How Do We Fight The Good Fight? #301
Hello everybody and happy Friday to you! Our riddle yesterday was solved by multiple people – well done! The tale of the tape reveals that Jesse W. was the FIRST to solve the riddle, so Jesse if you could email me your physical address I will send you your prize. The answer to the riddle is that my son speaks to his Alexa before he goes to bed, setting an alarm for the next day. Well done. WWH also wrote in with a guess and a comment, and he appears to be one of the few that deciphered the hint, so I will read his comment:
As to the riddle: My first thought, knowing your son to be a good and Godly lad, was that he is praying … and indeed that would have been puzzling in 2002, when he was -2yo (?) … but the Hot Earl Grey Tea makes me think that he’s practicing his Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) impressions. However, unless he’s discovered the series recently, I find that unlikely. I once told him to “Make it so, Number One” … and he asked me what that meant. Still, I think I’m going to guess that he has become a retro-Trekkie.
Also, SPOILER, I happen to know the answer to the Bible question. Paul said, “If a man will not work, let him not eat.” Keeping in mind that this was during a period of church persecution when many could not work, and thus to feed those who could but would not was to waste church resources. 2 Thess 3:10. compare: 1 Tim. 5:3ff, where Paul makes a distinction between true widows, who have no means of support, and those with family (who should be caring for them) or who live an ungodly lifestyle, and whom Paul characterizes as “Dead while they are alive” (i.e., while they are technically without a husband, it is in the sense that the woman at the well had no husband).
Excellent insight, WWH and good guess on the trivia – you got the hint right, though my son has still not yet discovered Star Trek TNG fully, a failure that falls at my feet.
Speaking of alliterative phrases that begin with ‘F,’ today we are talking about fighting the good fight faithfully. Okay, I added that last word, but many Christians have heard of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight. Given that Jesus was quite clear that we are to turn the other cheek, and that we are told to bless those who persecute us, and generally given a very peaceful set of New Testament commands, what does Paul mean by calling Timothy and us to ‘fight the good fight.’
Perhaps it would be helpful to first make mention of what fighting the BAD fight might be, since Paul seems to take pains to tell us that the particular fight we are called to is a GOOD fight. Consider these passages, which warn us away from fighting various bad fights:
22 Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. 24 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient. 2 Timothy 2:22-24
But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning. Titus 3:9-10
Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. Romans 13:13
Honor belongs to the person who ends a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel. Proverbs 20:3
Drive out a mocker, and conflict goes too; then quarreling and dishonor will cease. Proverbs 22:10
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12
Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. Titus 3:1-2
These passages give us a very clear picture of who we are NOT to fight with – people, and specifically people in the church. By and large, I have had the privilege of serving in peaceful and loving churches for the 25 years I have been in ministry, but in the few times I have seen church people fighting/arguing/quarreling with each other it has been heart-rending, church-hurting and evangelism-dampening. The Word commands us not to fight or quarrel or argue or anything like that, but to outdo each other in showing love, honor, respect and kindness. So fighting the good fight isn’t about fighting people.
We get a couple of big clues later in 1 Timothy 6 and then again in 2nd Timothy:
11 But you, man of God, flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 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. 1 Timothy 6:11-12
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing. 2nd Timothy 4:7-8
We also get a clue from Jude:
3 Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. 4 For some people, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord. Jude 3-4
Putting these passages together, it would seem that there are two main elements to fighting the good fight:
- Christians are to persevere in faith fleeing from sin and pursuing Jesus, taking hold of eternal life and daily walking in faith/belief in Jesus that leads to ACTION. James 2:18-19 tells us that faith isn’t just mere intellectual belief in God, but it is a kind of belief that leads to daily action, daily obedience, daily following and daily pursuing.“18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.” I believe Paul captures this sense of faith well in his metaphor of ‘running the race.’
- According to Jude, and Paul in other places, fighting the good fight means holding fast to the Word of God – not compromising, not watering down, not ignoring some parts, not teaching different doctrine but proclaiming the WHOLE counsel of God and urging others to do the same. We oppose false teachings with true teachings – not attacks, slander, fisticuffs, insults, etc. 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 As Charles Spurgeon says, ““The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”
So, I believe we have found that fighting the good fight is a metaphor, much like the Underground Railroad and ‘conductor’ Harriet Tubman. Ms. Tubman was not a literal train conductor, and the Underground Railroad was not a literal railroad, nor was it underground, but it functioned like a hidden sort of railway that spirited away its passengers under the guidance of the guide/conductors who knew the paths to lead people from slave states to free states. We don’t literally fight people when fighting the good fight, but the daily walking of faith, struggling with sin, wrestling against dark spiritual forces and persevering in life is just like a fight. Fortunately for us, it is a faith fight, and the source of our faith is so magnificent and wonderful that we can’t help but win. Not because of our strength, or the power of our uppercut, but because of His preserving power and faithful love. So, friends: Fight the good fight faithfully, fully assured that Jesus will forever preserve us!