I would like to close out 2017 with a two-part message on finishing well, rooted in these words from the apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy.
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 4:7-8)
I’d like to examine the three phrases Paul used to sum up all that God had done in His life after his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road. We can use these God-breathed phrases to evaluate how well we have lived throughout the past year. We will look at the first two phrases today; on Friday we’ll examine the final one.
I have fought the good fight …
If Paul had said “I have fought A good fight,” he might have been speaking about any fight he had engaged in. But he didn’t phrase it that way; he said he had fought “THE good fight,” and the only truly good fight is the one God has called us to. God turned Paul’s life upside down when He changed Saul into Paul, transforming him from the persecutor of the church into the preacher and pastor to the church, and Paul endured innumerable hardships in order to pursue his calling. Indeed, Paul fought THE good fight God had called him to fight.
Next, Paul said . . .
I have finished the race …
Paul frequently compared his life to a race. And make no mistake, he did not compare it to a sprint, but rather a marathon. Paul lived a life that was reflective of the truth that He who begins a good work in us will certainly complete it. Yet Paul knew that he had to continue, by God’s grace, putting one foot in front of the other every day, every step of the way.
As we draw near to the end of 2017, let me encourage you to take some time to consider both these phrases from the inspired pen of the apostle Paul. Are you able to say the same as Paul? Was 2017 marked by fighting the good fight of faith and running with purpose and prayerful determination in the race God has set before you? Did you run in the strength of the Almighty?
Please understand that I am not suggesting that you should have fought the good fight and run this year’s race perfectly. Everything we do we do imperfectly, just as Paul freely admitted about his own life (Romans 7:14-24). But here is the question I believe we should all meditate on during these final days of 2017:
Did we make God’s plan for our lives our primary passion and pursuit throughout the year?
I hope you’ll come back on Friday for Part II—our final article for 2017.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!