Fighting the Good Fight

Posted: May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

stand-up-bible-versesThe times, as they say, are a changing. In the not so distant past, the church had enjoyed a great deal of respect and cultural influence. These days, many look down on it with contempt and disgust leaving those who hold to its teaching to be marginalized and often labelled as bigoted and intolerant.

Understanding various forms of persecution to be the norm, scripture repeatedly calls brothers and sisters in Christ to stand up for the truth and stand firm in the faith. A very good example of this can be seen here. And so, while Paul says that we are to “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness”, in the very next verse he calls us to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Tim 6:11-12) But what exactly does that look like?

Dr. Tom Ascol provides the following answer…

Contending for the faith is the duty of every believer. It is not optional. Neither is it easy. To take this admonition seriously opens you to many temptations. Most notably, it carries with it the temptation to develop a crusty, pugilistic attitude. It is very possible in the midst of contention to forget the reason you are in the fight. For a Christian, it is never simply to win arguments. Rather, our contending must always be for the purpose of winning people.

There is also the danger of developing a love for the fight. Some people naturally enjoy the vigor of a good debate. Yet, Christians ought to contend for the faith not with excitement about the fight but with zeal mixed with grief and horror and love that are born out of the realization of what is at stake. Robert E. Lee’s sage observation applies to believers who contend for the faith: “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”

As God gives us grace, ability and opportunity, each follower of Jesus should aspire to be like Bunyan’s “Valiant-for-Truth.” This noble character in Pilgrim’s Progress can teach us much about the duty and dangers of contending for the faith. When we first meet him he has his sworn drawn and his face is bloody from battle. He tells of being attacked by three enemies who threatened him with three options: 1. He could become one of them, 2. He could go back where he came from, or 3. He could die on the spot. Since he would not be intimidated to leave the path to the Celestial City, he was forced to fight. The names of his enemies were “Wild-head,” “Inconsiderate” and “Pragmatic” (which in the 17th century meant officious, meddlesome, or dogmatic in a dictatorial way).

With these names Bunyan is teaching us that the greatest enemies that a man who is Valiant-for-Truth will ever face are the enemies that reside within his own heart. What is the answer to the temptations that every contender for the faith inevitably faces? Pull back? Become less strident about the faith once delivered to the saints? Downplay conviction or doctrine? No! The answer is to become as valiant for the truth being worked out in your own heart as you are for it being preserved and proclaimed in the church. Go hard after the application of truth in your own life.

John Piper has somewhere said, “If it is worth fighting over, it is worth rejoicing over!” I agree. The faith that we contend for is the faith that has given us Jesus Christ. It is that which has revealed to us the forgiveness of sins in Him. It is that which assures us of an eternal home in heaven. So as we fight, we must do so joyfully and never let our commitment to contending become a cover for mean-spirited rancor.

May our Lord call out all who will live and serve as such contenders!

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” – Jude 1:3 (ESV)

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