With only three days left until the beginning of a new year, let’s close out 2017 with some more thoughts on finishing well, rooted in these words from Paul to 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)
On Wednesday we gave thought to fighting the good fight and finishing the race. Today let’s take a closer look at Paul’s final phrase …
I have kept the faith …
Here Paul is talking about the faith found in the truth of the wisdom of God. Paul had, by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling him, pondered it, preached it, practiced it, protected it, and praised it whenever and wherever God gave him opportunity. He fearlessly contended with those who sought to distort the truth of God’s Word and those who would water it down.
For Paul, keeping the faith meant keeping the all-consuming call that God had placed on his life in view at all times. He refused to let anything take him off course. Paul lived a life of fidelity to His faithful Savior and poured himself out in unwavering service to his Lord. Yes, he did it imperfectly, but he did it with all of his heart. There was no half-hearted effort in the life of Paul. As he wrote to the Christians at Philippi:
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Think about it this way: everything he did as Saul prior to meeting the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, he did with all of his heart. Now, as Paul, everything he did was done with all of his heart for the glory of the One who had called him. In closing out this year, let me suggest three key words that marked the life of Paul:
Paul was able to fight the good fight because he was sold-out in fighting it. Paul was able to finish the race because he was steadfast in running it. And Paul was able to keep the faith because he was single-minded in focusing on it.
It is my prayer that you will look back on this past year and see all the good God has done, both in you and through you. Learn from the times you fell short of the intended mark and take that lesson into 2018 with the confident assurance that He who began the good work in you will complete it . . . just as He did in the apostle Paul’s life.
Thank you for spending time with me this past year. May God bless you and yours. Lord willing, we shall do it all again next year—lifting our eyes to heaven and receiving, by faith, the grace we all need to run our race well.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!