Posted by: rcottrill | March 19, 2012

Fight the Good Fight

Words: John Samuel Bewley Monsell (b. Mar. 2, 1811; d. Apr. 9, 1875)
Music: Pentecost, by William Boyd ( _____, 1847; d. Feb. 16, 1928)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The original title of this hymn was “The Fight of Faith.” The Cyber Hymnal gives us the original of CH-3. This is often altered today to read:

Cast care aside, lean on thy Guide,
His boundless mercy will provide;
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove
Christ is its life, and Christ its love.

The Apostle Paul was in prison, facing execution. But he was far from depressed and despondent. His testimony was:

“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8).

All of this is deeply meaningful, and worthy of study. The mood is triumphant. At a time when outward appearances would suggest Paul had been defeated and his ministry a failure, he assures Timothy that it is quite the contrary. Pastor Monsell focuses on Paul’s declaration, “I have fought the good fight” (vs. 7), and more particularly on a similar expression in his earlier letter to young Timothy, where Paul exhorts him to “fight [literally, keep on fighting] the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12).

The spiritual conflicts of the Christian life, against the world, the flesh, and the devil, are spoken of a number of times in the epistles (e.g. Eph. 6:10-13; II Tim. 2:3-4). So, what is the good fight? What does it involve? It is a stand for all that is right and true and good. It is a stand against the corruption of this evil world, and it involves the proclamation of the gospel of grace, to lost and dying sinners. This fight requires all our energies. The Greek word for “fight” (agonizomai) gives us the English word agonize, to suffer anguish and agony.

There is an additional point in First Timothy 6:12 that is lost in some English translations. Though “faith” in God is required, that is not how Paul uses the word. Most of the newer Bible versions put a “the” in front of “faith.” (It is there in Greek.) For example, “Keep up the good fight for the faith” (Williams New Testament). Or, “Be constantly engaging in the contest of the Faith” (Wuest’s Expanded Translation). “The faith” is what we put our faith in. It is sound doctrine; it is all the teachings of the Word of God.

To say someone is a defender of the faith certainly implies that he trusts in God. But it says more. It says that by faith he stands for the truth of God. That’s exactly what Jude urges: “Contend earnestly [agonize] for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It is by standing firm upon the truth of God’s Word that we’re able to resist Satan’s lies (I Pet. 5:9; cf. Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). It’s how we maintain a godly walk (Col. 2:6-7). But sadly, not all have done this (I Tim. 4:1; 6:10).

CH-1) Fight the good fight with all thy might;
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.

CH-2) Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

1) What does John Monsell mean by Christ being the path and Christ being the prize in the race of life?

2) Is it possible to “contend” and “fight” for the faith without being obnoxious, antagonistic and arrogant? (Explain.)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. This was our “dorm hymn” at my undergrad college. We sang that original 3rd verse, btw, from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).

    As for question 2, Paul admonishes us to “speak the truth in love.” He also admonishes us to “fight the good fight!” So these two go hand-in-hand. We are called to stand firm in the truth and to love our neighbor at the same time.

    Praise the Lord, who has sent His Spirit to guide us along this path!

    • Yes, as with a number of truths pertaining to the Christian, balance is needed. Thanks for the excellent comment.


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