Last Thursday I read J. C. Ryle’s tract Fighting for Holiness and came across the following:
We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would (Gal. 5:17)? Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most of so-0ccalled Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort. The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one: He may be known by his inward warfare, as well as by his inward peace.J. C. Ryle, Fighting for Holiness [affiliate link]
The things you read while sitting in a quiet corner of a coffee shop.
I shared with friends that Ryle was addressing a movement in his own time, which continue to be present today, that we should simply rest in God, to “not wrestle, only nestle,” or, more popularly now, “let go and let God.” Ryle was writing in the latter half of the 1800s. Pendulums swing.
Resting and contending, both, are found in the witness of Scripture. More than one thing can be true at the same time. Our present struggles, though unpleasant, can be used by God for our good, and as Ryle says, they may be “evidence of the great work of sanctification” and a sign that we are spiritually alive. Ryle’s statement that Satan “wars not against his own subject” should stiffen our spines when we do experience the “inward warfare.” If we weren’t a threat, we would not be assailed by the powers of hell.
Whatever your trials, troubles, are temptations, stand firm. God is at work, drawing us into a deeper, fuller life. Don’t grow weary. Continue the pursuit; keep up the fight.