In this struggle there is no neutral ground.
The title of my article is a question. What is this fight about?
We are living in a world where the great controversy between good and evil is going on. We are the participants of this battle and everyone is engaged in it. The question is whether we are on the side of good or evil. Are we on the side of Jesus or on the side of Lucifer? There are only two sides in this battlefield. There’s no neutral ground. There are no spectators. Everyone is a participant—knowingly or unknowingly.
The Bible speaks about the righteous in Psalm 15: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart …” (verses 1, 2).
Here we see the qualities required by the righteous—by those who are going to dwell with God in heaven after winning the battle over evil. Of course, the ones who live contrary to it are the wicked, who will not have any place in God’s “holy hill,” who will join hands with Satan in this warfare and finally be destroyed by the fire from heaven. In Jeremiah 13:10, God describes the wicked, as “evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them….” They “shall be just like this sash,” God says, “which is profitable for nothing.”
We should each take an inventory of our lives and see which group we belong to. How many of us are sure we’re on God’s side—and that God will finally take us to His “holy mountain”?
The apostle Paul was confident about his place in the heavenly kingdom. He says with assurance, “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” (2 Tim. 4:7, 8, italics supplied).
Why was Paul able to make such a confident statement about his future? Here was a man who had persecuted the church of God in the past. Speaking of him under his old name, Saul of Tarsus, the book of Acts says: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3). He carried letters from the high priest to the synagogues of Damascus so that he could bring Christians bound toJerusalem. But in Acts we read about his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.
He was a man of good reputation; a learned man educated under the greatest teacher of his time, Gamaliel; a zealous Jew; a Pharisee. Standing firm for what he believed to be true, he persecuted the church of God, seeing its members as heretics and blasphemers.
But his heart was pure and true, which only the Creator Himself could see. Jesus caught him, so to speak, and transformed him into the person we know today as Paul. True to the new cause to which he had been called, he stood firm, no matter what happened. He never sought worldly greatness, glory, or honor. “But what things were gain to me,” he said after his encounter with Jesus on theDamascus road, “these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7, 8).
That was the secret of Paul’s life of victory. What does God see in your heart? In my heart? Are they pure and true? Or are they filled with the filth of this world?
Paul was in every sense an evangelist. Courageously he preached the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles—to kings and rulers, to priests and common people. He uplifted the weary and the downtrodden, he rebuked wickedness, and was never willing to compromise with evil.
Paul was never a burden to anyone. He worked with his own hands (Acts 18:3) and never considered the gospel a means for earning wealth or reputation in the world. He was a true missionary, an evangelist, enduring many difficulties while engaged in ministry. “Are they ministers of Christ?” he wrote, “I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:23-26).
But through it all Paul was sure about the crown of righteousness awaiting him. Where do we stand? Do we aspire to gain the kingdom of heaven? Or are we seeking only this world—its greatness and honor?
Paul says the crown of righteousness is not only for him but for all those who love His appearing. Thus he encourages and motivates all believers—everyone who waits for Christ’s appearing. By his example he admonishes us to fight the good fight, the fight against the wickedness of this world, and to spread the gospel for which we’ve been called. Our heavenly Father is sufficient to get us through this wicked world in our fight against evil. Selfishness and self-centeredness had no place with Paul. His goal was to lift up everyone who came to the fold of Jesus, even the slave.
How about our own attitude? Are we able to say with confidence that the crown of righteousness is waiting for us?
May the example of the apostle Paul encourage us to seek to be transformed, so that we too can be the heirs of that crown. Everything in this world is perishable. They do not satisfy. But the crown of righteousness will provide perfect satisfaction. Let’s strive for it, inviting the Spirit of God to renew our hearts and transform us. Then with the apostle Paul, let us wait with assurance for the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge will give us on that day.
Ramani Kurian is the administrative assistant in the Women’s Ministries Department of the Southern Asia Division in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India.