Paradox of Faith

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12

Paul encourages Timothy not to spend all of his time pursuing material wealth. Instead, Paul wants Timothy (and the rest of us) to pursue the riches of the Spirit. Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness are things we must go after. They are things we must pursue and fight for. This is what it looks like to “take hold” of the eternal life that we have in Christ.

Yet, righteousness is also something we’ve been given. Godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness are also fruits of the Spirit. They are not only things we pursue but things that are birthed within us by the Spirit. And this is the mystery and the tension of the Christian life. This is the paradox of faith–the place where God’s work in us and our participation with God meet together.

It’s like when Paul said of his own ministry, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me”(Colossians 1:29). It is the Holy Spirit working within us, yet we must cooperate with Him. God already made us righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), and yet we must pursue righteousness and godliness. We are already new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18), and yet we must “put on” the new self and “put off” the old self (Ephesians 4:22-24). The Father pours His love into our heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), and yet we must pursue love. We were saved by grace through faith in Jesus which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), and yet we must pursue greater measures of faith in our own life (2 Timothy 2:22).

This dynamic is not an either/or but a both/and. It is God’s activity, and it is our response to God’s activity. It is His work in us, and it is our cooperation with His work in us. It is His grace, and it is our obedience. The paradox of faith is all of this working together. This is what it looks like to fight the good fight of faith and take hold of the eternal life that we’ve been given in Christ.

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