Fight the Good Fight but Surrender the Bad Ones

Bad Consequences

I once watched a Ken Burns documentary series on World War II. After half a dozen episodes, I realized I was getting more and more depressed at the death and destruction I was watching. I was tempted to stop watching altogether, but decided instead that I would simply space the episodes out more so that I could preserve my mental health.

Why not permanently remove it from my watch list? Though difficult to watch, witnessing the horrors of war (even if just on a screen) can be a good thing. I believe we need to see the full consequences of war now if we are to avoid unnecessary wars in the future. Although not intended, the pictures and sounds of the suffering at Kabul airport have helped answer the question many have asked through the centuries: “How do we stop war?” Answer? “Show the catastrophic consequences.”

Similarly, in Philippians 2:14–16, the apostle Paul uses the horrendous results of war as well as the happy results of peace to answer the question, How do we stop church fights?

Philippians and Colossians

David Murray

This journey through the books of Philippians and Colossians includes 50 daily devotionals written by David Murray. Part of the StoryChanger Devotional series, this book features daily readings designed to help you learn, love, and live the Bible.

Anticipate the Blessings of Peace

“Fight the good fight of the faith,” Paul commanded Timothy (1 Tim. 6:12). Paul never flinched from a “good” fight. But some fights are bad fights. Such were the fights at First Church of Philippi. The Christians were fighting over minor matters, causing unnecessary division among them. Paul does not tell them to fight the good fight of faith, but to stop fighting bad fights of faithlessness. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:14). Minimize your minor league squabbles.

To motivate them, Paul connects happy consequences with a cease-fire. Notice particularly his “that you may be.” “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil. 2:14–16).

Spiritually peaceful times are spiritually productive times.

Spiritually peaceful times are spiritually productive times. To paraphrase Paul, peace between Christians stops sin between Christians, builds assurance of our sonship, protects us from worldliness, brightens our witness, tightens our grip on the word of God, and encourages hardworking pastors.

Isn’t that vision of peace and productivity appealing? Let’s imagine the blessings of peace to make us long and work for a cease-fire.

Christian peace is worth fighting for.

And what if I don’t?

Anticipate the Curses of Fighting

Although Paul doesn’t spell it out explicitly, he clearly implies that if we do all things with grumbling and disputing, we’ll see the opposite effects to peace and harmony. Christians who fight unnecessary fights will be blameworthy and guilty, they will lack assurance, they will be polluted by the world, they will deepen the darkness of our already dark world, they will lose their grip of the word, and they will discourage hardworking pastors. Paul shows the catastrophic consequences of unnecessary war to make them long for necessary peace. Let’s fight the good fight of faith but surrender bad fights of faith.

If we fight over nothing, we’ll lose everything.

This article is adapted from Philippians and Colossians: Stories of Joy and Identity by David Murray.

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