— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Fight the Good Fight – 1 Timothy 6:12-16

Can there be such a thing as a good fight? Have you ever been in an argument with someone and you walked away saying to yourself, “That was a good fight!”?

I remember being picked on a lot when I was a youngster in grade school. I was in a fight or two as a result of those confrontations – I guess you couldn’t really call them fights, they were kind of one sided. I was too scrawny to defend myself and even though I was quiet and shy my mouth still got me into trouble – you could say my mouth would write checks my body couldn’t cash. They usually started and ended with one punch to my stomach with me doubled over gasping for air. Once, I remember my “friends” convinced me before school one morning that I should try on a pair of boxing gloves and go for a round with another kid my age. That fight consisted of one punch to my nose, which immediately bled. I don’t ever remember walking away from those clashes saying, “Now that was a good fight.” I suppose the other guy may have—but not me!

Contrary to what you might think there is such a thing as a good fight. If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and you are truly following Christ you can expect and should plan for a fight.

Now don’t get the wrong idea and go home saying, “Pastor Kevin told us to go out and pick fights today.” Let’s go to the scriptures where this good fight is introduced and described.

Let's look at our passage of study found in 1 Timothy 6:12-16.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate,

14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing,

15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

You can’t miss it, at the beginning of verse 12, Paul urges Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith. The idea that’s expressed here in the original language is one of exerting every ounce of energy, giving it everything you have. So fight here is “Exerting every ounce of energy, in the good fight of faith. Give everything you have to the good fight of faith.”

It is true, as the word "fight," suggests, that we are in a battle. Ray Stedman comments on the "good fight of faith" in the following way…

“That [good fight of faith] recognizes the true nature of the Christian life: it is a battleground, and you will never be given much of a breather. Many people have trouble there. They are always hoping that the battle will end, that the enemy will give up and go home, and they can begin to enjoy life without any troubles.” – Ray Stedman

Be careful that you don’t have the mistaken notion that your life as a Christian will be or should be trouble free. And that’s something we want to be careful we don’t communicate to those we are trying to win to Christ – we don’t want to mislead others into believing that if they give their lives to Christ all of life’s troubles will go away.

In recent years there has been some revision work done to many hymnbooks in some liberal denominations that were concerned about too much "blood and battle" being representative of the Christian life. Great old hymns like, "Onward Christian Soldiers" have been removed from some hymnbooks.

Some churches today in an effort to be sensitive to individuals who are looking for something, but are unsure what when they come to church, have watered down the gospel.

I think it is unfortunate that in an effort to be politically correct, some churches today have lost sight of some of the foundational truths of God’s Word. This is not the only passage where the Christian life is described as a fight and we dare not shy away from the foundational truths of the Gospel.

John Piper offers this insightful commentary on "the good fight of faith",

"One of the reasons there is so little deep, earnest, passionate concern for godliness in the contemporary church is that this truth is so little understood — the truth, namely, that eternal life is laid hold of only by a persevering fight of faith. There is today, by and large, a devil-may-care, cavalier, superficial attitude toward the ongoing, daily intensity of personal faith because people do not believe that their eternal life depends on it. The last 200 years has seen an almost incredible devaluation of the fight of faith. We have moved a hundred miles from Pilgrim's Progress where Christian labors and struggles and fights all his life until he is safe in the Celestial City. O, how different is the Biblical view of the Christian life than the one prevalent in the American church." – John Piper

Let’s understand that the Christian life, the life of a committed believer that follows Christ is a fight. Yet we can easily grow complacent and think that once we are saved we have it made. Some would say, “Walk the isle or raise your hand or say you’re a Christian, that’s all you have to do, it’s all downhill from there.”

No – the life of a believer in Christ is a battle and we need to remember that there is an enemy. Don’t misunderstand. The person who trusts Christ as Savior is secure in the salvation Christ offers. We do have it made in the sense that our eternal destiny is secure. But since we don't instantly go to heaven the moment we are saved, we are here on this earth and our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). We must understand who the enemy is and just what kind of fight we face.

Commenting on this "fight of faith", Warren Wiersbe says,

"The verb means "keep on fighting!" It is a word from which we get our English word agonize, and it applies both to athletes and soldiers. It described a person straining and giving his best to win the prize or win the battle. Near the end of his own life, Paul wrote, "I have fought a good fight" (2 Timothy 4:7).

