37. Fight the Good Fight

Meditations in 1 Timothy: 37:  Fight the Good Fight

1 Tim 6:11,12   But you, man of God…..  pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 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.

In the previous meditation we saw verse 11 in the light of what went before, but actually it also goes with what follows. In the face of the false teaching, confused ideologies and mixed up ‘believers’,  Paul reminds Timothy that he is a man of God who is called to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (v.11) These six characteristics are part of the inheritance that every believer can come to experience, they are the hall marks or brands of the believer and where they are absent you see a believer who has a long way to go to maturity.  But the truth is that there is a battle and the enemy would seek to stop these characteristics coming about in us.

Thus as we move on we find Paul making this very simple exhortation: “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (v.12a) For those who mistakenly think that the Christian life is just sitting back and receiving all the good things that God has to give, this comes as a cultural shock. Fight? Fighting suggests effort, effort to resist and effort to overcome. This has the same sort of feel to it that we find in Ephesians 6 where Paul wrote, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12) Other versions use the word ‘wrestle’ instead of struggle but the same sense is conveyed, there is a battle to be fought, a struggle to overcome. Every time you are confronted with a temptation, there is a struggle to be overcome, every time you are confronted with a doubt or a challenge there is a struggle to be overcome.

But this is a fight “of the faith”, it is what comes with the package, it is part of the life to which we have been called, ‘the faith’, and we should NOT think badly about it for it is “the good fight” or as some have put it, “the noble fight”. It is a fight that is worthwhile for in fighting we are made stronger and through fighting we come through to a better place. In Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev 2 & 3) there are seven calls to overcome. When we ‘overcome’ we get the better of the enemy, of sin and of temptation, we prevail against them, and we come through stronger. It’s a good fight!

So, he continues, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”  Eternal life isn’t just for after we die; it begins the moment we come to Christ. From that moment on, we are living in the eternal dimension by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. When God called us, it was to enter into and enjoy the fruits of this life which, as we just said, started the moment we were saved and continue on through this life and into eternity. The call to Take hold of the eternal life” suggests this is an action our part, an act of will. The Christian life is not passive, it involves resisting the enemy and it involves actively taking hold of the things God promises in His word.

This eternal life, says Paul, came when “you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” That probably refers to the confession of belief that Timothy made when he first came to Christ  and which almost certainly would have been repeated before the congregation at his baptism.

Paul exhorts him strongly to persevere with his faith: “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame.” (v.13,14) He makes this charge in all seriousness before God and reminds Timothy how Jesus had testified before the Roman authorities. In the same way Jesus had been fearless, so (by implication) Timothy is to be fearless is testifying. The good confession that Jesus made was probably, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” (Jn 18:37)

The command that Paul refers to is probably that of verses 11 and 12, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” i.e. go all out for that to which you have been called! When he says, “without spot or blame” he is saying, don’t let there be any points where you hold back and there could be accusations of half-heartedness against you.

Do this, he continues, “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time.” (v.14,15)  i.e. keep on doing it until Jesus comes, whenever God decrees that will be. It doesn’t matter how soon or how long, just make sure you are going all out for these things until he comes.

So we have seen the call – to go all out to fulfil his calling – the importance of it – with a charge before God – and the duration of it – until Jesus comes. That’s it! Go for it!

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9. Fight the Good Fight

Meditations in 1 Timothy: 9:  Fight the Good Fight

1 Tim 1:18-20    Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme

We focused, in the previous meditation, on the fact of Timothy having been appointed by means of the prophetic word imparted to him with the laying on of hands. We now need to move on to see Paul’s expectations of him that follow those link words, “so that…” His expectation is that Timothy may “fight the good fight.” We find him saying the same thing later in the letter: Fight the good fight of the faith,” (1 Tim 6:12) but as we see he defines the fight as a fight of faith, whereas in the present context, he simply speaks about “holding on to faith.” Without any doubt, the Christian life is a battle and we have an enemy who seeks to deceive us and lead us from the truth, immobilize us and stop us being and doing as the person God wants us to be.

In the latter quote where he speaks of the faith” that involves holding on to all the truth about God, Jesus, the Gospel and who you are. When Paul taught on spiritual warfare in his letter to the church at Ephesus, he said, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…Stand firm then.” (Eph 6:12,14). Note he speaks about a “struggle” against evil forces but he doesn’t tell us to over come but to stand firm. I imagine our faith as holding a piece of ground which represents the truth. We have received that and are living in it and all we have to do is hold on to it and not let go of it.  We don’t have to overcome because Jesus already has. We just have to believe the truth and continue to live in it.

And when he speaks about “holding on to faith and a good conscience he is reminding us of the fundamental truth that Jesus has died for us and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1) so we don’t have to feel continually guilty or a failure, for all of that has been dealt with by Jesus. If we do get it wrong, then the path back is simple and quick  – we confess and receive his forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9). In this way our conscience can be at peace. It does also assume of course, that we are not willfully committing sin for that would, rightfully, disturb our conscience.

So we hold to the truth, live in it and shun sin, relying upon Jesus’ death for those rare occasions when we do fail, and in so doing we resist the wiles of the enemy and stand firm. It is a good fight because it is a fight for good and it has already been won! Hallelujah!

