Fight The Good Fight
Do you know that we are engaged in a war of heavenly proportions? A way being wage not only over the destiny of humankind but your very own soul? A battle waged not between God and the Devil. Well, the Devil sees it as a battle against God, but God does not. But between the Devil and you. It is in the midst of such a pitched battle that God is calling us to rise up and fight!
The Christian believer is not called to be gentle, meek and mild. But we are called to be forceful, godly and full-of faith! In this article we will examine some key aspects involved in helping us to fight the good fight based on 1 Tim 1:18-20.
FIGHT IN RIGHT DIVISION: ACCORDING TO YOUR CALLING
1 Timothy 1:18–20 (NIV) Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,
What are these “...prophecies once made about you...”? The NASB translates as, “prophecies previously made concerning you.” In other words, these were not just any prophetic words that encourage us. But prophetic words about Timothy’s life. It was most likely prophecies that spoke of God’s purposes or call upon Timothy’s life.
The Apostle Paul gave Timothy “instructions in keeping” with these prophecies. Instructions that were in accordance to God’s call upon Timothy’s life. Actually, in the Greek, they were more like “commands”, as the NASB translates it. Now why was Paul giving Timothy these instructions? So that he may fight the good fight!
What does it mean, fight the good fight?
It is like a boxing coach reminding his protégé, “You have all the makings of a heavyweight boxing champion. That is your destiny. Now you are to remember how I gave you instructions, how I trained you. So that you may fight excellently in accordance to becoming a world heavyweight champion!”
A boxer must fight in the right weight division. The heaviest go to the heavyweight. The lightest to the flyweight! So Timothy should fight according to his noble and divine calling. After all, Timothy was an apostolic representative to the churches in Ephesus. Indeed, Timothy was probably an apostle himself. Timothy should pay heed to Paul’s instructions to him in order that he may fight the good fight.
To fight the good fight is more than just obtaining salvation at the end of our life. It is also about living according to our calling.
To fight the good fight is more than just obtaining salvation at the end of our life. It is also about living according to our calling. The salvation element is highlighted in 1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. The calling element is highlighted in 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV) Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. Therefore, besides the calling as a believer, it encompasses our calling as a minister of Christ.
Why the reference to fighting?
The fulfilment of God’s destiny for us does not come automatically!
Because there is opposition. Spiritual resistance abounds both externally and internally in our hearts. The fulfilment of God’s destiny for us does not come automatically! The Devil is like a prowling lion, out to get us! God has made His grace available to us to fight the good fight. He has provided His Holy Spirit, His Word, the Church. He has provided all the necessarily basis for us to finish the race well. God is saying, “I have given you everything you need, more than enough!” So if we look from the divine perspective, God has made abundant provision for us to finish the race well. He wants us to win!
God has made abundant provision for us to finish the race well. He wants us to win!
Then we have to look to the believer’s perspective, where we have to apply the grace of God in our lives. We have to make use of it. Appropriate it. That is why the Scriptures exhort us to fight the good fight. We have responsibility to do the fighting! God provides everything necessary for our faith to thrive. What we have to do is cooperate with God. Good parents want their children to succeed at school. So they may provide a good school, perhaps even tuition, encouragement, assistance, support etc. But child has to cooperate by diligently studying. Otherwise, all the provisions by the parents will not come to fruit.
God provides everything necessary for our faith to thrive. What we have to do is cooperate with God.
In the Hope Church, we seek to have provide everything to help equip members to fight the good fight. We have Next Steps Academy classes to help members learn God’s Word broadly and be equipped for basic ministry. In our wilsonlailing.com are provided many equipping avenues and good articles to strengthen listeners biblical understanding and spiritual walk. Life groups for fellowship and support. Spiritual mentoring to help members mature in life and ministry.
Sometimes, some believers might feel that God has not given what is needed to fight the fight. But God has. Question is do we know how to apply it? Are we determined to fight a good fight? If God has called you to be a shepherd, fight accordingly. Spiritual leader, fight accordingly. Christian homemaker, fight accordingly. In the marketplace, fight accordingly. Let’s lift our game according to our calling!
FIGHT FAIR: MAINTAIN CLEAR CONSCIENCE
1 Tim 1:19a (NIV) holding on to faith and a good conscience,
In a boxing match, the boxers have to fight fair. They have to keep to the rules of engagement – such as no punching below the belt! There has to be integrity in their fighting! It is a matter of good conscience. In 1 Tim, Paul refers to conscience a number of times, and particularly in relation to our faith. 1 Timothy 3:9 (NIV) They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
What is conscience? It is our moral compass. It approves or disapproves our attitudes and actions. Our moral compass is normally set according to the highest standards that we subscribe to. Hence, it is not perfect. Some of God’s laws can be found in our human conscience. Mostly, we form our own laws in our conscience. Romans 2:14 - 15 (NIV) 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
What is the relationship between conscience and our faith?
Those with a clear conscience can respond to God with integrity. Titus 1:15 (NIV) To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.
Imagine our conscience are like spectacles. When our conscience is clear, it is like having clear spectacles. We can see better and clearer. We can begin to detect what is right or wrong more correctly. Thus, we can respond to God more easily because our spiritual eyesight is clearer.
A clear conscience makes for a healthy faith.
A clear conscience makes for a healthy faith. If we allow our conscience to get corrupted, our ability to see clearly becomes more and more fogged up. Our hearts are being hardened. Eventually, we will no longer hear God nor respond to His grace. Consequently, we will begin to wander away from His path into the wilderness.
