Fight the good fight of faith
(I Timothy 6:12)
By: J. C. Ryle
Extract from ‘A Call to Holiness’, chapter 4 ‘The Fight’
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. It passes must; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die; but you never see any ‘fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded and His Apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is a ‘fight.’
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. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to Heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions; but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must ‘fight.’
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 doubt it may be absolutely needful sometimes to appeal to law courts, in order to ascertain the right interpretation of a Church’s Articles and rubrics and formularies; but, as a general rule, the cause of sin is never so much helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another and spend their time in petty squabbles.
No, indeed! The principal fight for the Christian is with the world, the flesh and the Devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential; but with a corrupt heart, a busy Devil and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.