By Rev. Fr. Anthony Okelue

Life generally is a struggle and only the fittest survive. Our journey back to our creator (God) is likewise a struggle, therefore only those who are fit make it at the end of the day; no wonder Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus Christ himself makes a dichotomy between the camps one may choose to belong in the journey of life which has eternal consequences of good and evil. From this point of view, it is clear that the fight we talk about is a spiritual one fought in the mundane battle field. On this note, St. Paul corroborates this truth when he said, “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens,” (Ephesians 6:12). Ultimately, this fight is oriented other worldly but has concrete bearing on this world of space and time insofar as we relate with fellow human beings like us.
In our relationships therefore, we see opposing realities of truth and falsehood, good and evil, moral and immoral, holy and profane, justice and injustice and human beings are always employed to drive these opposing categories to the glory of God or the service of the Devil.

That we have been baptized means we are on the side of truth but the truth of this matter is never to be taken for granted because there are Christians who are so in name whereas their hearts are far away from God. To them Jesus Christ says that they are “wolves in sheep clothing,” (Matthew 7:15).

This good fight is not a once for all thing, it is not a quarterly affair, it is not a periodic thing but an everyday engagement. In fact, it is a moment by moment affair because it is fought both within and without ourselves, the reason St. Peter counsels us thus “Keep sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him strong in faith and in the knowledge that it is the same kind of suffering that the community of your brothers throughout the world is undergoing,” (1 Peter 5: 8-9).

The good fight we talk about here is thus the fight of faith and faith is a gift from God that makes us possess even in waiting things that are yet to be revealed (Hebrews 11:1) which in any case ends in having God as our eternal inheritance.

Faith experience does not exist in a vacuum but has real and concrete meaning in practical labours, activities and responsibilities in the workplace, homestead, community, and faith community etc. For us also to make the difference in our faith commitment and practice, we are often confronted with challenges that are as high walls which in order words are crosses we must carry in order to glorify God through Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith who allows trials to come our way that our faith may be tested and proven good.

When one's faith is not anchored on Christ then one misplaces one's fundamental priorities and this, according to Federico Suarez, is the motivation for the contrast of the good faith of which I speak, “However, there is a danger that the soul may become attached to the comforts of this world and regard the ideal of an easy life, protected from all discomfort, as its goal, living for itself instead of living for God,” (About Being A Priest, Scepter Publishers, Chicago, 1996, p.157) meaning that the good fight of faith must not be neglected, “and therefore we need to preach the cross today more than ever before unless we want souls to be nourished by a caricature of Christianity and empty teaching,” (About Being A Priest, p.157).

Source of Strength and Motivation for Action
To fight the good fight of faith entails moving against the current or tide of worldliness. In this way, there is a sharp contrast from what is trending which means that we become automatically highlighted for everyone to see even as we seemingly appear to be against great odds. It goes without gainsaying that we need courage and great courage to be able to overcome these obstacles and remain victors.

First and foremost, the motivation for our action is the love of God and of course of our fellow human beings without which we cannot make any progress. This love must be whole and entire demanding our all as we read in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength,” and Jesus adds, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew :22:39). Now, because love goes with pain, our crosses may remain, however, such pain is, as well, the gain from purgation of sins and purification of our selves no doubt. More importantly, the cross we carry becomes meaningful and purposeful, therefore, benefitting us and our brothers and sisters when we willingly unite it to the Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In this way, we discover all the more our younger and truer selves.

The fruit of the love of God and neighbor is obedience. Obedience becomes really difficult to put in practice when we consider our personal status and resources. The reason Jesus Christ was able to overcome the temptation of the devil after fasting for forty days and forty nights was because he did not consider his personal status and resources but stuck to doing the will of God all the time, and God's will for him was to ransom humankind by his suffering and death thereby yielding everlasting glory to God almighty. It thus means that for obedience to the will of God to be practicable, one must have a supernatural outlook on life. Supernatural outlook on life is to look past immediate glory and gain in order to behold and to desire eternal glory and reward. With this kind of attitude, a child of God certainly walks majestically on the troubled seas of the journey of life and what a demonstration of faith it is! It is good to know, according to Josemaria Escriva, that Christ Jesus has won the fight, 'once and for all. He has given us, as a pledge of his victory, a commandment which is also a commitment: “Fight,”' (Christ is passing by, Criterion Publishers Ltd., Akure, 1999, p. 143).

Fr. Federico Suarez says, “Obedience is something that has to be learned, otherwise it can't be practiced,” (About Being A Priest, p.151). Still speaking Fr. Suarez says, “When obedience is practiced voluntarily and not under duress, it is a declaration of freedom, and it acquires particular greatness when it is exercised in a hostile environment. It is in those circumstances that the courage of the people who practice it comes into evidence, precisely because there are so many singularly plausible ways of avoiding it (intellectual convictions, sociological conditions, faithfulness to one's own personality or to one's deepest sentiments, etc.) In spite of everything they keep a firm hold on their faith…” (About Being A Priest, p.150).

The fruit of obedience is power and freedom to laugh, to live, to mourn, to celebrate but most importantly to stand for God. This freedom also is one that is radically oriented toward good with power of fruitfulness embedded in it. The employment of this power in the service of God is perfect freedom indeed. The story of all the heroes and heroines of the faith is typical of this character and here I make reference to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel chapter three. These young men had the inner strength and courage and freedom to tell king Nebuchadnezzar frankly that they would not compromise their faith not even in the face of imminent death.

This kind of power in freedom is audacious but prudent and humble. It gives us the strength to speak on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ. This power in freedom is also one of success and triumph. Let us carefully consider the prayer contained in the third station of the Stations of the Cross spiritual exercise, compiled by Fr. Jude Aniobodom Ossai, O.S.A., which reads thus, “Father, through the obedience of Jesus, your servant and your Son, you raised a fallen world. Free us from sin and bring us to the joy that lasts forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” To raise a fallen world is no easy task but Jesus Christ did it because he remained obedient to the Father's will and for Jesus it was an incredible expression of power in freedom.
To maintain consistency of victory in the good fight of faith, the child of God must have devotion to God. Devotion opens one up to vision which is necessary for constancy of faith expressed in newness or freshness of purpose all the time; a kind of vision that shapes decision for precision and nobility of action. Devotion which in other words is a personal and intimate relationship with God is expressed in what I like to call 'open ear' prayer which gives one such understanding, confidence and enthusiasm to say like the Psalmist, “with you I storm the rampart, with my God I can scale any wall,” (Psalm 18:29) or like St. Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13). One's soul cannot commune with God without being impregnated with goodness (never malice) for fruitfulness.

For St. Paul, the summation of his bold witnessing to Christ is thus, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing,” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). I notice here, like you would have done too, that St. Paul says the crown is as good for him as you and me if only we keep faith with the Master and so we sing:

“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.”



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