This "fight," however, is not between believers; it is between a person of God and the enemy around him. He is fighting to defend the faith, that body of truth deposited with the church (see 1 Timothy 6:20)."

There’s another passage where the analogy is made between the Christian’s life and the fight we face. Look at Ephesians 6:12, 13.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

This passage goes on through verse 18 to describe the kind of spiritual armor we’ll need to prepare for the fight of faith. We are engaged in warfare. We need to be prepared to fight the good fight of faith.

Not only are we engaged in a fight, but note that it is a good fight.

Why would any fight be considered a "good" fight? One reason is because the enemy in this fight is evil.

In the Second World War, there were clearly some evil enemies that needed to be fought. The atrocities of Adolph Hitler were clearly worth fighting against. And so it is in the Christian life. Our enemy is deadly and fierce and we must be engaged in the good fight of faith.

Another reason our fight is good is because we have a powerful ally. God is the one who equips us and gives us the ability to defeat the enemy. If we were left to devise our own strategy, there wouldn't be much of a fight, let alone a good fight. What James 4:7 teaches the follower of Christ is that when we submit ourselves to God and in God’s power resist the devil, the devil will flee from us. But far too few individuals who say they have trusted Christ make any effort to submit to God or resist the devil.

There are those who’ve had a “salvation experience”; they base their salvation on a time when there was an invitation and they walked the isle or they were moved by a sermon or a revival service and yet after that “experience” they never mature as believers; they never really submit themselves to God’s authority in their life; they never really resist the devil and do battle over the sin in their lives. As a result we are left to wonder if there was really true repentance of sin and true acceptance of the savior.

That’s why we can’t depend on people going through the motions of trusting Christ. Jesus said of false prophets, by their fruits you will know them (Matt. 7:20). And it’s true of believers that one who has truly trusted Christ will have the evidence of good fruit in their life.

After Paul urges Timothy to fight the good fight he goes on to give him reasons he ought to be courageous in the good fight.

Continuing in 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul says, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called. We can be courageous in the battle by understanding that we possess eternal life. When we confess our sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are given eternal life. Knowing that our eternal future is secure gives us courage as we face the battle here and now. We know that ultimately we have been given victory over Satan and his forces of evil. We know who will win the fight. Satan can inflict damage on us as believers and give us opportunity to stumble in our walk with the Lord. But he cannot take our salvation from us.

Notice again in verse 12 how Paul reminds Timothy that the eternal life to which Timothy has been called, happened when he made good confession in the presence of many witnesses. This is likely referring to Timothy's baptism.

Let’s think about this for a moment. When we are baptized we are making a public statement to others of the change that has taken place in our lives as a result of confessing our sin and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Baptism is an important step of obedience in the life of the believer because it is done in the presence of others who clearly see our testimony that we have been given new life in Christ and we are testifying of that new life in Christ and our desire to surrender our lives to Him.

You need to understand that your salvation does not depend on whether or not you are baptized but the obedient follower of Christ enters the waters of baptism as a way of expressing outwardly the inward change through that new life in Christ. Baptism is an outward expression of your new identity in Jesus Christ. We can’t spend the time this subject of baptism deserves this morning but understand that baptism is a public expression of the change that’s already taken place in your life as a result of trusting Christ as Lord and Savior. Baptism is symbolic of the death to your old life and coming alive to new life in Jesus Christ. Baptism is not a requirement for salvation but it’s a public expression of the cleansing that’s already taken place in your life.

The fact that there were many other witnesses to Timothy's confession of faith brings us to another important point. We are not alone in this battle. There are other believers to support us. In a body or group of believers we call the church there will be others who will stand with you to fight the good fight of faith. Consider with me a key passage of scripture that reminds us that we are not alone. Hebrews 3:12,13,

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

In our fight of faith, we need to be on guard against sin and unbelief that would turn our hearts away from God. How do we guard against unbelief and straying from the truth? The answer is in Hebrews 3:13. Exhorting or the word the NIV and NASB use, encouraging – We guard against hardened hearts by encouraging one another daily. We need the encouragement of other believers daily. We need the encouragement and support of other believers to help us in the fight of faith. We shouldn't just come in here on Sunday and warm a pew and go home until next week. We need to be actively encouraging each other so that none of us are hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

The same point is made in Hebrews 10:23-25,

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

A couple of things stand out to me in this passage that I want you to note. The first is how we stir up one another for love and good works. We have an obligation to one another. We need to be in the practice of encouraging others to pursue love and good works. Do we have a desire to see your fellow believers succeed in the Christian life? You should. The Christian life is not a contest it’s a fight.

