A battle is raging for the minds and souls of men, even though most believers are unaware of it. The language of the text comes from an athletic competition. In 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul alludes to a military term meaning to “wage the good warfare” to communicate the life–and–death struggle for the salvation of the lost.
This is not to suggest that one has to work extra hard to be saved; rather, it means that believers must compete against all sorts of evil and falsehoods to win the lost to eternal life. The word compete means to “contend for victory in the public games, fighting or wrestling.”
Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). It means to “take pains, straining every nerve to the uttermost towards the goal,” as in Luke 13:24: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
The word well in our translation, or good in others, is from a word meaning “beautiful, excellent, or noble.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).
The first verb in our text is in the present tense, meaning to “be continually competing for the faith,” but the second verb is an aorist imperative, meaning to once and for all time “lay hold of that eternal life you were called for.” Timothy did not need salvation, but he was to “get a grip” on the reality of eternal life and hell, to live his life from the perspective of eternity.
The same idea is in Colossians 3:2: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Our real nationality now is in heaven: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
All the verbs are aorist except the first. Once and for all the reader is to “lay hold on eternal life.” Once and for all “you were also called,” and once and for all you “made your good confession.” These are not repeated experiences but one–time events that put every believer into the competition (2 Tim 1:6). Knowing He has a purpose for our lives, we enter the public competition knowing He is with us always. Are you in the battle for the souls of men?
“Lord, it has been a good year. I recommit to living to spread the gospel and to build up Your followers. I will never turn back or abandon Your purpose for my life. May people matter to me this new year as they matter to You.”