2 Timothy 4:7–8 (ESV) — 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
What does Paul mean here by his having fought the good fight? Just what is that fight precisely?
The immediate text furnishes us with one aspect of it: He has KEPT the faith. He never went back on the Gospel of saving grace in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice alone. The Gospel never changed, and he never veered off course from it. He remained confident in it. He watched over it and guarded it. He allowed no additions to it, no modifications of it, no subtractions from it. Like a soldier given a high command, he treated the Gospel as a sacred trust and no matter who contradicted it, how he suffered as a result of not compromising it from any quarter – or how reasonable arguments seemed in challenging or modifying it he “kept the faith.” The body of truth called “the faith” which Jude reminds us was delivered once and for all to the saints.
But there is a second part of that which Paul alludes to in his first letter to Timothy: 1 Timothy 6:12 (ESV) — 12 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.
In other words. fighting the good fight is not just protecting the truth of the Gospel and sound Biblical doctrine, it also includes living a life in concert with that doctrine. Taking hold of the eternal life which is ours in Christ. Grasping it. Recognizing God’s plan for us in the Gospel, where He is taking us in saving grace and orienting our lives toward that goal. Being constantly reminded of His desire and promise to conform us to the image of Christ – and to live lives that are aimed at that same end.
But this one thing we know for sure, as Paul nears his death, he casts his eyes back upon having fought this fight and takes comfort from having done so.
And so I ask myself – what will be my comfort in the day when I face death should Christ tarry? Will I be able to settle my heart having known I too had “fought the fight” and therefore am confident in the crown of righteousness to be rewarded to all who have loved His appearing? For you see, that is the great end – Christ’s return. And if that is not in view, in believing and preaching what will make myself and others ready for that day, and loving it as my great joy and reward – then I scarcely can say I have kept the faith.
Heavenly Father, give me the courage and the wherewithal to keep in that fight. Let me be a true soldier of Christ to the end.