By Tim Sullivan

The Word of God tells gives us two descriptions of the Christian struggle. One is external and the other is internal. Our spiritual warfare is like Joshua’s conquest of the Promise Land. We fight to advance the gospel message and turn back the powers of darkness. Our inward struggle is against our old nature. This struggle for self-mastery is described using the imagery of an athletic competition. Both aspects are examined in the following passage from 2 Timothy. Verses 3 and 4 speak of the triumphant soldier. Verse 5 speaks of the victorious athlete:

2 Timothy 2:3-5
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

As "a good soldier of Jesus Christ," a Christian goes to war, or "warreth." This word is translated from the Greek strateuomai which Strong's Analytical Dictionary says is "to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war or to battle, (spoken of a commander)," and "to do military duty, be on active service, be a soldier." But like an athlete, he must “strive for masteries” a phrase taken from the Greek athleo meaning "to engage in a contest, contend in public games, contend for a prize." To be successful, he must keep himself disengaged from the things of life that would distract him, and he must strive lawfully, or according to the way of Christ.

Both the external and internal struggle are epitomized in the phrase, "Fight the good fight of faith."

1 Timothy 6:12
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.

Here the word “fight” is translated from the Greek agonizomai. Strong's Concordance defines this as: (1) to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games (2) to contend with adversaries (3) metaphorically, to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers.


The apostle Paul had a special right to give this exhortation because he himself had done it successfully.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.

Here we see two aspects of fighting the good fight: to "finish" (teleo) and to "keep" (tereo). The rhyming sounds of teleo and tereo may suggest a bit of wordplay. It certainly makes the two concepts easy to remember!

Teleo means "to bring to a close, to finish, to end." It is "to perform, execute, complete, fulfill, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said, the order, command etc." Tereo means "to attend to carefully, take care of." We must run our race to its completion while being mindful that we stay on course.


To lay hold on eternal life is not a call to shore up your claim on salvation with good works. It is to lay up treasures in heaven, as commanded by Jesus.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"Freely ye have received, freely give," said Jesus (Matt. 10:8). Our generosity shows our trust in God, and acknowledgment that he is the source of all good things in our life. As we live in faith, hope, and charity, we lay hold on the rewards of eternity.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (emphasis added)
17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.



April 11, 2021 in Pride, Louisiana