THIS is not just another comment about Paris; it’s a comment about the inevitable waves of attack that occur in life and how we’re to properly respond to them.
When the apostle Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of the [true] faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) he’s saying “agonise the good agony of the faith.”
(The Greek word for “fight” is ἀγωνίζομαι [agonizomai] from which we get our English “agonise” from. Its root word is ἀγών or agón from which “agony” comes.)
It is to labour earnestly, to struggle fervently, to strive avidly; all this, in our Christian context, against a backdrop of deceit, idolatry, evil, trickery and wickedness within the world — for which only agonising the good agony ultimately works.
Christians, when we hate we’re being deceived. Christians, when we hate we do Satan’s bidding, not the Lord’s.
Accepting, There is “Agony” in this Life
We must acknowledge that life involves a lot of agony, which means “extreme physical or mental suffering.” Whether we like it or not, that’s life. None of us are ever immune to the scaling fury of many varietals of agony. They can overcome us at any time, and in many differing ways. And there’s an agony that the enemy knows full well will test us as unique persons to, and beyond, our own personal limits.
But that’s not the end of the story; it’s only, thankfully, a scary beginning.
We can suffer the agonies of this life in an agonising way, getting resentful, or we can choose to agonise the good agony, which is still agony — having a different form — but has a good and holy purpose, for which we’ll not go unrewarded.
There is a good agony. A good fight.
But the good agony comes with its own cost; not something that dissuades us as much as something to bear in mind:
Every good fight must fight past fear in courage.
Every good agony must be chosen, in order to agonise courageously.
Every good agony accepts that this life is implicit agony, but the person choosing to agonise the good agony chooses to not just stand back when courage calls them forth.
When a person is driven by this good agony they cannot stand by in the presence of hate or fear (evil). They must do something to help; whether it’s for them self or for another. And sometimes the best place to help is simply to pray: God, come.
The Only Worthy and Worthwhile “Agony”
So, the decision is made: we face agony. It’s a choice: face or deny.
We face it in our own lives in tremendously personal ways; humiliating ways. These ways will quickly convince us that, no matter how godly we are, we’re doomed as unequivocally broken people. We face agony because of the fallen nature of our humanity. But, if we’re Christian, our personal agony is healed in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Such, such good news!
But with being Christian comes something odious. We have become soldiers for a Kingdom — an everlasting Kingdom that has no compare. But in this life we’ll know much travail. In this life, if we’re attuned to reality, we’re in the trenches of hell, fighting for our long-awaited homeland: the glorious Kingdom of God. Kingdom come!
The moment we pop our heads up and out of the trench in this trench warfare — which Christianity is — is the moment the enemy says, “Okay, it’s coming your way!”
Over the cusp of the trench comes a grenade. Paris. An unexpected loss. Cancer. Infant death. Inexplicable fear. A family member caught up in a scandal. Beirut. An accusation against us. A church division or split. A temptation we fall for. Bullying. A betrayal. 9/11. None of this we could directly see coming. But it was coming, alright! Oh for twenty-twenty hindsight.
Agonising the good agony is about trusting God to keep stepping courageously by faith:
Fear of facing harm,
Is the fact of the ferocious fight,
God’s care will keep us calm,
If it’s in him alone we delight.
No matter what comes against,
No matter what threatens trust,
No matter, choose this defence,
It’s simply that trust we must.
Satan wants a piece of anyone who’s going to call reality as it is: to condemn injustice when it occurs by loving audaciously. Satan wants to remind anyone that with courage comes a cost. Only by faith can we say, “Yes, to do God’s will, I’ll bear the cost, no matter what.” We will be tested. (Only by loving audaciously, even in the presence of evil, will we win in the end.)
But God has an ever more beautiful reminder: “I am with you, no matter what you face, no matter what is brought against you; when you condemn injustice, doing so peacefully, responding in love, bringing grace where there’s groaning and gall, I am with you, and I am for you.” Courage is immediately vindicated, eternally.
Fighting the good fight of the faith is agonising courageously to do God’s will.
Agonising the good agony is about loving people especially when they don’t deserve it, even as we’re loved when we don’t. (See 1 John 4.)
Love is agonising. Loving will be agony many times because honouring God means we may seem to lose so love can win. But when love wins, everyone wins.
Agonise the good agony. Love, not hate, is our purpose.
Agonising the good agony is a good fight, for peace through love, in a hate-filled war. God help us.
Hate speech seems everywhere. But only love is eternal.
Hatred is like cancer silently lurking avoiding detection. It’s dangerous and threatens to kill our world. It’s a Christian’s job to gird their heart in love and be ready to love even to their death.
It’s better to die for love than to live a hateful life.
Eternity beckons. Evil threatens. Love gains. God reigns.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.