Fight the Good Fight of Faith
You’ve probably heard Christianity is like a marathon. We’re all running in a race and the goal is to make it to the finish line. That’s a good metaphor but Paul also compares it to that of a boxing match. In the ring you have an opponent who wants to defeat you. He doesn’t just want to bloody you up, he wants to knock you out so you don’t get up again.
In any fight it’s important to know who your opponent is. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Is he right handed or left? What kind of punches does he like best?
Spiritually, we need to know what kind of fight we’re in, too.
Are we in a battle for good health? Are we battling to have time to do everything we need to? Is our battle primarily a physical one or spiritual?
We need to know so we can focus our attention. Otherwise, if we get distracted, even a little, we’re going to get punched in the face.
1 Timothy 6:12 tells us three things about the fight we are in.
First, it tells us we are in a battle against unbelief. Second, it emphasizes this is a spiritual battle, and third it encourages us that we are not fighting alone.
1) It’s a fight against unbelief
1 Timothy 6:12 says…
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Our fight is the good fight of the faith. And whether we think of faith in a broad all inclusive sense or narrow, trusting, sense, the meaning is the same because the essence of Christianity is faith. The fight is to keep believing.
To be a Christian we must have faith in Christ. We must believe in Him, trust in Him and continue to do so. This is “the faith” that we fight for.
So, we could easily say, we are in a fight against unbelief. Unbelief is our opponent.
2 Timothy 4:7 says,
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
What does that mean? It means Paul kept believing. It means he continued to trust in Christ all the way to the finish line.
Paul is mixing his metaphors a little but that’s OK. His point is the same. We must finish the race with our faith intact.
So, being in a fight, sometimes you strike offensively other times defensively. But, regardless, you must concentrate to remain in the fight. You can’t be thinking about how you’re going to spend your prize money or about the hat the person sitting in third row is wearing. If you do you’re going to get knocked out.
1 Corinthians 9:26 puts it this way,
26 So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control…
Focus. You need to focus on the real battle. And the real battle is a battle against unbelief. It’s the good fight of faith.
In Hebrews 11:35-40, Paul described those who fought the good fight of faith. He mentioned Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, and Rahab, and so many others. Then in verse 35 said…
Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
These people were not living their best life now. They were focused on the next. They were good examples of what it means to fight the good fight of faith. Verse 39 says…
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us…
They weren’t approved by their faith God would heal, take away their suffering, in this life. They were approved by not wavering in their faith God would keep His promise in the next life.
So, our fight, the Christian fight, is not a fight to hang on to as much of this life as we can. It is a battle to keep believing even when we haven’t received the promises yet.
2) It’s a spiritual fight
1 Timothy 6:12 says,
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called…
The battle is about eternal life, not physical life. It’s a spiritual battle we are in.
So there’s good news for the sick. The unhealthy can win the battle because it’s not a battle against lost health but against lost hope.
Those that can’t walk, talk, see, or hear are still in the fight. In fact, they are some our strongest warriors.
Now, there are some teachers out there who pretend to offer hope but in fact give just the opposite and I feel I must warn you.
Joseph Prince, Joyce Myers, Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, and others, teach that if you just have enough faith you will be healed, in this life.
They teach that God has already healed you, physically, on the cross and quote “By his wounds you are healed”, meaning in this life, not when when we receive a glorified body.
So, the fight of faith they preach is a fight to believe God will heal you today, right now, not in the next life. That’s a false gospel.
They say our physical healing was accomplished on the cross but but don’t mention Jesus also conquered death on the cross. According to their logic, we should also be able to never die, if we just have enough faith.
What about all those faithful Christians in wheelchairs or hospice? What about the unborn who died inside their mothers? Or those in other countries dying from aids or starvation?
Would all of this suffering go away if they, and you and I just had more faith?
What about Shane? What about Linda? Are they sick because Barb and Mike don’t trust God enough?
That’s a cruel teaching because it causes us to doubt when God doesn’t heal according to our expectations. It causes us to lose sight of the finish line and where the real battle is.
The reality is we live in a fallen world. We live in a cursed world. And as long as we remain a part of this world there will be death and suffering.
Now, don’t get me wrong Jesus did die so you can be healed, even physically, just not necessarily in this life.
It is eternal life, not our physical life, that we take hold of and never let go.
In this life we may have a temporary reprieve from sickness and suffering. Your cancer may go into remission. Your arthritis may be relived. Your allergies might go away. And we give glory to God when He heals either supernaturally or through medicine, doctors, or surgeries.
But at best, any healing we receive in this life is temporary. Have you noticed? We all die. Even those Jesus healed, even Lazurus who Jesus raised from the dead, got sick again, and died.
