What’s the Good Fight We’re to Fight?

We’ve all heard it: “Fight the good fight.” But what makes a fight “good”? What makes something worth fighting for? Is there a such things as a “bad fight”?

[This post is the fifth in the series. Here are the previous posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4.]

The Context

The young leader, Timothy, was entrusted with the task of pastoring the growing—and imperfect—church in Ephesus (1:3–7). While going head-to-head with false teachers would be involved, Paul encourages Timothy to take care not to sacrifice his own holiness while in the trenches.

The Text

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:11–12).

As followers of Christ, we must be aware of our personal pursuit of holiness. That has always been the case. That’s why Paul, in this passage, tells Timothy to flee the dangers of sin so that he may take hold of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. 

The order of Paul’s instruction is important: Flee sin to pursue holiness. Being more like Christ cannot happen while we still clinging to sin. Intentional effort is required to move toward righteousness. It’s a fight! 

Picture the struggle of a wrestler against his opponent or a thrower straining against her javelin. That’s the intended picture. Maximal effort is needed! That’s the fight! Athletes train, focus, and strive to overcome their event—to conquer it! 

For the Christian, to throw sin away and strive for righteousness instead is a battle that requires intentional effort and preparation, endurance and grit. To call people to a fight of the faith is to call “a man into warfare.”

Only a fool dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete without experiencing the struggles of training, self-control, pain, and determination. The life of an athlete is marked by such things. So, why endure such voluntary hardships? Because the prize at the end of the competition is determined worthwhile. 

Likewise, the Christian life is one that is marked by trials. Specifically, Paul notes the fight between the pursuit of godliness (athletic success) and sinfulness (athletic mediocrity) within the life of the believer. 

Are the hardships worthwhile? Paul certainty believes they are! The eternal life (that is, the prize at the end of competition) far outweighs the fight in this life.

The Principle

The Christian life is inevitably marked by the struggle between the snares of sinfulness and the pursuit of godliness, but the finish line of eternal life can aid in motivation.

The Application

Proper motivation is a powerful thing. A good coach knows how to illicit amazing amounts of dedication and effort from athletes by properly incentivizing them and helping them to fully internalize the value of the available prize. 

As believers, we need to understand just how amazing the prize of eternal life is! As an athlete wakes up in the morning thinking about the gold medal they desire, so a Christian should awake gleaming with joy at the thought of the eternal reward they will receive should they complete the race. 

At some point today, read 2 Corinthians 5:1–5 and be motivated by what lays ahead for those who trust in Jesus Christ.