The good fight of faith — Are you fighting the good fight of faith and if so, how are you going about fighting the good fight of faith?
For the past month I have taken a look at what the Lord has done for us through His call of repentance, work of reconciliation, and redeeming those who are of genuine faith in Christ. Typically after resurrection Sunday, what I like to do is focus on the believer’s role in society. We, of course, live in a day where Christ has died, risen, and ascended to sit back at the right hand of the Lord.
For the disciples, after His resurrection, there was a sense and feeling of “what to do now?” You see, they had spent the past 3 years of their lives closely following Jesus – listening to His every word and seeing the miracles He did. In a recent Sunday School lesson – Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias – we saw where the disciples were at the sea of Galilee and with that feeling of having nothing to do, they went fishing (John 21:1-14). On this occasion the resurrected Jesus showed the disciples that there was no time to rest and that it was time to keep fighting the good fight of faith.
Now, if there was no time to rest in those days, I would suggest to you today that there is definitely no time to rest for one who serves the Lord. We who genuinely believe are all servants of the Lord, and genuine believers we have been commissioned by Christ to fight the good fight of faith. So, the question becomes, what is the good fight of faith? What role do we play in fighting the good fight? How do we fight in this fight?
What is the Good Fight
We should not think of this fight as one of physical combat. In his letter, James wrote “if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20). Let us understand that the good fight is one with spiritual implications of life and death, spiritually.
So, a few Sundays ago, I asked this question during Sunday School: what have you been called to do as a child of God? The answer to this question was the common answer among believers. Believers will often respond, “We have been called to save (or win) souls.” As we have seen, James would certainly agree that the believer has been called to and can potentially save souls from death, spiritually.
Now, with that in mind, I admittedly have qualms (uneasiness) when believers give this answer. My unease is not necessarily with the answer because the answer is certainly the correct one. However, my unease comes from a place of how some of us go about fighting the good fight to save a soul. So, I feel it is vital that as a believer we need to understand our role to play in saving souls.
In the Great Commission, Jesus, as we know, tasked genuine believers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Now, when we think of baptism, we immediately think of water baptism, right? Some are of the belief that once they have been baptized they are saved and that the fight is over. As you have heard me say before, baptism saves no one as it is more of an outward showing. In order for one to be saved, faith must first happen in the inner man, so that the outward work becomes a reflection of the soul.
So, when I look at Jesus speaking of baptism in the Great Commission, I certainly think of water baptism, but I also consider another kind of baptism. In the Great Commission, I want us to note that Jesus said that new followers should be taught to observe all things He commanded (Matt. 28:20). So, I would suggest to you that we should also baptize all hearts in the sound doctrine of the gospel of Christ just as our hearts have been baptized in this doctrine.
Why do I say this? Well, if we are going to fight the good fight of faith, I believe the weapon we should fight with is the doctrine of God – His gospel. You see, it is not anything that you or I can personally do without the gospel to save someone’s soul! You see, it is God that saves and it is His gospel that we should preach and teach that can save souls!
To the Romans, Paul wrote that he taught the sound doctrine of the gospel to Gentiles in order to magnify his ministry. Paul’s ministry was not one that was of his own as he preached Christ in order to save both Gentiles and his fellow people (Rom. 11:14). If we look back to James’ writing, earlier in his letter James wrote that we should lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness to receive with meekness the implanted word (the gospel), which is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21).
Yes, the genuine believer has been called to save souls. However, we must greatly consider how we are going about doing so. We do not save souls by our own power and authority, but by the Lord’s power and authority! We are to minister the gospel of God to others and it is His gospel that saves.
Let us understand that the ministering of the gospel is meant to persuade and encourage others to come to Christ. Essentially, our role in this fight is to be encouragers to those who are not of the faith to go to Christ; Christ can and will save the souls of those that are open to His saving grace.
Falsely Fighting the Good Fight
With this in mind, there are many believers who struggle to understand this role of service. Some approach fighting the good fight of faith to encourage others to come to Christ with a mindset that is not of the Lord. What do I mean by this? Well, some approach fighting the good fight of faith with a mindset where they go beyond God’s intended role for us for their own idea of how the fight should be fought.
Causing great harm
In my sermon last week, we saw that the Jews who had been giving the law of God to live had that kind of mindset as they come up with their own narrative as to who lives and who dies. Where the Lord is truly the judge, jury, and executioner over all, the Jews coming up with this saying, had essentially made themselves out to be judge, jury, and executioner. In other words, they had given themselves the power and authority to have rule over someone’s fate.
There are many who claim to be believers that feel they have such authority to say who can and cannot be saved. Now, as we know, God has said that all people can be saved should they turn from their wickedness and believe in Him. So, we need to understand today that just because we are a child of God, that does not make us judge, jury, and executioner of anybody – that is not our role! Our role is like the cornerman in boxing – always guiding and encouraging others to keep picking themselves up in their fight.
The real shame is that many believers have sadly played the role of judge, jury, and executioner rather than the encourager and it has brought about great harm to many. We who are fighting the good fight of faith should not be a stumbling block to anyone. To the Romans, Paul wrote, “let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way (Rom. 14:13).”
So, how does one become a stumbling block to another? This happens when one chooses to move by their own authority rather than by God’s authority. You often hear me speak about being a stumbling block because a child of God should not cause one to stumble or push another away from God. If a believer is doing this, they are not fighting the good fight of faith in a good way, but in a way that is poor (improper).