No one has successfully had enough faith to prevent getting old and dying.
So, even if you are healed, the fight of faith to keep believing in the promised eternal life doesn’t go away.
Our primary struggle isn’t a physical one, it’s a spiritual one. Don’t lose your focus.
It’s right to pray for healing but may I suggest we pray like Christ did, for God’s will to be done.
Now, we could say that Jesus was a special case and we’re the exception. But what does Jesus mean when he tells us to take up or crosses and follow him? At the very least it must mean for us to also be submitting to God’s will regarding our physical health instead of demanding healing in this life.
See, our calling is to eternal life which lies yet ahead of us. We haven’t fully received it yet, and we won’t, just like those listed as faithful in the book of Hebrews, until we die.
Our fight is a fight of faith to trust in God’s will to be done even if it means we suffer longer.
So, are you fighting the wrong fight? Are you primarily engaged in a physical battle while giving second place to the spiritual one?
Are you fighting to take hold of eternal life or are you struggling to hang on to the things of this earthly life?
There are other battles we fight.
Some of us fight the-decluttering-fight or the-accomplish-everything-on-my-todo-list-fight, or the-get-my-financial-life-in-order-fight.
There are any number of fights that we can engage in but they are all less important than the fight against unbelief and the fight to take hold of eternal life.
It’s not that these other battles aren’t important but too often they just distract us from what the real battle is.
The real battle is a battle of faith, against unbelief. It’s a battle to take hold of God’s promises and never let go irregardless of our circumstances to the very end, whenever God decides that will be.
And we fight this battle with the weapons of prayer, and meditation, and Bible reading. We fight the good fight by preaching the gospel to our selves.
We don’t cross the finish line with our hands held high in the air victoriously proclaiming how healthy we are, or how decluttered our house is. With our last breath, those that have fought the good fight of faith, collapse into the arms of Jesus.
This is because Jesus fights for us. We don’t fight alone.
You could say that Jesus enters the ring and fights for us, enabling us to endure, and one of the way He does this is through the encouragement of others.
Prayer, meditation, Bible reading are essential but so is the encouragement of others.
3) It’s a community fight
Verse 12 says…
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
As Christians, we have confessed to others what we believe so there are witnesses who will vouch for our faith in Christ and it’s these fellow witnesses, representing Jesus Christ, who fight the fight with you.
It’s not a professional marathon we run, it’s a community race. The whole family runs together, grandpa in his walker. Grandma in her wheelchair. Some run, some walk, some are pushed, some are even carried, but we are all in it together headed toward the finish line and our reward which is given on the basis of believing and trusting in the promises of God.
How can we help those that fight or run alongside us? Be a Christian friend. Christian friends remind others of what we are fighting against. Christian friends encourage to not lose sight of what our real hope is in.
Hebrews 10:35 says…
35 So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward…
Christian friends will help us not to throw away our confidence in Christ and our future reward.
We may have confidence in vitamins, in healthy eating, in essential oils. Personally, I am a believer in the power of vitamin c and apple cider vinegar, but we must all realize these things will not help us in our spiritual fight against unbelief. In fact, it’s possible they might just become a substitute.
So, as co-runners, if we don’t address the more important issue of trusting in Christ then the person who “has tried everything” to get well, and still not received healing, even though you promised him God would heal if he just believed, is going to be in despair doubting their faith and maybe even questioning if He’s even real.
A Christian friend will go beyond the physical battles and remind you of the real battle you fight.
They will put into practice Hebrews 3:13 which says
13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.
Christian friends will practice Galatians 6:1 which says,
Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit.
Do you know what’s at the core of wrongdoing for a Christian? It’s a lack of trust in God’s promises. It’s thinking you deserve to have now what God has determined for you to have in the future.
Brothers and sisters, it’s a spiritual battle we are engaged in against unbelief.
It’s a fight to believe that God knows what He’s doing. You might be questioning why you’re still alive. Maybe you don’t see any purpose to your life. Maybe you don’t see any point in continuing to fight if you’re not going to get better anyway.
We fight for the faith to keep trusting that God knows what He’s doing even when we don’t.
So, we should be helping each other to remain faithful to the confession we have made in the presence of many witnesses. And that profession is “I trust in Jesus.” It’s a community race we are in. We are in a fight but we don’t fight alone.
In fact, God, himself, is our advocate. 1 John 2:1 says,
My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one.
We don’t want to sin. We don’t want to doubt, to become impatient with God, to lose faith in Christ. But, sometimes we do. Just remember you’re not alone in this battle. We have each other and most importantly, we have Jesus Christ fighting on our behalf.