Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses.
I. THE CHRISTIAN STRUGGLE. "Fight the good fight of faith."
1. The enemies it, this warfare. The world, the flesh, and the devil; the principalities and powers; the false teachers, with their arts of seduction.
2. The warfare itself. It is "a good fight."
(1) The term suggests that Christian life is not a mystic quietism, but an active effort against evil.
(2) It is a good fight, because
(a) it is in a good cause - for God and truth and salvation;
(b) it is under a good Captain - Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation;
(c) it has a good result - "eternal life."
3. The weapons in this warfare. "Faith." It is "the shield of faith" (Ephesians 6:16). This is not a carnal, but a spiritual weapon. Faith represents, indeed, "the whole amour of God," which is mighty for victory. It is faith that secures "the victory that overcometh the world" (1 John 4:4, 5).
II. THE END OF THE CHRISTIAN STRUGGLE. "Lay hold on eternal life."
1. Eternal life is the prize, the crown, to be laid hold of by those who are faithful to death.
2. It is the object of our effectual calling. "To which thou wast called" by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
3. It is the subject of our public profession. And didst confess the good confession before many witnesses." Evidently either at his baptism, or at his ordination to the ministry, when many witnesses would be present. 4. This eternal life is to be laid hold of.
(1) It is held forth as the prize of the high calling of God, as the recompense of reward.
(2) But the believer is to lay hold of it even now by faith, having a believing interest in it as a possession yet to be acquired in all its glorious fullness. - T.C.
Fight the good fight of faith.
(W. C. Smith, D. D.)
I. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS A FIGHT. True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security. With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man's idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy! No, indeed! The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the-devil. These are his never-dying foes. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. He must fight the world, The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world's good things — the fear of the world's laughter or blame — the secret desire to keep in with the world — the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes — all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered. He must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England — "In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war." This Christian warfare is no light matter. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight. Let us not think that in this war we can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul. The boasted policy of non-interference — the "masterly inactivity" which pleases so many statesmen — the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone — all this will never do in the Christian warfare. It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank, or class, or age, can plead exemption, or escape the battle. Ministers and people, preachers and hearers, old and young, high and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, kings and subjects, landlords and tenants, learned and unlearned — all alike must carry arms and go to war. It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On week-days as well as on Sundays — in private as well as in public — at home by the family fireside as well as abroad — in little things like management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones like the government of kingdoms — the Christian's warfare must unceasingly go on.
II. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS THE FIGHT OF FAITH. Success depends entirely on believing. A general faith in the truth of God's written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier's character. A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh, and the devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ's person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier's character. Habitual lively faith in Christ's presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully. He that has most faith will always be the happiest and most comfortable soldier. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ's love and continual protection. Let us turn to the pages of early Church history. Let us see how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death, and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen emperors. For centuries there were never wanting men like and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines, and prisons, and torture, and fire, and sword, were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the Church's strength. They won their victory by faith. Let us examine the story of the Reformation. Let us study the lives of its leading champions — Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Let us mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries, and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then let us remember that believing in an unseen Jesus was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.
III. TRUE CHRISTIANITY IS A GOOD FIGHT. "Good" is a curious word to apply to any warfare. All worldly war is more or less evil. The Scripture does not call the Christian fight "a good fight" without reason and cause.
1. The Christian's fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Leader and Commander of all believers is our Divine Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ — a Saviour of perfect wisdom, infinite love, and almighty power. The Captain of our salvation never fails to lead His soldiers to victory.
2. The Christian's fight is good, because fought with the best of helps. Weak as each believer is in himself, the Holy Spirit dwells in him, and his body is a temple of the Holy Ghost.
3. The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises.
4. The Christian's fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results.
5. The Christian's fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it. All other wars have a bad, lowering, and demoralizing tendency. They call forth the worst passions of the human mind. They harden the conscience, and sap the foundations of religion and morality. The Christian warfare alone tends to call forth the best things that are left in man. It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affections on things above.
6. The Christian's fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world. All other wars have a devastating, ravaging, and injurious effect. But go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!