We also need to pray for one another and let others know that we appreciate the work the Lord is doing in their lives. If you notice others doing good works and demonstrating love to others, you can tell them you noticed and appreciate their faithfulness. That can be a tremendous encouragement to others to carry on and keep on practicing love and good works.

Another way we encourage others to love one another and do good works is to practice this yourself. You may not be the recipient of love and good works but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice it. Your love and good works amongst the body of believers will stir up and encourage others to do the same. Regular, faithful efforts to encourage each other gives much needed support to others in living the Christ honoring life. We do have an obligation to each other as followers of Christ.

The second thing I want you to see in this Hebrews 10:23-25 passage is that we have a responsibility for our own condition. We can't sit back and wait for others to encourage us, we need to determine to meet together and not neglect our responsibility for regular fellowship with other believers. It is vital that we make gathering with other believers a priority in our lives. I have observed many people throughout the years and you probably have too, who started neglecting their meeting and fellowship with other believers; they neglected placing themselves under the teaching of the Word. Other things crowded into their lives and suddenly being in church didn't seem to be a priority. Soon not only were they not attending church but they were not living for the Lord.

That’s one of the reasons church membership is important. When you join the church you are making a covenant to be faithful in that church and to hold and be held accountable to Christ. We need to join together in the good fight of faith; we need to identify as being a part of the local church to strengthen our bound to one another as we serve Christ.

We need each other. We need to make our fellowship with other believers a priority. We cannot fight the good fight successfully if we neglect the importance of interaction with other believers, the fellowship and the teaching of the Word in the body of Christ.

Go back with me to our passage in 1 Timothy 6. We have noted that we can be courageous in the good fight of faith because we have eternal life, and because we have others engaged in the fight with us. In 1 Timothy 6:13,14 we see another reason to be courageous in the good fight of faith.

13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate,

We can find courage in the example that Jesus set for us when he stood before Pontius Pilate. Jesus stood before Pilate and acknowledged that He was indeed the Messiah. He knew He faced certain death when He did this. Every believer will find himself in situations where they may feel afraid and pressured not to stand out as Christians. It may be in the workplace or at school or among our friends in a social setting that we are afraid to stand out as being different. But we have reason not to be afraid.

No matter how strong the pressure is for us to fit in with others, none of us face in these situations what Jesus faced. He faced death. His very life would be taken for not compromising. We may face some ridicule and scorn from unbelievers, but we can take heart by realizing that Jesus set an example for us to follow in the face of opposition. As we fight the good fight of faith, we should be courageous and not be afraid to stand for what is right.

Notice in verse 14 that Paul has charged Timothy to keep this command…

… without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing,,

Paul is giving Timothy a military command here. Keep this command without spot or blame because one day the Lord Jesus Christ will appear. We are going to answer one day to our commander, the Lord Jesus Christ. Will we be able to stand before Him having fought a good fight? This should give us courage as we fight the good fight of faith realizing that we answer to a higher power. We should desire to stand before Him one day and hear those precious words, "well done thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21).

Let’s look at verses 15 and 16 to see the final reason for courage as we fight the good fight of faith.

15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Realizing that it is God the Father who is in charge should give us courage. He is the only ruler. We have leaders among the nations who may think they are very powerful, but it is ultimately God who is in charge. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. We shouldn't lose heart when earthly leaders fail and disappoint, because ultimately God is in control of it all. We can engage in the good fight of faith with confidence because we know that God is in control of the outcome.

In verse 16 we see that God alone is immortal. He is not subject to death. We need not fear death with an immortal God in control.

And back in verse 15 and continuing into verse 16 Paul states that God the blessed and only Potentate, (that is He’s the only ruler) He’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, and to Him goes honor and everlasting power.

As we fight the good fight of faith we do so to bring glory to God. We are not in this for the sake of our own egos. We are in the good fight of faith to bring glory and honor to God the King of King, Lord of Lords.

If you are in the good fight of faith, if you have trusted Christ as Savior, you have reason to be courageous and a Savior to magnify.