A corrupted conscience leads to a withered faith. Eventually, some people’s conscience may become so corrupted or unresponsive to God that it is considered seared.
A corrupted conscience leads to a withered faith. Eventually, some people’s conscience may become so corrupted or unresponsive to God that it is considered seared. 1 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. In other words, it is permanently burnt, rendered dysfunctional. Hence to fight the good fight, we should keep our conscience in good shape. Clear it good, pure, clear!
How to maintain a clear conscience?
You should treasure faith in Christ more than anything else and do what you know is right. Each time you deliberately ignore your conscience, you are hardening your heart. Over time your capacity to tell right from wrong will diminish. As you walk with God, he often speaks to you through your conscience, making clear the difference between right and wrong. Act on those inner tugs to do what is right, then your conscience will remain clear.
Watchmen Nee shared about some negative things he harboured about another church member, even though he did not speak it out. But he agreed with what some were saying. At that time, he was trying to publish tracts for evangelising but was facing many obstacles. As he prayed about it God told him to repent and confess his sin against this member. At first, he resisted. He ignored his conscience. After all, he reasoned, I did not say anything bad. Yet his project continued to be stuck. Eventually be repented and confessed to the member his negative feelings. Almost immediately after, the obstacles faded, and his tract project came to fruition successfully.
FIGHT TO WIN: KEEP THE FAITH (v19-20)
1 Timothy 1:19–20 (NIV) …which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
Keeping the faith means holding fast to Gospel truth and trusting in Christ for salvation.
Keeping the faith means holding fast to Gospel truth and trusting in Christ for salvation. Why is this important? Because believers can lose their faith. It can be shipwrecked! Gk “nauageo” What do we mean by a shipwreck? Have you ever seen a ship that is wrecked, dashed upon rocks and broken up? Such ships are totally rendered useless and no longer salvageable. When applied to our faith what does it mean? A shipwrecked faith means a faith that is totally destroyed. A faith no longer viable. In theological terms, it refers to apostasy.
A shipwrecked faith means a faith that is totally destroyed. A faith no longer viable. In theological terms, it refers to apostasy.
This is reinforced by Paul’s response to 2 key persons, notable leaders amongst these. It is very likely that these were even formerly elders in the Ephesus church. That is the reason for Paul’s strong warnings against wrong teaching and his specifying qualifications for elders later on.
In our faith, we should fight to win the race. To fail is to lose your faith. Some Christians like Calvinists believe that it is not possible to lose our faith. Once saved, forever safe. However, as I studied the Scriptures it is clear that Christians can lose their faith.
Scriptural evidence for losing the faith.
Let’s examine a crucial passage that deal with apostasy. Hebrews 6:4 - 8 (NIV) 4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
To properly interpret this passage, a key question is whether those who fall away were Christians in the first place. Because those who believe that saints cannot lose their salvation try to argue that the passage does not refer to genuine believers. So let’s examine it more carefully.
The phrase “once been enlightened” in the Greek actually means “once effectively enlightened”. Who are those effectively enlightened by God’s light? Only believers!
The phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” means in the Greek to fully eat or metaphorically to “experience”. Who have experienced the heavenly gift? Only believers!
The phrase “shared in the Holy Spirit” means in the Greek partakers in the Holy Spirit. Who have a share in the Holy Spirit? Only believers!
The phrase “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age” can only mean “experienced the promises in God’s Word and the supernatural workings of God”. Who else experiences such things? Believers!
In v6, it clearly states, that “if they fall away” – it is impossible to be brought back to repentance. That is apostasy. It is impossible to return to Christ again. Some argue that it was a hypothetical warning. It simply does not make sense to warn about something that cannot happen!
What will be result of those who fall way in apostasy? They cannot return again to Christ. “It is impossible for those… if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” Worse, they will be cursed and rejected by God. “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”
However, we should make clear that we are not saying that we lose our salvation simply because we sin. Some Armenians believe that. We believe that the grace of God is long-suffering. But if we continue in sin, eventually our conscience becomes seared. We are no longer responsive to God. The next stage is when we no longer believe in or trust in God for salvation. That is a short step away from rejecting God. That is when we lose our salvation.
2 Pet 2:18-22 also clearly speaks about apostasy of the believer. 2 Peter 2:20–22 (NIV) 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
Were these believers that Apostle Peter referred to? Surely, “they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” must refer to believers. Similarly, “to have known the way of righteousness”, must refer to true believers. What is the outcome for those who “turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them”? Apostle Peter’s conclusion is “they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.” That captures the description of apostasy.
Fight to keep the faith.
So how do we avoid the shipwrecking of our faith? Do not get complacent. Fight the good fight of faith. Fight to finish the race.
It means we should continually appropriate the grace of God in our lives, making sure we continue to hold on to sound doctrines, keeping our fellowship with God, maintaining a clear conscience. Don’t give in if ever the going gets tough, but persevere in faith, looking to God. At the end of Apostle Paul’s life, he was able to claim in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Let’s follow Apostle Paul’s inspiring example.
God is calling us to fight the good fight and finish well in our faith.
God is calling us to fight the good fight and finish well in our faith. Let’s fight at the level we are supposed to fight. Let’s aim to win the crown that God has reserved for us. May each one of us have the same desire to fight the good fight! Let’s maintain a clear conscience in every we do. Keep the faith that God has given unto us.
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