On an American news program earlier this week, I listened to a chaplain at a hospice speak about ‘Last Words.’ In conversations with strangers, family and friends she related the questions which arise about the ‘last words’ spoken by those who are dieing.
Christian preachers and teachers often relate the final words, “It is finished,” which were spoken by Jesus as His final expression upon the cross. The ‘finished work of Christ’ has provided the theme for many devotionals, sermons, books and studies which proclaim the gospel, the ‘good news’ that Christ died for our sins acccording to the Scriptures, that he was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3,4)
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul clearly understands the end of his physical life is on the horizon. He reviews with Timothy his life strategy and anticipates encountering the Lord, the righteous Judge, before whom everyone must stand.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
God was pouring out Paul’s life, as evidence of His amazing grace. From Saul/Paul’s conversion (Acts 9) until this time, suffering and struggle have been normal. There has been no ‘prosperity gospel,’ no ‘perfect health,’ no easy life for this faithful servant.
It is time to review his life work, to summarize his testimony for all who will read these sentences. These words will encourage others regardless of their age or stage of life. Timothy will one day face his own ‘departure.’ Perhaps these few sentences, penned by Paul, will encourage, equip and establish the faith of his timid successor. For whatever reason, the Spirit of God guided Paul’s pen to write three clear affirmations.
I have fought the good fight. Paul had battled through and had been victorious. Some fights aren’t worth fighting. Others are essential. Paul had opted for the latter.
I have finished the race. The marathon which tempted Paul so many times to quit was almost over. The end was in sight and at the finish line stood Jesus. Not all those at the starting line finish well. That sad reality motivates us to pray and offer counsel, seeking their restoration.
I have kept the faith. Others have abandoned the true faith. Paul has encountered his share of false teachers. He has rebuked them and warned many churches about their destructive, demon-inspired teaching. Paul has remained true in his convictions. He has not been ‘tossed about by every wind of doctrine,’ but has graciously yet firmly retained his grip on the faith.
The Lord has seen Paul through. Just as the emperor recognized the victorious athletes in the early Olympic Games, so the Lord would crown those who had run ‘the race’ marked out before them. A crown awaits and the Judge will award this prize to Paul and all others who have kept their eyes on Jesus.
What’s the application for us? At the start of a new year, let’s refasten our eyes on Jesus. Let’s press on, by God’s grace through each day with conviction to be what God wants us to be and dot do what He wants us to do. Along the journey, God may well bless us with other runners who are like-minded. I think the New Testament calls such a group a ‘church.’