“I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith;” ~ 1 Timothy 1:18-19 NRSV
Fighting is something that Americans are good at; very good! We love a good fight. We even have sports dedicated to fighting. If that isn’t enough, fights break out in the midst of other sporting events just to make them more exciting. We tune every day to watch bickering and fighting on Reality TV. And we applaud those who are able to verbally berate others.
The Church has definitely had their fair share of fights over the last 2000 years. Christendom gave birth to the idea of fighting for our right to our faith. And the Church has been guilty of using power and violence to press people into the faith. But is that what St. Paul is trying to tell Timothy in this passage? Is St. Paul really advocating violence in the Name of Jesus?
Paul is writing to Timothy in last days of his natural life. He is in prison and knows that death, martyrdom, is inevitable. Paul considers Timothy his “son in the faith”. And Paul uses these last two letters to instruct and remind Timothy of all he will need to remain faithful to Jesus Christ.
Paul’s charge to Timothy to “fight” is a term synonymous with military strategy. It conveys laying a campaign strategy that will enable him to reach the finish line; to conquer the enemy of faith. Paul wants Timothy to strategically live out his faith in a world hostile to Christ. He wants Timothy to persevere all the way to the last day.
We have strategies for all different areas of our life. We have a strategy for losing weight, gaining weight, quitting smoking or drinking. We have a strategy for retirement or advancement in our career. But we spend very little time creating a strategy that will ensure we finish well in our faith.
Typically, we approach our faith with a defensive attack when a problem arises. Very seldom do we approach our faith with an offensive strategy. We may think we have an offensive strategy. Instead, I see Christians simply being offended. But, if we are going to finish the race, we need a good strategy. And a good strategy begins with faith and a good conscience.
For us to have faith means we believe God. We have placed our confidence and trust in Him, and we continue to trust Him. Trust is a difficult thing to give away. We lose control when we advocate trust to another person. Yet, it is the key to finishing this race. We believe in God, but we need to believe God as well.
Second, we need to develop a good conscience; a moral sensitivity. Take time to personally reflect on your habits, attitudes, and behavior. Take a spiritual inventory of your heart. Are you listening to that still, small voice? The Spirit of God speaks to our spirit and corrects us along the way. If we want to finish this race, we need to remain sensitive to the Spirit of God.
So continue to fight the good fight. Your faith requires a good strategy to finish this race. Believe God, remain sensitive to His Spirit, and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.