Fight the good fight of the faith

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1. Fight the good fight

What have you given up on that you ought to have kept going? What is it that you didn’t see all the way to the end? What is that you didn’t finish that you wished you had? Sadly, many of us give up on things that we ought to have kept plugging away at. We give up when we should have been getting on with it. We start something, but we don’t finish what we start. How many of us perhaps learnt the piano or the flute or clarinet as a child but gave up before we became proficient at it. I personally liked the idea of playing the piano, but I hated having to walk after school to Mrs Evan’s place especially in summer. In winter I hated the way that it interfered with football practice and I hated the fact that while I was inside practicing my younger brother was outside having fun and playing with the kids next door so after 4 years of banging away at it, I gave up and have always regretted it. But sadly, some of us live with far more significant regrets and disappointments. We might have given up on a course that we ought to have completed or a career that we should have persevered at or even a relationship that we should have kept working at.  

Today/tonight we have come to the end of Paul’s first letter to Timothy where Paul has been encouraging Timothy and the Ephesians to not give up on fighting the fight of the faith. Paul issues Timothy a solemn charge in verse 14 to keep a command which he is told to keep without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time. This command or charge that Timothy was to keep I think is a reference back to verse 11 and 12 which I think could be summed up by the words found in the middle of these verses, “Fight the good fight of the faith”.

1 Timothy 6:11-12

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight 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. [1]

Paul wants Timothy to keep on fighting the good fight of the faith. Paul had sent Timothy to Ephesus because some there had given up the fight. They had wandered away from the faith (1:6, 6:10, 6:21) and had shipwrecked their faith (see1:19). Paul wrote to Timothy that in these times in which we live that some will abandon the faith (see 4:1). They will give up the fight. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him (and the Ephesians) to not give up fighting the fight but to keep fighting until the end. He wanted Timothy to be able to say what Paul wrote about himself in his second letter. Paul, believing that he wasn’t long for this world, wrote…

2 Timothy  4:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Paul wanted Timothy and the believers at Ephesus to be able to say the same thing at the appearance of the Lord Jesus.  In this letter Paul has been giving Timothy instructions about how he was to fight the good fight. He said this at the beginning of the letter.

1 Timothy 1:18

“Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight..

At end of the letter in verse 11 and 12 Paul concludes the letter by repeating the idea of fighting the good fight. Timothy is given the charge to keep on fighting until the fight is over when Jesus appears. Today I want to focus on verses 11 and 12 as I look at these closing words to Timothy to understand how Timothy is to fight the good fight. Verse 11 explains how he was to do this (by fleeing some things and pursing others) and the second part of verse 12 is what will result if he continues to fight the good fight. Timothy will take of the eternal life which he was called to when he responded to the gospel by confessing the Lord Jesus.

2. How to fight the fight

Have a look with me at verse 11 for it is here that Paul tells Timothy how he was to fight the good fight of the faith.

1 Timothy 6:11

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Paul refers to Timothy as a man of God and says that on the one hand he was to “flee” (run away) from certain things and on the other hand he was to “pursue” (run after) six other things that he has listed for us. Today/tonight I want to talk about fighting the good fight in terms of what we are to flee from and what we are to pursue.

2.1 Flee all this

Paul tells Timothy to flee from all this. But what does he mean by “all this”? What is the “this” that he is talking about Timothy needing to flee? Of course, the “all this” that Paul is referring to is found in verses 3 to 10 and I am going to summarise it as the folly of the those who don’t hold on to the truth, the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus. At the end of verse 2 Paul told Timothy that he was to teach and urge on the believers these instructions that Paul had given to Timothy. In verse 3 to 10 Paul describes the folly of those who had rejected the sound and godly teaching of the Lord Jesus.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.[2]

  • Teaching that doesn’t agree with the truth of the gospel

All this is what Timothy is to flee and it comes about when people don’t hold to the truth of the gospel. Paul has made clear from that the beginning of the letter that teaching that doesn’t conform with the gospel doesn’t promote God’s work only controversies (1:5) and those who don’t hold on to the faith only end up shipwrecking their faith (1:19). This is what Timothy is to avoid and guard against. Earlier, Paul wrote that such people don’t know what they are talking about (1:7) and he writes here in the last chapter that such a person is conceited and understands nothing. They are conceited because they think they know better than the word of God when in reality they understand nothing. Their wisdom is really just folly dressed up in meaningless words.

Paul goes on in these verses to describe what these people are like. They have an unhealthy interest in controversy and end up quarrelling about words, being malicious talkers with evil suspicions and who think about godliness in terms of gain. Instead of promoting God’s work when people abandon the sound teaching of the gospel it results in all sorts of ungodliness and strife among the people of God. Ultimately as Paul says in verse 10 people end up piercing themselves with many griefs.

  • The love of money

Paul clarifies in verses 6 to 10 that there is great gain in godliness but not the sort of material gain that those who abandon the truth end up seeking. Those who looking for material gain, who are eager for money Paul argues end up falling into temptation and a trap.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The great gain in godliness isn’t about getting rich in this world because the riches of this world don’t last. We enter this world with nothing and we leave this world in the same way, with absolutely nothing. John Stott told the story of a pastor who conducted the funeral of a very wealth woman. After the funeral the pastor was asked by a very nosey member of the congregation “How much did she leave behind?” The man was curious about her fortune and how vast it might have been. The shrewd pastor replied that “She left everything, absolutely everything”. We don’t get to take anything with us. We leave absolutely everything behind. We only have what we have for a very short time and then it is gone. We don’t get to take it with us. If we make the things of this world our treasure, then we have made a big mistake.  Paul writes that some people who had been eager for money had already wandered away from the faith and had pierced themselves with many griefs.

