Fights can destroy a marriage. Fights can destroy a family. Fights can destroy a church. But not fighting can also destroy a marriage, a family, or a church. Thus, there are many things we shouldn’t fight about, but there are many things we should fight for!
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
First Timothy 6:12
An essential part of my preparation of a couple for marriage is teaching them the difference between fighting and arguing. When I tell a couple that I want to teach them how to argue, they often laugh! But when I describe the difference between fighting and arguing they realise that it’s no laughing matter. The kind of fighting that many couples engage in has a very harmful objective – to hurt. I hate this kind of fighting. It hurts people, weakens marriages, and damages children. When a couple has been harmed by fighting, it’s time for them to fight for their marriage. This takes love, care, listening, repentance, reparation, and as I wrote in last week’s pastoral blog, forbearance. This highlights the difference between fighting about and fighting for. I wish more people fought for the right things.
¶ For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Over the past few weeks as I’ve spent time with various people, I’ve had several of them describe their struggles as a spiritual battle. Many of these folk have discerned that what they are dealing with is not a ‘flesh and blood’ fight but a demonic attack (Eph. 6:12). They are often right. How we should fight under these circumstances is not as obvious as many have been led to believe though. Years ago I read a book by John Dawson who argued that the means in which Scripture taught believers to engage in spiritual warfare was not by focussing on demonic forces – not even talking to them – but by refocussing on Christ in worship and worshipful service of others. In summary, the kind of service of others which Dawson prescribed was an opposite spirit to how we sense the enemy might be attacking us. In an almost counter-intuitive reasoning, Dawson called for people to fight by giving away the very thing they wanted most! If the Enemy is discouraging you, fight by beginning to encourage others! If the Enemy is luring you into pride, fight by humbling yourself and promoting others!
Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
He is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and He in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me
How should you be fighting? How should we as a church be fighting? Certainly not with each other about things that don’t really matter! We should, like the Apostle Paul, learn to fight in prayer for each other, our community, and those who have not yet opened their hearts to Christ’s offer of love and forgiveness.
The Apostle Paul urged his colleague Timothy to fight the good fight. The prize of this fight, Paul wrote, was to lay hold of eternal life. This informs us that the Christian life is a call to fight. We have to fight spiritual laziness with spiritual iscipline. We have to fight unfruitfulness with the cultivation of spiritual fruit mentioned in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). We don’t often think of ‘joy’ or ‘peace’ as something we have to fight for, but for those who have battled stress and anxiety while longing for joy and peace, the battle is real.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Second Corinthians 10:3-6
The toughest fight you’ll ever have will never be with another person. According to Second Corinthians 10:5, our greatest fight will take place in our minds. While our Enemy will mercilessly try to drag us into despair, depression, and darkness, our fight will always be to intentionally control our thoughts by focussing on whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy.
¶ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Our greatest fight is not with demons or devils. Rather, it is internal. We must fight to bear the kind of fruit the Holy Spirit produces with our cooperation – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. But by developing the fruit of self-control we can commit our minds to not think about those things which darken our minds and choose to dwell on those things which fill our minds with wonder and praise for God.
May God help us to fight for the right things in the right way – prayer, service, and acts of God’s love.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Second Timothy 4:7
Keep up the good fight!