6:11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)
There are days where being a believer is a fight, where it is just a struggle. There is a “fight” against the world, and its pressures, and seduction and mocking criticism. There can be a “fight” within the church, as we interact closely with others who are dealing with the paradox of being forgiven sinners. ( if they would only stop sinning, and also – don’t they understand they are supposed to forgive me?) But the biggest struggle for me is not the external fights, it is the internal one. The kind Paul describes himself going through in Romans 7 -the fight within me to pursue righteousness, to see mercy dominate, to keep in mind the struggle of this life pale in comparison to God’s presence now, and what He longs for, when we are all home in heaven.
After those days of internal fighting, I wonder about my faith. Do I deserve to be called a “christian”, never mind deserving to serve as a pastor? I comprehend all to well Paul’s word’s about not doing what I know I should, and doing that which I know I shouldn’t. I want to beat myself into submission, I want to find a way to get rid of the sin, as Hebrews 12 urges us – setting it aside for that which I enjoy more………and just when I do, something comes up – and my cynical and sarcastic side takes over… again.
So how do we mature, how do we overcome in this struggle?
We strive, but not in our own strength – we begin to depend on the One who is our source of righteousness – who created the faith we have, and will perfect it. We don’t give up, thinking there is not option to failure. But we are reminded by that failure of our need to depend on Jesus. As one pastor/priest wrote:
“You are not getting worse. It is just that now you have more light to see yourself as you really are. You must avoid even the slightest hint of discouragement.
Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.” (1)
If our “fight” is to grasp more onto Christ, it makes sense that we will see that which would pull us away more clearly, that we would feel the drag on us more acutely, that we would learn the hard way, that trying to make progress is effective as we depend on Jesus, His love, His mercy, His guidance, His presence, more and more and more. That Godly life can only be learned from within the Kingdom of God, the place where we have belonged since our first day, when God cleansed us in baptism. When He took hold of us.
Hold on, don’t be distracted or drained by the currents of life, for know that He has a hold of you as well, as nothing can separate you from His love.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 957-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.