Fight The Good Fight!
By J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)
Christian warfare is no light matter. What saith the Scripture?
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life...” (1 Tim. 6:12). “...Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:11-13). “Strive to enter in at the strait gate...” (Luke 13:24). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). “...War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience...” (1 Tim. 1:18-19).
Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s epistles to the seven churches, except to those who “overcome.” Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without warfare. 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. It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank or class or age can plead exemption, or escape the battle. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On weekdays 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. The foe we have to do with keeps no holidays, never slumbers and never sleeps. So long as we have breath in our bodies we must keep on our armor and remember that we are on an enemy’s ground. “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels!” We must fight until we die!
Faith in the Word and in Christ
True Christianity is the fight of faith. In this respect the Christian warfare is utterly unlike the conflicts of this world. It does not depend on the strong arm, the quick eye, or the swift foot. It is not waged with carnal weapons, but with spiritual. Faith is the hinge on which victory turns.
A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason – he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. “...He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
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. He sees by faith an unseen Savior, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God.
He sees Jesus, and clings to Him. Seeing this Savior and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope, and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul. He sees his own many sins, his own weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair. But he sees also a mighty Savior, an interceding Savior, a sympathizing Savior – His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood – and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus, and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove more than conqueror through Him that loved him (Rom. 8:37).
Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and continual protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the confidence that the indwelling Christ is on his side, and success is sure.
It is the “shield of faith” which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. It is the man who can say, “I know whom I have believed,” who can say in time of suffering, “I am not ashamed” (2 Tim. 1:12). He who wrote those glowing words: “We faint not…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:16-17), was the man who wrote with the same pen, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (4:18). It is the man who said, “I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20), who said, in the same epistle, “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (6:14). It is the man who said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), who said, in the same epistle, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (4:11). “I can do all things through Christ...” (4:13). The more faith – the more victory! The more faith – the more inward peace!
Would anyone fight the fight of a Christian soldier successfully and prosperously? Let him pray for a continual increase of faith. Let him abide in Christ, get closer to Christ, tighten his hold on Christ every day that he lives. Let his daily prayer be that of the disciples: “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Watch jealously over your faith, if you have any. It is the citadel of the Christian character, on which the safety of the whole fortress depends. It is the point which Satan loves to assail. All lies at his mercy, if faith is overthrown. Here, if we love life, we must especially stand on our guard.
Let us remember that if we would fight successfully, we must put on the whole armor of God, and never lay it aside until we die. Not a single piece of armor can be dispensed with. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation – each and all are needful. Not a single day can we dispense with any part of this armor. Well says an old veteran in Christ’s army, who died two hundred years ago, “In heaven we shall appear, not in armor, but in robes of glory. But here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not a true soldier of Christ.”
Overcomers Through Christ
Let us remember that the eye of our loving Savior is upon us morning, noon and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the prince of this world. Having such a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Heb. 4:14).
Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him who loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb – and so also may we. Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He who saved men and women before us is One who never changes. He is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25). Then let us cast doubts and fears away. Let us follow those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).
Finally, let us remember that the time is short, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. A few more battles and then the last trumpet shall sound, and the Prince of Peace shall come to reign on a renewed earth. A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal goodbye to warfare and to sin, to sorrow and to death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender. Thus says the Captain of our salvation: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Rev. 21:7).
– Taken from Holiness by J. C. Ryle.