7. Finally, the Christian's fight is good, because it ends in a glorious reward for all who fight it.(1) It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure.(2) It may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already.
(Bp. Ryle.)I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THE FIGHT OF FAITH.
1. There are enemies of our salvation, and there must be faith in the soul to set against them. Where there are not two parties, there can be no fight. There is no fighting in heaven, for there are no enemies there (Revelation 21:25). There is none of this fighting in the unbelieving world neither; for the enemies have all there alone, and there is no faith to set against them (Luke 11:21).
2. Faith has the chief interest in this fight. In it there will be use for all the graces, the doing and suffering graces: yet the fight has its name from faith, as that which has the chief hand in it. It carries on the fight, and obtains the victory — "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith" (2 Peter 5:9).
3. Lastly, the great design of a holy God, in that fight is the trial of faith. Hence says the apostle (1 Peter 1:6, 7).
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS IT IS A GOOD FIGHT?
III. WHY IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, IN THE DISPOSAL OF HOLY PROVIDENCE, MADE A FIGHT? No doubt the Lord could have given His people a constant sunshine as well on this side as the other side of death, and cleared the way of those armed adversaries that are ready to attack them.
1. That the members may be conformed to their Head in their passage through the world.
2. That the nothingness, and utter unworthiness of the creature, which is to wear the crown of glory for ever, may convincingly appear; so as they themselves and all others may see it is owing purely to free grace, not to them (Deuteronomy 8:2).
3. For the greater confusion of the grand adversary, who, attacked Him in person in the world, and whom He causeth poor weak creatures to triumph over after they have maintained a fight with Him (Romans 16:20).
4. For the greater glory of the Captain of their salvation, the more full display of the freedom of grace, and the efficacy of His blood and Spirit.
5. For that they may have a greater variety of experiences — "Patience worketh experience; and experience, hope" (Romans 5:4).
6. Lastly, that heaven may be the more sweet to them, when they come to it.
IV. WHY THEIR FIGHT IS CALLED A FIGHT OF FAITH. The reason is, because by that means all the glory of the victories obtained redounds to free grace, not to the sinner himself, "It is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Romans 4:16).
V. I WILL TOUCH AT SOME PARTICULAR FIGHTS OF FAITH THE CHRISTIAN MAY HAVE IN HIS COURSE HEAVENWARD, SUCH AS —
1. In a call to some more than ordinary work or duty.
2. In desertion.
3. In temptations from Satan.
4. In afflictions.
5. With this present evil world.
6. With sin.
7. With death.Some have a fighting life with the world all their days: but, alas! it is not the fight of faith with it, but a sinful faithless fighting with it, that carries on the ruin of their souls. Ye will know this faithless fight with it by these two things.
1. All their fight is to get something of the world, not to be kept from the spiritual evil of the world.
2. Their fight they have with the world takes away from them all favour of the Word of God and of religion.We must then stay our hearts by faith —
1. Firmly believing the Scripture accounts of the unseen world (Hebrews 11:1).
3. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for your safe passage to the upper part of the unseen world (Psalm 73:24; Psalm 31:5); committing your soul to Him, rolling the weight of your through-bearing on Him as the Captain of salvation appointed of God to bring many sons to glory.
4. Believing that your Lord Christ is Lord of the unseen world, and that the whole compass of it above and below is under His dominion (Revelation 1:18).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Homilist.I. IT IS SEVERE. Our enemies are many, strong, united.
