Thanksgiving, 1976. Most of the turkey had been devoured and the leftovers were in the fridge. Full and satisfied, my family and I were just relaxing in the living room when my younger brother got the idea to go see the latest hit movie that was out. He talked me into it and the two of us set out to see Rocky, starring the then unheard of Sylvester Stallone.
The last twenty minutes of the film was the climactic fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed. I couldn’t believe how into it the whole audience was! People were shouting at the screen as though they were actually ringside! “Hit him, Rocky!” “Cover up, Rock, cover up!” “Now, now!” Audience members held their fists up like they were in the fight themselves. Everybody wanted to see Rocky win, or at least “go the distance.”
What Makes a Good Fight?
In the Bible, in 1 Timothy 1:18 and 1 Timothy 6:12, the Apostle Paul encourages his pupil Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith.” But what does that mean?
First of all, the Greek word for “fight” could refer to either actual physical warfare or athletic competition. But either way, it implies hard work, sweat, sacrifice, serious commitment and rigorous training. Victory is always hoped for, of course, but it’s not a given that every fighter will win every fight. All that’s really required here is a sustained best effort—and the grace of God. Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t hang back and expect someone else to do it for you. And never, ever give up. Paul is basically saying we should do our best, continually ask God for strength and guidance, and then leave the outcome in His hands.
What kind of fighting is the apostle talking about? It’s a battle for truth, ultimately.
The truth of Jesus Christ
The truth of the Gospel
The truth of the Bible
The truth of our reason for living
There are a lot of misunderstandings out there about who Jesus is and what the Bible teaches, so Christians need to stand up for the truth—speak it and live it. This kind of fighting doesn’t mean we should get into constant arguments with everyone who disagrees with us, or that we need to win every debate. And it doesn’t mean we use the weapons of anger and name-calling. If we fight like that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot!
The Bible actually teaches that our enemies are not the people who disagree with us. In fact, it says we’re not in a worldly war at all; it’s a battle that’s waged in the spiritual realm with spiritual weapons against spiritual enemies.
This is illustrated in the classic Bible story of David and Goliath. David is a teenager who volunteers to take on the 9-foot-tall giant Goliath. King Saul of Israel tries to convince David to wear his royal armor and carry his royal weapons, so David tries them on. But they’re about three sizes too big, plus David has never used a sword before. He tells King Saul that he can’t fight this way because he’s not used to it.
What David is used to using, as we all know, is a sling shot. He’s killed bears and lions that way while protecting his father’s sheep. So picture teenage David going out to face 9-foot Goliath. The giant has armor, a shield, a spear, and a sword. David has a slingshot and a stick. Seriously, that’s it. Very unconventional warfare! But he trusts God, and he knows this fight is more spiritual than physical. So he goes out against Goliath and makes history.
It’s guaranteed that at some point in their life, every Christian will feel like he or she is facing an armed and armored giant while carrying nothing but a stick and a slingshot. But if they’re on the side of truth, don’t put your money on the giant!
Paul’s Good Fight
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he brings up the good fight for a third time, but he changes the perspective. This is the apostle’s last letter before he is executed, and he knows his time is short. In chapter 4, verse 7, he tells Timothy, “I have fought the good fight.” He’s looking back on the life he’s lived and the things he’s done, and he can declare that he fought for the Lord. He stood up for truth. He taught the Bible and lived the Christian life faithfully—no matter what the opposition, no matter what the cost.
At the final bell, Rocky stood tall—knowing that he hadn’t given up and had tried his best. At his final bell, Paul confidently stated that he had put truth first and hadn’t compromised.
How are we doing? Are we standing up for the truth of the Scriptures? Will we be able to say that we were faithful to Jesus Christ, that we, too, “fought the good fight”?
To learn more about fighting well, please contact us here at First Evangelical Free Church. We’d love to help you put the gloves on!
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.