I feel like I’ve written this post before, probably several times. But maybe that’s because I’ve fought this same battle, engaged with these same sins for a long time. Pride, idolatry, selfish ambition, fear of man. I beat them down but they keep coming around. I’m frustrated with that. It’s like there’s this soft place in my spiritual armor.
I’d rather just sit back and relax on the way to glory, but the Christian life is described as a fight and a struggle. The world, my flesh and the enemy continually conspire to deceive me and lull me into complacency.
We’re told about this fight, this spiritual battle, in Ephesians 6 and are directed on how to put on our armor. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul describes his faith-filled efforts in self-control and discipline. We can’t ignore the truth that the Christian life is a fight.
But Paul also describes the fight like this: “Fight the good fight of the faith” 1 Timothy 6:12 “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” 1 Timothy 1:18-19 At the end of his life, Paul tells Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
Paul calls this fight and this warfare good. Why? How can it be good? It certainly doesn’t feel good but maybe that’s because my focus is off. My focus during the fight is on myself and on how hard the struggle is.
In Romans 7 Paul spends a lot of time on how hard his struggle is. He finishes by exclaiming in verse 24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Thankfully he goes on and declares the great victory we have in Romans 8, but I think in my struggle with sin I stop at verse 24. I like to hang out there for some reason. I keep looking down and get mired in false guilt.
But describing this fight as good redirects my focus. It gets my eyes off myself. It reminds me of Hebrews 12 and the exhortation to look to Jesus as we run the race. I know as a runner how tempting it is to look down as you run, especially when you’re going up a tough hill. You just want to gut it out and get it over with. But what a thrill it is when you look up and see the finish line. You get a burst of adrenaline and suddenly you have new life in your legs! I think this is what Paul is getting at when he calls the fight of faith good. He wants us to look at this fight differently.
It’s good because the outcome is assured. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
It’s good because we have all the weapons we need. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4
It’s good because God is sovereign. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
It’s good because God uses everything to discipline those he loves. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
It’s good because the object of our faith is Jesus! “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
So this is a good fight. We aren’t left alone in it. We have been given everything we need to endure and succeed and eventually get home to Jesus.
“[I pray that] the eyes of your hearts would be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” Ephesians 1:18-19