The Good Fight by J.C. Ryle

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True Christianity is a good fight.

“Good” is a curious word to apply to any warfare.  All worldly war is more or less evil.  No doubt it is an absolute necessity in many cases, to procure the liberty of nations, to prevent the weak from being trampled down by the strong; but still it is an evil.

It entails an awful amount of bloodshed and suffering.  It hurries into eternity, myriads that are completely unprepared for their change.  It calls forth the worst passions of man.  It causes enormous waste and destruction of property.  It fills peaceful homes with mourning widows and orphans.  It spreads far and wide poverty, taxation, and national distress.  It disarranges all the order of society.  It interrupts the work of the Gospel and the growth of Christian missions.  In short, war is an immense and incalculable evil, and every praying man should cry night and day: “Give peace in our times.”  And yet there is one warfare which is emphatically “good,” and one fight in which there is no evil.  That warfare is the Christian warfare.  That fight is the fight of the soul.

Now what are the reasons why the Christian fight is a “good fight?” What are the points in which his warfare is superior to the warfare of this world?  Let me examine this matter, and open it out in order.  I want no one to begin the life of a Christian soldier without counting the cost.  I would not keep back from any one that the Christian fight, though spiritual, is real and severe.  It needs courage, boldness, and perseverance.  But I want my readers to know that there is abundant encouragement, if they will only begin the battle.  The Scripture does not call the Christian fight “a good fight” without reason and cause.  Let me try to show what I mean.

(a)  The Christian’s fight is good because it is fought under the best of generals.  The Leader and Commander of all believers is our Divine Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ—a Savior of perfect wisdom, infinite love, and almighty power.  The Captain of our salvation never falls to lead His soldiers to victory.  He never makes any useless movements, never errs in judgment, never commits any mistake.  His eye is on all His followers, from the greatest of them even to the least.  The humblest servant in His army is not forgotten.  The weakest and most sickly is cared for, remembered, and kept unto salvation.  The souls whom He has purchased and redeemed with His own blood are far too precious to be wasted and thrown away.  Surely this is good!

(b)  The Christian’s fight is good, because it is fought with, the best of helps.  Weak as each believer is in himself, the Holy Spirit dwells in him, and his body is a temple of the Holy Ghost.  Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges, and is never alone.  God the Holy Ghost daily teaches, leads, guides, and directs him.  God the Father helps him by His almighty power.  God the Son intercedes for him every moment, like Moses on the mount, while he is fighting in the valley below.  A threefold cord like this can never be broken!  His daily provisions and supplies never fall.  His commissariat is never defective.  His bread and his water are sure.  Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits.  Surely this is good!

(c)  The Christian fight is a good fight, because it is fought with the best of promises.  To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises—all yea and amen in Christ—promises sure to be fulfilled because made by Him who cannot He, and has power as well as will to keep His word.  “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”  “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”  “he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”  My sheep “shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”  “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”  “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, . . . nor things present, nor things to come .… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:14; Rom. 16:20; Phil. 1:6; Isaiah 43:2; John 10:28; John 6:37; Heb.13:5; Rom. 8:38, 39).  Words like these are worth their weight in gold! Who does not know that promises of coming aid have cheered the defenders of besieged cities like Lucknow, and raised them above their natural strength? Who does not know that the promise of help before night had much to say to the mighty victory of Waterloo?  Yet all such promises are as nothing compared to the rich treasure of believers, the eternal promises of God.  Surely this is good!

(d)  The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it is fought with the best of issues and results.  No doubt it is a war in which there are tremendous struggles, agonizing conflicts, wounds, bruises, watchings, fastings, and fatigue.  But still every believer, without exception, is “more than conqueror through Him that loved him.”  No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield.  No mourning will ever need to be put on, and no tears be shed for either private or officer in the army of Christ.  The muster-roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning.  The English Guards marched out of London to the Crimean campaign a magnificent body of men; but many of the gallant fellows laid their bones in a foreign grave, and never saw London again.  Far different shall be the arrival of the Christian army in “the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”  Not one shall be found lacking.  The words of our great Captain shall be found true: “Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none” (John 18:9).  Surely this is good!

(e)  The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it.  All other wars have a bad, lowering, and demoralizing tendency.  They call forth the worst passions of the human mind.  They harden the conscience, and sap the foundations of religion and morality.  The Christian warfare alone tends to call forth the best things that are left in man.  It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affection on things above.  The old, the sick, the dying, are never known to repent of fighting Christ’s battles against sin, the world, and the devil.  Their only regret is that they did not begin to serve Christ long before.  The experience of that eminent saint, Philip Henry, does not stand alone.  In his last days he said to his family: “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.”  Surely this is good!

(f)   The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world.  All other wars have a devastating, ravaging, and injurious effect.  The march of an army through a land is an awful scourge to the inhabitants.  Wherever it goes it impoverishes, wastes, and does harm.  Injury to persons, property, feelings, and morals invariably accompanies it.  Far different are the effects produced by Christian soldiers.  Wherever they live they are a blessing.  They raise the standard of religion and morality.  They invariably check the progress of drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, profligacy, and dishonesty.  Even their enemies are obliged to respect them.  Go where you please, you will rarely find that barracks and garrisons do good to the neighborhood.  But go where you please, you will find that the presence of a few true Christians is a blessing.  Surely this is good!

(g)  Finally, the Christian’s fight is good, because the end is a glorious reward for all who fight it.  Who can tell the wages that Christ will pay to all His faithful people? Who can estimate the good things that our Divine Captain has laid up for those who confess Him before men?  A grateful country can give to her successful warrior’s medals, Victoria crosses, pensions, peerages, honors, and titles.  But it can give nothing that will last and endure forever, nothing than can be carried beyond the grave.  The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the king of terrors.  Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil, He may get little praise of man while he lives, and go down to the grave with little honor; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring.  It shall have “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”  Surely this is good.

Reader, settle it in your mind that the Christian fight is a good fight, really good, truly good, emphatically good.  You see only part of it yet.  You see the struggle, but not the end; you see the campaign, but not the reward; you see the cross, but not the crown.  You see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but you see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the kingdom of glory prepared for them.  These things are yet to be revealed.  Judge not by appearances.  There are more good things about the Christian warfare than you see.

 ryleJ.C. Ryle (1816 – 1900) was an evangelical Anglican clergyman and first Bishop of Liverpool. He was renowned for his powerful preaching and extensive tracts.

Holly SandsThe Good Fight by J.C. Ryle