  • People who want to get rich fall into temptation and trap

It isn’t that having money is wrong, but Paul says that people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap (6:9). The desire to get rich is just a wrong desire for a believer to have because it the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. What the Bible teaches is contentment – so long as we have food and clothing and we have enough to eat and to wear we should be content with that. What the Lord Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for is not riches but their daily bread – what they need. The desire to get rich is a harmful desire because it plunges men into ruin and destruction. What God’s people ought to desire is to honour him by being like him in this world. What Paul says is great gain is godliness with contentment. Godliness is what is truly valuable for the believer. Paul says that such godliness is great gain. He wrote to Timothy in chapter 4 that he was to train himself in godliness (v7) and said that it has value for all things and that held both promise in this present life and the life to come (v8).

The danger with wealth is that people are tempted to put their hope in it rather than God who provides everything that we need. This is the warning that Timothy gives those who are rich in this world in verses 17 to 19. He commanded them not to be arrogant and not to put their hope in the wealth, which is so uncertain, but to be generous with what they have and put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. The ultimate outcome of rejecting the truth of the gospel is that people end up putting their hope in other things, in the things of this world, rather than God. In Ephesus some people who were eager for money had already wandered from the faith.

Paul writes to Timothy that he was to “flee all this”. Timothy was to avoid the folly of those who wander from the faith by not holding on to the instruction and teaching of the Lord Jesus. In verses 20 to 21 he is told to guard what has been entrusted to his care. Paul was talking about the pattern of sound teaching that he had passed on to Timothy. In 2 Timothy Paul calls it the good deposit (see 2 Timothy 1:13-14). Timothy was to do this by turning away from the godless talk and opposing ideas of those who deny the truth. If we are going to fight the good fight we have to keep holding on to the truth and live it out rather than substituting our own ideas and what the world think is wisdom for the sound teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to flee all this and instead pursue (run after) godliness with contentment.

2.2 Pursue godliness with contentment

Godliness with contentment not only gets mentioned in verse 6 but this is what I think the second half of verse 11 is encouraging Timothy to pursue. Paul tells Timothy to pursue 6 qualities that I think reflect the godliness that is found in Christ through believing the truth of the gospel. Many believe these six qualities are best taken as three matching pairs of characteristics.

  • Righteousness and godliness

The first two qualities are righteousness and godliness and these two have to do with our dealing with God and others. Firstly, we are to seek to be righteous in our dealing with others. We are to be upright and fair doing what is right and good when it comes to others. We are to be people are to be rich in good deeds and to be generous. Godliness has more to do with our orientation towards God and the way we relate to Him. We are to love and honour him and seek to please him and not ourselves while we wait for the return of the Lord Jesus.  We are to be holy as he holy.

  • Faith and love

Faith and love are Christian virtues that often get mentioned together. For Paul faith and love are the genuine marks of those who have put their hope in the Lord. Paul wrote to the Galatians that circumcision counts for nothing and that the only thing that did really matter for the believer is faith expressing itself through love. For Paul genuine faith always expresses itself in love.

  • Endurance and gentleness

Lastly, Paul mentions endurance and gentleness. These are two qualities we need as believers to keep on going in the face of difficult circumstances and people. I love how John Stott describes these two qualities. He wrote that endurance is “patience in difficult circumstances and gentleness is patience with difficult people.”[3] We need both of these qualities as we wait for Jesus to return.

These are the things that we are to pursue. We are not pursuing what we can gain here in this world, but pursuing godliness with contentment while we wait for the Lord Jesus to appear again. We are seeking to be holy as God is holy. We are to seeking to live in this world like the Lord Jesus by trusting in his words and seeking to live them out so that we might become more and more like him.

3. Fight the good fight

This is how we fight the good fight of the faith of the faith. It is by holding on to the truth, the sound instruction and teaching of the Lord Jesus and by living it out while we wait for him to return. As Paul told Timothy in chapter 4.

1 Timothy 4:16

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

So how are you going fighting the fight? If the Lord was to call you into his presence today or if he was to appear here now in all his glory and you were to stand before his throne would you be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? Or have you let your guard down? Have you forgotten the life that the Lord has called you to when you confessed Jesus as Lord? Have you not been watching your life and your doctrine? Have you not guarded the good deposit, and have let this world’s wisdom and ideas creep in and influence you more than you should have? Are you in danger of wandering from the faith and piercing yourself with many griefs? Maybe Paul’s words to Timothy are words that you need to hear this morning/evening and make your own.

“But you, man (or woman) of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t give up. Pick up the towel again and put your hope in God and not in the things of this world so that you might take hold of the life that is truly life. This is what God has called you to. Paul says flee from all this. Turn away from those ideas and thoughts that you know don’t agree with the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus for you will only end up wandering from the faith and piercing yourself with many griefs. Flee!

But, it isn’t just a matter of fleeing but also pursuing. Purse godliness with contentment. Stop running after the wrong things. What is it that you are pursuing in this life? What have you been running after this last year? What is it that you are going to run after in the new year? Have you be training yourself in godliness or have you been pursuing something else? You can’t find the good fight if you are not pursuing Christ and the godliness that is found in him alone. Train yourself to be godly and pursue righteousness and godliness, faith and love and endurance and gentleness. Make it your goal from here on to follow him and to be like him for godliness with contentment is great gain. Fight the good fight of the faith and finish the race.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition., 1 Ti 6:3–5). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[3] John Stott, The message of 1 Timothy and Titus, the Bible Speaks Today page 155.