But then, to emphasize the reality of what he has been saying, Paul cites some who have not stood, not held to the faith and fail to hold a good conscience. But, he indicates, it wasn’t accidental but purposeful for they “rejected” these things. They succumbed to the enemy’s lies and turned away from the truth and rejected the teaching that they had received from the apostles in the early church, and so had “shipwrecked their faith.” That is a powerful picture. Perhaps we might say that our conscience is like the rudder on the ship that is our life. They rejected what their consciences and the Holy Spirit would have been saying so that their lives crashed on the rocks that are the lies of the enemy and their life is now sinking – spiritually, morally and even perhaps physically, for that is what happens.

In his second letter Paul warns Timothy again about the first of the two named here: “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:16-18) His words here now are quite severe: “Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” (1:20) This idea is similar to that found in his letter to the Corinthians where he instructed about a man in the congregation who had been committing sexual immorality, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5)

This relies on a concept of which we in the modern church know little – that the body of Christ, the church, provides real spiritual protection for each member and so if an unrepentant member of the body is cast out, they are vulnerable to the enemy and will be brought down by him and hopefully brought to repentance. These two present believers were leading others astray by their wrong teaching and so Paul had put them out of the fellowship. In those days there were not lots of different ‘churches’ in the town as there are today so those men could not just go off to the next congregation. They were completely cut off from the fellowship of believers and would soon feel the spiritual effects. As we noted, the intent was to bring repentance and subsequently restoration.

Why God Permits Satan

We can benefit from understanding the following reasons why God allows Satan’s activities on earth as found in the Bible:

1. To reveal men’s hearts

  • 1 Chron 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel – he was to reveal David’s underlying sin of pride – in the parallel verses (2 Sam 24:1) it is seen as God who was behind it (to deal with the sin)

2. To bring judgement on unbelievers

  • Rev 9:11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. (both names mean “Destroyer”)

3. To bring discipline to believers

  • 1 Cor 5:5 by putting this sinful believer out of the church’s protection, it enabled Satan to come against him and humble him and bring him to repentance

4. To subjugate unbelievers

  • 1 Jn 5:19b the whole world is under the control of the evil one
  • Satan is allowed to rule where there is unconfessed sin, i.e. over unbelievers

5. To maintain humility in our lives

  • One of the key things God does with his children is to seek to develop character in them. As pride is always lurking, sometimes God allows us to be attacked so that we maintain our reliance upon Him and realise that of ourselves we are nothing.
  • 2 Cor. 12:7 Because Paul received wonderful revelations from God, to keep him from getting puffed up, he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him and keep him from getting proud.

6. To develop faith & righteousness in our lives

  • Faith is one of the key elements God wants to develop in our lives, and so often He does this by allowing us to encounter trying circumstances where our faith is both revealed and developed. Similarly, such testing times are to reveal and bring about greater righteousness within us.
  • 1 Peter 1:7 – trials are testings, and testings reveal our faith – such revelation of our faith brings honour in heaven
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Satan seeks to attack us, but we are to learn to resist.
  • 2 Peter 1:4-8 – the testing of our faith develops our lives in many ways

7. To bring about trials whereby we can be rewarded

  • These trials, that involve Satan, make us rely upon God, His word and His Spirit and so the outcome of the battles we fight is that we appreciate Him, His word and His Spirit more and more.
  • James 1:12 God blesses the people who patiently endure testing – testing develops us and God blesses through it
  • 1 John 2:13,14 – it is a battle with Satan which we can win with God’s word, as we battle we rely on that word more and more
  • 1 John 4:1-6 – our battle is also with Satan’s agents; we are to overcome in the mind and we overcome by the Holy Spirit within us, as we overcome we realise the wonder of who it is within us more and more.
  • Rev. 2:17 – our reward, as we overcome Satan’s attacks, will be intimacy with Christ
  • Rev. 2:26-28 – as we obey Jesus and have the victory so he is preparing us to take authority, both in this world and the next.

8. To teach us how to fight

  • As we face such trials we learn how to overcome.
  • Judges 3:2 God did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience.
  • Israel grew in their knowledge of the Lord and how to fight as they opposed the enemy. We do the same in the spiritual sphere.

9. To demonstrate God’s power over the enemy

  • We need reminding who is who in the battle. Jesus IS Lord!
  • Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
  • As we triumph God is glorified in the heavens.
  • Mk 1:21-27 As Jesus cast out a demon God was glorified.
  • Acts 13:6-12 As Saul triumphs over Elymas God was glorified.

Conclusions:

Although Satan was apparently not created for these express purposes, God takes and uses his rebellion for His purposes.

As Joseph once said, (Gen 50:20) “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Thus it is that in this fallen world where sin dominates, Satan is allowed access for the sake of God’s overall purposes.

We, therefore, need to maintain a right perspective so that we see:

  • Where the enemy is being allowed activity because of man’s unrighteousness, and therefore the unrighteousness is the thing to be dealt with.
  • Where the enemy should be resisted because he is simply seeking to expand his arena of control, and here we need to look to seek what God is wanting us to learn or develop in resisting the enemy, so we can co-operate with Him.