight of faith is not about defending our own name which will perish, but defending the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His honour. Sometimes that will be lonely, challenging, and unpopular. Paul affirmed that he was “set for the defense of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:17). Sadly, the Christian church is often not so concerned with the need for this militance for the Lord. Today the church’s popular weaponry is flimsy and “frilly” and the result is evident all around us that the devil is gaining ground. While militance needs a steady balance of magnificence for the Lord, the scales are found “wanting” because many have hung up their weapons altogether in the battle for truth and have opted for the “flowery beds of ease.” What’s more, they are critical of those who would rather “fight to win the prize and sail through bloody seas.”
Women generally shrink back when faced with physical conflict because we know our physical limitations. But the good fight of faith is not physical neither is it confined to men. This is a battle which we all must face. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed and have to remind ourselves, “The battle is not yours but the Lord’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). If we try by willpower and ingenuity to defeat the enemy, we will find the enemy defeating us! The Lord Himself used the all-powerful sword of the spirit [Word of God] against the evil one when he came to tempt Him, how much more do we need to use the sword in our battles! Some of the greatest warriors for the Lord have been frail little women.
One frail woman was Fanny Crosby, the great hymn writer. Blind from her infancy, Fanny devoted her life to fighting the good fight of faith. Despite her disability, she fought valiantly for Truth and did great exploits for the Lord. Her hymns are a testimony of the power of God in her life. One of her hymns, “Victory Through Grace” incredibly describes the Christian’s warfare. She based the refrain on Ecclesiastes 9:11 which greatly encourages us: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…” Fanny wrote her refrain this way:
“Not to the strong is the battle
Not to the swift is the race,
But to the true and the faithful
Victory is promised through grace.”
May this Biblical truth goad us to realize that, despite our weak physical and emotional limitations, we CAN do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us.
There is a great need today for us to stand up and be true, dedicated soldiers of the cross. The battle for truth and God’s honour rages all around us. Are we willing to stand even if we have to stand alone? Each of us has a small window of opportunity called “Life.” It will soon be over. At its close, maywe be able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall gave me at that day…”
Nothing else really matters.