FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
1 Timothy 6:12
12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
This sentimental Bible-valentine type of note was found blowing outside in the wind:
"I love you! Did you know that? I want to be with you always. Please trust me and know that I'd even like to share eternity itself with you. The Bible can tell you all about me -- how I want you to heed my words and make you mine! Come to the light I can give. I can fill your life with purpose and direction. I want to shower you with gifts you can only begin to imagine, both now and in the life to come. There's an eternal reward I want to offer that you can make your own.
I love you so dearly, and you're so precious to me. Please be mine! - Surely you've heard of me and know who this is from, don't you? My name is Satan, of course, and here you see how I can really present myself as an angel of light and lull you into a false sense of security! The full truth is that I'm your committed enemy, and you had better keep on your toes! I'll be seeing you..."
Our lives are under the constant assaults of the devil. He zings his flaming darts at us without warning and from all directions. It's hard to move along without getting hit. We have a real fight on our hands, and it's a sneaky, nasty one!
St. Paul says in his Epistle to the Ephesians, "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..." Yet he also encouraged the young Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed..." Although he acknowledges the fight we have on our hands, Paul labels it as a "good" fight. It's the fight of faith, and it can only be won BY faith!
THE FIGHT IS A GOOD ONE
Every time I'm reminded of this theme, my mind inevitably tracks back to the community parade years ago in which some Sunday School children and I rode on a float featuring a church and its people. With a boombox providing some musical accompaniment, we were all singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers." At one point along our route a heckling voice from the crowd shouted, "Don't you have anything about love?"
That comment of course highlights the world's general misunderstanding of what the whole fight and war is about! - It's ABOUT love -- bringing it to bear on our world and keeping a tight hold on it ourselves, lest Satan's forces of evil wrest it away. Remember it IS a "good" fight in which we're all called to engage, and the issue of SAVING Love is what it all comes down to!
FOUGHT BY CLINGING TO CHRIST IN FAITH
It's all about John 3:16! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." The "good fight," in the first place, involves God's OWN love for us and for the whole world as well. Satan picked the fight with God, and we became his willing accomplices by the fall into sin, but God waged HIS war against our evil hearts and minds by loving us immensely beyond our understanding. "And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in!"
There is no higher answer to all the world's ills than Christ's blood-stained cross and glorious resurrection! While we were still His enemies, Christ responded with the love whereby He died for us. He took our sin on and into Himself. He suffered the consequential punishment for it all in our place by His death. He overcame sin and death and their powers through His innocent suffering and by rising to life again. - So, His love reaches ever-invitingly to us with forgiveness, life and a salvation that we in no way deserve.
That loving Gospel gift for the world is God's atomic bomb, and Satan is helpless against such power! As long as God's Gospel Love for and in us controls our lives and motivates our actions by His Holy Spirit's power, we have the upper hand in our ongoing battles against Satan. As we share God's strong Gospel Word with others, He guarantees that it will not return to Him "void." As that Word continues to be brought to bear in our OWN lives, we're securely guarded against Satan's cold and calculated, murderous intent. - We know that a price far beyond silver and gold was paid for us. Hang on with your fingernails! By constantly living IN Christ and His grace, Satan can't touch us, but don't dare let go from your clinging embrace!
AND BY UTILIZING THE ARMOR HIS GRACE PROVIDES
Although nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love in Christ, if we ourselves do let go, then Satan does have a deadly arsenal with which to lull and becloud us. - The context for St. Paul's words to Timothy about the "good fight" has to do with coveting and getting trapped in the will for material gain, but Satan also has a host of other lures and lies. He'll COME from angles we don't expect. He's both sly and ravenous! We need SPIRITUAL strength and equipment to stand against those "spiritual hosts of wickedness," and any who think they're "O.K." on their own or resort to their OWN battlegear will not stand.
St. Paul gave his counsel in these hopefully familiar words:--> "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. - Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with Truth, having put on the breastplate of Righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; above all, taking the shield of Faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of Salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all Prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance..."
--Now what that all comes down to is a continual and intentional laying hold of all God's grace in what our church calls the "Means of Grace" (maintaining a regular relationship with both His Word and Sacraments, in other words), constantly commending ourselves in total dependence into His hands by prayer as well, -- and never letting go! (People who will not do that are more-or-less asking for the trials and life-complications that come their way!) We can never be "light" for the world except as we're found absorbing the Light of Christ's Grace for us, and we can never wage war against Satan and his domain except as we're strengthened and equipped by:--> Christ's Truth in our hearts, His Righteousness covering us, His Peace to take to the world, Faith in Him, His act of Salvation protecting us, and His Word - which is how He Himself cast Sata n off when He was tempted. - Keeping an open line of communication by His gift of Prayer to us isn't the only thing necessary, but ALL those things! (Yet Prayer is critical, too, of course.)
A magazine writer once lamented the barrage of anti-social messages in commercial advertising:--> "No boundaries." / "No limits." / "No rules" or "You gotta break the rules." / "No fear." / "Do your own thing." Etc. - Their theme is in essence to rebel against all authority, social order and propriety. Reject conformity. The sponsors say they can't resist promoting such propaganda in the effort to sell their products, and it's no doubt the plain truth. They can't resist if money is their god and they have no connection with Christ.
We don't have to wring our hands over the state of our society or fear any of Satan's tactics, though. God's Word both instructs and assures us:--> "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." We do have a fight on our hands, and from Satan's side it's sneaky and nasty. From our side it's a "good" fight, though. It's the fight of FAITH! Let's see to it that we fight it BY faith:--> Faith in Jesus Christ and the everlasting love of God by which came the all-availing sacrifice of Christ's body and blood on the cross! LAY hold on the eternal life to which you WERE called and HAVE confessed!