"Fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) always conjures the grand image of me heroically holding my ground in a hostile forum of ungodly opponents, like Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17).
But that kind of thing almost never happens to me in Glenside, Pa. I looked to the Lord to train my tongue against an external foe, and instead He trained my tongue for an internal one. Satan said: "Your religion is a dream. Look at your friend J: She prayed hard, and God led her into a trap of a marriage." I arm up and speak aloud: "Lord, nevertheless, I believe that You will work out all things for her good-and I am waiting for it."
This is the good fight of the faith. And this is where all godly warfare begins, in lonely private wrestlings.
A young man forgives a young lady who betrayed him-taking on her debt, bringing God the pain, holding back his tongue from slicing at her reputation. It takes a year to do it, and no one ever knows but him and God. This is the good fight of the faith, and all courage is hidden courage.
You are in conversation and have a strong urge to inject a comment that would clinch your point. You almost blurt it out, and it would be neither slander nor untruth. But a check in your spirit says it would add nothing to the final outcome, and may embarrass a brother. So you stifle your urge, and find it is surprisingly difficult. This is the good fight of the faith, and all warfare requires a death.
Not exactly the Areopagus.
But that is just the point. Most of our calls to "fight the good fight" are miniscule events. Getting arrested running Bibles into Tajikistan is a fairly rare occurrence. Someday the Lord might well ask, "Why didn't you fight the good fight?" Will we answer, "You never sent me an obnoxious pagan to go toe to toe with"?
Angela wrote a letter to her true love. Embedded in that letter was a darling question she had honed by many rewrites. Angela almost didn't notice at first the slight discomfort in her spirit. She might have proceeded as usual, and would never have known till Judgment Day that she had failed a little test. Temptations immediately succumbed to leave no trace.
But Angela is a woman of a certain age who was getting weary of the moribund cycle of sin-and-confess. She introduced a line of probing self-questions into her cogitations: "Does this letter I wrote proceed from faith or from manipulation? Does it accord best with the command to love my brother for his good? Would God be better glorified by my sending it or tearing it up?" Angela also dug deep in Scripture. Sometimes we don't dig terribly deep in the Word because we have already decided on a plan.
You will be mistaken if you think this process was easy or tidy for Angela. There were moments of sheer agony that felt like dying, and moments when the devil was winning with his argument against over-scrupulosity, and his proposal that it really didn't matter which course she chose because it's all under the Blood.
The interesting thing is that when Angela first conceived the idea to write the letter, her desire was only moderately strong. It was once she started to put up the slightest resistance that she noticed how tenacious the desire was, as when a person sticks his finger in a Chinese finger trap, and his efforts to extricate himself from the woven bamboo cylinder merely tighten its grip. Satan doesn't have to haul out the AK-47 unless the peashooter doesn't work.
Many people think Jesus had an unfair advantage in fighting the good fight because He was the Son of God. What we learn is that the strength of a temptation is a function of the length of time one fights against it without giving in. Only Jesus fought to the end of that dark tunnel every time, and He found wild beasts down there. So do all who share in His sufferings (1 Corinthians 15:32).
Now He was positioned for the ultimate fight of the faith: "Why hast Thou forsaken me?"