What Am I Fighting For?

That’s the question that kept repeating in my mind as I read Chapter Four of Holiness by J. C. Ryle entitled “The Fight.”

There are two parallel dimensions to the question: the first is to give a defense of expending energy: you could rephrase the question “Why am I fighting?” “What’s the purpose of seeing the Christian life as warfare and plowing your energies daily into it?

Ryle emphatically answers that “everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul” and that,

True Christianity is “a fight.” The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security.

He brings to bear the many verses that link striving and labor and warfare to our salvation such as 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 2:3, Ephesians 6:11-13, Luke 13:24, John 6:27, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:36, 1 Corinthians 16:13, and 1 Timothy 1:18-19. He notes:

Words such as these appear to me clear, plain, and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare…

Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s epistles to the seven churches, except to those who “overcome.” … There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.

Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! …All true saints are soldiers. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. He may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace.

Ryle’s repeated attempts at showing us the reality of spiritual warfare remind me of two other quotes from totally different sources. The first is from Aragorn from Lord of the Rings:

Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

The second is from John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead:

I need to study the Word of God with all the intensity of the men who studied the maps of the Normandy coastline before they hit the beaches on D-Day.

The other meaning that kept ringing in my mind of “What Am I Fighting For?” while reading the chapter was, “What am I really expending my energy, my emotions, my time, my dreams for?” If I examine my life, my actions, my heart, what am I really fighting for? Would someone look at my life and say, “He is a soldier, and it is clear he is fighting for holiness in his life.” I honestly think not. That is a very humbling question for me to consider, and in prayer to ask God to show me where I need to change in my heart, my priorities and plans, and in my actions to become a soldier for holiness in my life.

(This post is in reaction to a read through the book project that multiple bloggers are following with Tim Challies. His original post for chapter four is here.)

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