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From Chris's Heart

February 2009
Fighting for the Faith
by Nick Harris

I think most evangelical Christians would agree that we are engaged in a real war for our faith. The trouble some Christians may have is this: the fight in which they are engaged is not going well and I know why. It is because some Christians do not know the identity of their adversary. They think their enemy is the government, or the school system, or the pornographers, but these are not the real enemy. They are only flesh and blood and the Bible says, "we battle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers." Yes, the real enemy we face is Satan and he never ceases to wage war with the people of God.

So, what are Satan's goals as he conducts this warfare? This is an important question and we must be able to answer it if we are to be successful in this warfare. The truth is this: there is really no reason for any of us to be ignorant of Satan’s true goal as he engages us in this warfare. It is clearly spelled out in both the Old and New Testaments. His purpose is to undermine the faith of the children of God. That has always been his primary purpose. Satanic warfare always targeted the faith of believers, because Satan knows that our faith is our greatest spiritual weapon. If he can crush our faith, then he can defeat us. We must utilize our faith to be successful.

Remember this! Spiritual warfare is not only a fight for the faith, but it is a fight with the faith. Jude wrote to the churches:

"I exhort you that you should contend (the Greek word is EPANGONIZOMAI which means struggle) for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints."

Jude is describing the fight for the faith. And the way we struggle for the faith is to apply our faith to our struggles. Thus we fight with the faith. But we are also to fight with the faith. We could say that we must maintain our faith, and that is never an easy thing to do. It is a never-ending struggle to believe in our God rather than believing in our circumstances and situations. That is especially true in difficult times like the one you and I are now facing in our society.

Paul makes the nature of this warfare clear in three places in his letters. In I Timothy 1:18-19, he writes:

"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck..."

In I Timothy 6:12, he writes:

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

And finally, in II Timothy 4:7, the apostle writes:

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

The Greek word translated into English in these verses as "fight" is the verb AGONA. Our word "agony" comes from this Greek verb. I find that to be very appropriate because the fight for the faith and with the faith can be agonizing at times. We all know that.

I realize that many modern Christians resist the idea of fighting for our faith. They want a faith that costs them little or nothing. They want to go to church once a week and put a fish on the back of their car and call themselves Christians. That is the full extent of their faith endeavors. It is a pretty limited price to pay for something as dear as the Christian faith. In fact, that is what I call “cheap faith” and it often partners itself with “cheap grace.”

However, the true Christian faith has never been cheap; it's a very expensive thing. Consider this: it cost God His Son, and it cost Jesus Christ his life. Remember this as well; the arenas of the Roman Empire ran red with the blood of saints and martyrs for two hundred years. It cost those early believers something. But in the end, the apostolic faith prevailed and the Roman eagle was eventually replaced by the cross of Jesus Christ. Faith is powerful, but we must always contend for it, and contending involves AGON, agony.

All of which brings me to Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter of the Bible. There we have an anthology of those who successfully faced the AGON; an anthology of those who were bloodied and wounded, but claimed the victory of faith. What a list we have: righteous Abel, godly Enoch, faithful Noah, long-suffering Abraham and Sarah, and on and on the list goes. As the author of Hebrews writes this about these people:

"... through faith (they) subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens..."

I love those words don't you? These were all people who “fought the good fight of faith.” And anyone who is serious about their faith had better expect what these people experienced: an all-out war. This warfare will not necessarily be physical in nature, even though there may be a physical involvement at times. And a day may come in the not-too-distant future when our faith may involve physical pain.

This warfare we commonly face is spiritual in nature and I have found that spiritual AGON can be far worse at times than physical AGON.

Spiritual AGON results from the struggle we all face concerning what we choose to believe. The question is this: will we believe what the word of God says, or will we believe what our five senses tell us? In other words, the outcome of this warfare will always be dependent upon who and what we choose to believe.

The classic example of this principle can be seen in the AGON of Father Abraham, to whom God had promised a son when he was 75 years of age. At 75, he was past the age when he would be expected to produce a son, but Abraham did not believe what he saw; he believed what his God had said. He activated his faith and went to battle against his five senses.

What made the struggle of Abraham even more agonizing was the fact that the promised son would not appear for another 25 years. Abraham was now 100 years old. At this point, the AGON, the struggle had to be excruciating. A struggle such as this is what I call "the arena of the agony." This is the time of struggle between accepting God’s promise and receiving God’s promise. This is the time when most people, including myself, ask, "Is God's word true? Are His promises reliable?" This interim period had to be an agonizing time for Abraham. It must have been a real struggle to resist doubt and unbelief.

However, Abraham was prepared for this fight of faith. In Romans 4:19-21, the apostle Paul writes this:

"And (Abraham) not being weak in faith, did not consider his own body already dead (since he was about 100 years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what God had promised God was also able to perform."

In the days ahead, some of us may be called upon to "fight the good fight of faith" in ways that we have never had to do fight before. But let us all remember this; Jesus said to us, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." If we will rest on that promise we will succeed in the fight for the faith, fought with the faith.

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