II. IT IS PAINFUL. It is the house divided against itself. One desire in antagonism to another.
III. IT IS CONSTANT. Foes never tire, we must never rest.
(Homilist.)I. SURVEY THE FIELD OF BATTLE. This world is a great battlefield. Upon its bosom are two armies. They are disproportionate in numbers. The one is large, united, armed, disciplined, and determined. The other is small, sometimes trembling and irresolute, with here and there a bold and earnest hero, but for the most part but indifferent soldiers. Their appearance and preparations are best described in 1 Kings 20:27; and it may be that this very passage was intended as a type of them: "The children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country." In this position they are both ready for the battle; but alas! the one is oftentimes more ready than the other. The first is united, and it fills the country: the other is as two flocks of kids. The first is armed with every conceivable weapon: the other has but one. The first is disciplined and determined: the other is simple and feeble. And yet, withal, there is no doubt of the issue. Every soldier in the little army is unconquerable. Many and many an antagonist is conquered and subdued. To what, then, must we attribute this remarkable success? Not to their numbers, certainly; for they are the fewest of any people. Not to their wisdom; for they are the foolish of this world. Not to their strength; for they are the weak things of it. It is to their Captain who commands them. He is the cause of this incessant victory against their overwhelming odds. The first army is commanded, indeed, by a mighty prince. No common general is he. Uniting every species of ability and strength save one, he is altogether invincible by any other might than that of our Commander; but before Him he has no success.
II. We are now to investigate THE NATURE OF THEIR WARFARE. The apostle here calls it a "good fight," and a "fight of faith"; by which terms he shows us at once the object and method of warfare.
1. Take its object. It is the very opposite of the world. The object of the true soldier of Christ is to win souls to Him, to save men from hell, to make known the salvation purchased by Christ, and the promised freedom of the soul from sin.
2. Take, next, the principles of this warfare. Here again we see the difference between these two contending armies. In Satan's army every conceivable weapon is authorized. Lying, equivocation, misrepresentation, forging of books, corruptions of human writings, and the base and unholy trickery of false miracles, are resorted to as occasion may demand. Not such are the principles upon which Christians are called to fight. To them it is not permitted to act but according to the will and Word of God.
3. Let us regard, then, the methods by which the army of Christ are required to maintain their ground in the world. There are three modes of warfare by which they do this. They disarm their opponents, they silence the enemy, they bring them over to their side. These are the results of the Christian's mode of warfare.
III. But I proceed to consider THE WEAPONS WHICH THE CHRISTEN WARRIOR USES. Will all the tradition, or all the philosophy, or all the science of the world break any sinner's heart, or bring him into captivity, or destroy the power of his sins? They are not the Christian's sword, and with such shall no man prevail. But let us bring the. gospel to bear upon these cases. Let us set before the young man, the infidel, or the selfish worldling the love of God in Christ, exhibiting as it does on the one hand the peril and necessary judgment of sin, and on the other the glorious remedy which is provided, and you bring the only weapon which will pierce their hearts. The Scripture, then, is our weapon.
IV. THE DISCIPLINE WHICH IS NECESSARY FOR SO GREAT A CONFLICT.
1. Keep under the body. A habit of self-restraint is an essential element in Christian warfare.
2. Another direction is to endure hardness. Softness, and that temper which makes us shrink from opposition and the rough usage which we may meet with in our career, is often a sad hindrance to the Christian.
3. But the main thing is, that he should study the use of his weapon.
4. Last of all, pray.
(W. Harrison, M. A.)
Lay hold on eternal life.
I. Consider OUR NEED OF ETERNAL LIFE. Greatest gift of God! eternal life is deliverance from eternal death, the curse of a broken law, and the doom of a burning hell. Eternal life is eternal blessedness — the pardon of sin's guilt, and freedom from its tyrannous power.
II. Consider HOW WE OBTAIN ETERNAL LIFE.
III. Consider more particularly WHAT WE HAVE TO DO, TO OBTAIN ETERNAL LIFE. Do! It is not to make ourselves worthy of it; nor to attempt to merit it; nor to wait till we are holy before we come to Christ. Salvation is not of works, but of faith.
IV. Consider WHEN WE ARE TO LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE — When — but now? If the body is in great danger, and means of safety and escape are offered, there is no occasion to press them on men; to cry, lay hold on life, or say, do it now.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. "Lay hold on eternal life," that is, BELIEVE IN IT. You cannot lay hold on it unless you know it to be a reality. We do not lay hold on shadows, or fictions, or fancies. It is needful, therefore, to begin by a realizing faith.
1. That we may believe in this life, let me say that Holy Scripture constantly describes men unrenewed by Divine grace as being dead; they are "dead in trespasses and sins."
2. The Scripture represents believers everywhere as possessing everlasting life. "He that believeth in Him hath everlasting life."