The bad fighter
In his letter to Timothy, we will see Paul touch on the one who believes they are fighting the good fight of faith but actually fight improperly – in a way that is unhelpful. In boxing, it is good to knock your opponent out but in this fight, the believer should not be knocking out anyone that is not their adversary. So, our goal should be to withstand our fight against our adversary, the devil, while also helping others remain on their feet or helping them to their feet as they do battle with the same adversary.
The one that fights improperly, Paul tells us, uses a doctrine that does not consent to wholesome words, the words of Jesus Christ. This doctrine, Paul also tells us is one that does not consent to godliness (1 Tim. 6:3). Let us understand that this doctrine is not sound doctrine – not faithful and true – and does not lead to saving (salvation). So, what good is this doctrine that does not consent to godliness for those ministering it and to those who hear it and take it in? How could this person be fighting the good fight of faith if the doctrine is one that does not save?
Sadly, there are many unhealthy doctrines in our world today by which many have been indoctrinated with. They are unhealthy doctrines because they stand in opposition to the Lord; this means that they are doctrines of sin. Living by these unhealthy doctrines puts the soul into poor health and can lead to its destruction if one does not adopt a healthy doctrine. That said, the good fight of faith should not result in anyone’s destruction but rather, leads one to life (Prov. 11:19).
So, are you living for the good fight or are you fighting poorly? Let us consider, again, how Paul describes one who is fighting poorly. Paul tells us that the poor fighter is one that is proud and knows nothing (1 Tim. 6:4). This would suggest that this fighter is one that fights both blindly and ignorantly – they are a wild fighter. We see the wildness of this fighter as Paul continues and says they are obsessed with disputes and arguments over words which leads to envy, strife, and reviling – not salvation.
Sadly, there have been many that have fought this fight wildly and with little understanding for how they should fight. There have been some that have an attitude that they are at war for the Lord. In their war, they lead the charge against all opposition in a manner that contradicts the Lord’s doctrine. Where we should fight the good fight with patience, understanding, gentleness, and self-control, the poor fighter begins to fight out of anger and hate – wildly.
We are encouraged through the Holy Spirit to edify (to uplift) rather than dictate and tear down. The Holy Spirit encourages us to love rather than to wrath. The gospel is not meant for tearing down but rather for lifting up and saving others by the authority of the Lord. We cannot save any souls in this fight if we fight in a manner that is contrary to how the Lord has commanded us to fight.
To be the good fighter
If we desire to fight the good fight of faith as the good fighter let us listen to the words of Christ.
In the book of Acts, we will see Jesus flush out more of the Great Commission to us as He speaks to the apostles. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:7-8).”
So, I want to be clear here when I say that Jesus was putting us in our place when it comes to what He has tasked us to do. Firstly, Jesus tells us that it is not for us to decide the date and the times (the outcome or fate) of anything; we don’t have that authority. Jesus makes it clear that only the Father has the authority to decide the date and the times (the outcome or fate) of anything.
I want you to understand that we are not the spiritual judge over anything or anyone. To act as the judge, jury, and executioner would be contrary to fighting the good fight of faith. So, we must first eliminate the thought of fighting the good fight of faith in that manner.
Secondly, Jesus shows us that as a child of God we are to be humbly led by the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness of Christ in all the world. The Holy Spirit, as we know, dwells in the hearts of all who genuinely believe in and follow Christ. In John 16:5-15, Jesus shows us that the Holy Spirit carries with Him the Lord’s doctrine; the doctrine of truth that convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The purpose of this doctrine is to convince the world to turn, trust, and to have faith to be saved from sin by the Lord through His only begotten Son. Where another doctrine creates confusion through envy and strife, God’s doctrine does not create such confusion as He is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). It is so important that we, the good fighters in this fight of faith, understand this fact.
Exhortations to Fight the Good Fight
We will see that Paul exhorts Timothy to fight the good fight of faith by remaining faithful without spot and blameless in a world that is filled with so many other doctrines of sin (1 Tim. 6:14). Something that I often express to you is that you are constantly being watched by both believer and nonbeliever; they are watching to see how you are fighting the good fight of faith. Trust me when I tell you that people can tell whether you are fighting good or poorly!
How to fight the good fight
So, Paul shows us more ways that we can go about fighting the good fight of faith as he writes to Timothy. Paul tells Timothy to command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty (disdainfully proud) or put their trust in uncertain riches but rather to believe and trust in God (1 Tim. 6:17). So, in other words, fight the good fight of faith by being faithful to God.
We also fight the good fight of faith by holding to our godliness in a world where there is great opposition and adversity that tries to break and destroy us. The godliness which we gained, again, comes through the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit by which we become a new creation led by the Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17). So, in order to fight the good fight of faith, Paul encouraged Timothy to flee from things like lusts, temptation, and the love of money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:9-11). You see, we must do the same thing in order to fight the good fight.
Paul encourages us in my key verse to fight the good fight by laying hold on eternal life and the good confession (doctrine) which we testify of before many witnesses verbally and through our actions. Whether you realize it or not, as a child of God you are a reflection of Him. Should we fight the good fight of faith in this manner, we would be the best representation of the Lord that we can possibly be – this is the example that can encourage and persuade a soul to be saved.