Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
~ 2 Timothy 4:7, Proverbs 23:23
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
~ John 4:34
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
~ Luke 11:28
Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
~ Psalm 31:19
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
~ Proverbs 4:7-9, Matthew 4:4
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
~ James 1:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6, Romans 8:23
The Fight of Faith, by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Sermon LXXXV. 1842.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
— 2 Tim. iv., 7, 8.
How blessed it is to stand by the death-bed of God’s children! How different from that of the wicked! The wicked sometimes die in anguish. Some have been known to cry out: “Lost, lost, lost! O eternity! O for half an hour, to pray!” Some die in blasphemy—cursing God for their pains and their sores. The greater number die like a beast, without any thought or care, except for the body: “They have no bands in their death, but their strength is firm. They are laid in their graves like sheep, and the upright have dominion over them in the morning.”
How sweet, compared with these, is the departure of God’s children! They fall asleep in Jesus: “I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Paul here compares it—1. To the pouring out of a drink offering: “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.”—Phil. ii. 17. He felt so entirely dedicated and given away to God, that his death was like the pouring out of the wine offering, which already belonged to God. 2. To the departure of a ship: “The hour of my departure is at hand.” The things of time were like the cables that bound him to this world; but soon his bark was to be loosed from the shore, to sail forward to the shore of glory, to be moored for evermore.
In these words we have the secret of a joyful death-bed.
1. He looks back upon the life of pain.
2. He looks forward to the crown of glory.
I. He looks back. Threefold view.
He does not look back to his life before conversion at all. He often did so, but it was to condemn it: “I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” —1 Tim. i. 13. “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.”—1 Cor. xv. 9. “Beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it.”—Gal. i. 13. “I am the chief.” Paul never forgot his old life; but not one ray of comfort came from it—only condemnation. It was his life since conversion that he now looked to—not as his righteousness before God, but only as showing that he was really a sinner saved through Christ.
1. I have fought a good fight. Every day since his conversion he had been fighting; he had been passing through an enemy’s country, and had to fight his way. (1.) With his corruptions. “Warring.”—Rom. vii. “Flesh lusting.” —Gal. v. “A thorn in the flesh.”—2 Cor. x. Paul knew what these inward fightings are. He probably experienced them more than any one here. (2.) With the world. As long as he was Saul the blasphemer, the world caressed him; but when he was made Paul the apostle, the world hated him. The more he loved, the more they hated. “I have fought with beasts at Ephesus.” His only weapons were the word of God, and yet he fought on against a world lying in wickedness. (3.) With the devil. “A messenger of Satan.” “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.”—2 Cor. x. He had experienced much of this. “We are not ignorant of his devices.”
Still it was “a good fight.”—1 Tim. i. 18. « War a good warfare.”—1 Tim. vi. 12. “Fight the good fight of faith.” Often when we are in the midst of afflictions and temptations, we grow weary of the conflict. It is a hard lot. But when we look back from eternity, every redeemed soul will be able to say: It was a goad fight. (1.) Because we are sure to overcome. “We are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” In other battles we know not how it will go, until the battle is done; but in this we have a sure promise of victory. We have sweet glimpses of triumph even in the thickest of the battle—sweet confidence in Jesus. (2.) It keeps us close – to our Captain. If we had no fight, we would not keep near to Jesus; but when we suffer such fearful attacks, we are glad to hide ourselves under Jesus’ wings. (3.) Because glorifying to God. His glory is involved in it. Often we would wish no fight; but not so in glory. There we shall see that every trial was glorifying to God, bringing out some new feature of his grace, power, and love. Are you fighting this good fight? Soon we shall look back.
2. I have finished my course. The moment a soul is brought to Christ, he has a course to run: “And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.”—Acts xiii. 25. Paul says: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”— Acts xx. 24. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”—Heb. xii. 1. Every one has a different course, like the planets. All do not shine in the same part of the sky, and so every believer has his course—a work to do. One has the course of a minister—another the course of a master—servant. The misery of inconsistencies—leaving the course. Each of us has a work to do for Christ; let us do it diligently. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.”
3. I have kept the faith. I think the dying thief could say: I believe, and enter with joy into Paradise; but he could not say: “I have kept the faith.” This makes the difference between a peaceful and a triumphant death-bed. Paul ” bought the truth, and sold it not.” That good thing committed to him he kept, by the Holy Ghost given unto him. He held the beginning of his confidence stedfast unto the end.
Learn that perseverance in the faith is needful to a triumphant death-bed. It is Christ, and Christ alone, that is our peace in dying; yet the hand that has longest held him has the firmest hold. It is not our perseverance that is our righteousness before God, but the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus; and yet without perseverance in the faith ye cannot be saved. Alas! you that turn aside to folly, you are preparing clouds for your dying bed. Can you say you have kept the faith, poor backslider?
II. What he looked forward to.
1. That day. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”—2 Tim: i. 12. “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.”—2 Tim. i. 18. A great day of Christ’s appearing, and all his saints with him. It was not merely the day of death to which he looked forward— then he would immediately pass into glory—he would go to be in Paradise—he would be absent from the body, and present with the Lord— he would be blessed dying in the Lord; but he looked forward to that day, because it is the day of Christ’s full glory — the day of the gladness of his heart. There is something selfish in merely desiring the day of death; but there is a heavenly joy in looking for the day of his appearing.
2. The crown of righteousness. A crown of glory—a crown of life—an incorruptible crown, that will never die; nor shall the wearer die any. more. A crown of righteousness—a crown waiting those that have put on the armour of God and the breastplate of righteousness—a crown laid up. It is ready from all eternity. It is ready now when we are fighting. Your crown is laid up.
3. The Lord shall give it me. How sweet it will be, when Christ puts on the crown on a sinner’s brow! The just God and Saviour! Angels will shout for joy when they see the righteous Jesus crowning the sinners for whom he died. He will finish our redemption. He was crowned with thorns; he has been an advocate crowned with glory and majesty; but another step—he is to put on the crown of righteousness. All heaven and earth and bell own him faithful and true, and righteous in all his ways. Oh! how sweet to be crowned by Jesus.
4. Along with all that love his appearing. One thing would make us sad: Am I only to be crowned? No, no; “not to me only.” Paul could not be happy in heaven without seeing others saved along with him. It gave him joy on his death-bed, to think that myriads and myriads besides him would wear the crown—many whom he had been the means of saving.