3. This life is produced by the operation of the Holy Spirit within the heart.
4. What a difference this quickening has made in those who have received it! What a marvellous life it is! It brings with it new perceptions, new emotions, new desires. It has new senses: there are new eyes, with which we see the invisible; new ears, with which we hear the voice of God, before inaudible. Then have we a new touch, with which we lay hold on Divine truth; then have we a new taste, so that we "taste and see that the Lord is good." This new life ushers us into a new world, and gives us new relationships and new privileges. I want you all to get this idea into your heads — I mean all of you who have not learned this fact as yet: there is a life superior to that of common men — a life eternal, to be enjoyed now and here. I want this idea to become a practical force with you. Stephenson got the notion of a steam-engine into his brain, and the steam-engine soon became a natural fact with him. Palissy, the potter, had his mind full of his art, and for it he sacrificed everything till he gained his end; so may you, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, lay hold upon eternal life as being a blessed possibility; and may you be moved to seek it! There is an eternal life; there is a life of God in the soul of man; and I trust that you will each one resolve, "If it is to be had I will have it." Henceforth direct your thoughts and desires this way.
II. But this is not enough: it is merely the door-step of the subject. "Lay hold on eternal life": that is to say, POSSESS IT. Get it into your own soul: be yourself alive. How is eternal life grasped?
1. It is laid hold of by faith in Jesus Christ. It is a very simple thing to trust the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet it is the only way of obtaining the eternal life.
2. This life once laid hold upon is exercised in holy acts. From day to day we lay hold on eternal life by exercising ourselves unto godliness in deeds of holiness and lovingkindness. Let your life be love, for love is life. Let your life be one of prayer and praise, for these are the breath of the new life.
3. In laying hold upon it, remember that it is increased by growth. Zealously grasp more and more of it. Do not be afraid of having too much spiritual life. Lay hold on it; for Christ has come not only that we may have life, but that we may have it more abundantly.
4. Remember that spiritual life is enjoyed in the fullest sense in close communion with God. "This is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."
III. "Lay hold on eternal life." That is, WATCH OVER IT, guard it, and protect it. Most men will preserve their lives at any cost. Unless they are drunk or mad, they will do anything for dear life: "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life."
1. Let every believer regard the life of God within him as being the most precious possession, more valuable by far than the natural life. It would be wise to lay down a thousand natural lives, if we had them, in order to preserve the spiritual life.
2. To that end the apostle bade Timothy flee from those things which are detrimental to that life. "Thou, O man of God, flee these things." A man that is very careful of his life will not remain in a house where fever has been rife.
3. Then the apostle tells Timothy to seek after everything that would promote his eternal life. He says, "Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness": seek after that which will exercise and develop your highest life. Frequent those hills of holiness where the atmosphere is bracing for your new-born spirit.
4. God help us to lay hold on eternal life, and to that end above all things lay hold on Christ! We only live in Him: He is our life. To be divided from Christ is as surely death to us as it would be death to the body to be separated from the head.
IV. "Lay hold on eternal life," that is, FULFIL IT. Labour that the time of your sojourning here shall be occupied, not with this poor, dying existence, but with the eternal life.
1. Fulfil the higher and the eternal life in every position of society. The chapter opens with advice to servants, who then were slaves. Their earthly life was wretched indeed, but the apostle bids them live, not for this present life, but for the eternal life.
2. Fulfil this better life, also, by leaving alone those questions which would swallow up the hour. See how Paul destroys these devourers — "Questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
3. Further, the apostle bids us do this so as to surmount the temptations of selfishness. He warns us that "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
V. Last of all, EXACT ETERNAL LIFE. By the two hands of faith and hope lay hold on eternal life as the great reward of the righteous.
1. Let me suggest that we think much about the life to come. We shall soon be there in the endless home, let us send our thoughts thither like couriers in advance.
2. When you think of it, and your heart grows warm with the thought, then count it very near. Suppose you are to live a comparatively long life, yet no human life is really long.
3. Rehearse eternal life! Rehearse the service and joy of heaven! They have rehearsals of fine pieces of music; let us have a rehearsal of heaven's harmonies. The thing is practicable.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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