In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he knew that his present imprisonment would be his final one, from which he would only escape by being martyred. It was a difficult time for him, not because of his own physical predicament but because of the spiritual plight of so many of the believers for whom he has poured out his heart and life. He had special concerns for Timothy and for the problems of false teaching and wrong living in the church at Ephesus. Realising Timothy’s problem of timidity and the apprehensions he faced in his personal life, Paul repeatedly challenged him to have courage, consistency and faithfulness. Yet despite his deep concerns for the church and Timothy, Paul’s final words reflect a beautiful calmness that come only from a settled confidence in the Lord.
Finishing was a priority with Christ, listen to His words in Jn.4:34…‘Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’ And then again in Jn.17:4 – ‘I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.’ Finishing life’s race is a holy undertaking by both God and man. He is the Enabler and we are the ones who must avail ourselves of His enabling. We have been given everything we need for life and godliness, but we must access and utilise all that God has given us. So finishing reflects Christ’s unconditional commitment as the Author and Finisher of our faith – and it calls us to realise the repeated acts of reliance and obedience in order to live with our glorious finish in view. History reveals that each successive generation seems to breed a ‘new strain’ of an “I’ll just quit mentality.” The job’s a hassle, so I quit and look for a new one. Dieting is hard, so I’ll just stay the way I am. Breaking old habits are tough, so I remain imprisoned. Developing Christ-honoring relationships is painful and risky, so I remain shallow. Paul shares with Timothy in 2Timothy 4, some principles living life with the finish in view!
Realistically face all that’s going on in and around your life. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (4:6). Paul refused to fill his mind with unrealistic hopes, delusions, or escapist dreaming. He was in a dungeon, with the cold reality of death breathing down his neck. To deny the reality of our situation, only weakens our ability and determination to make the necessary changes. Faith should never minimise the problems but rather it should magnify God. So as you live your life, look honestly at the real things that are happening around you, but don’t stop there.
Commit yourself to going the distance. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (v.7). Jesus placed a high emphasis on finishing and so should we. Here Paul describes ‘life’ in three vivid word pictures, each pregnant with meaning. Each of them imply heaps of godly effort and a heart felt stickability (yes, that’s coined word by a friend). There’s no hint of half heartedness or a path of least resistance in these words. You and I will be remembered by how we finish the race, not necessarily how we started.
When the way is hard, keep your eyes on Christ and His promises. “…in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (v.8a). It is vital that we learn to keep an eternal, long-range perspective in life.
Look beyond your ‘context’ to your ‘crown.’ There is joy that is yet future, as the best is yet to come! Listen to Hebrews 12:2-3, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
Remember you are not travelling through life alone. “…and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (v.8b). Sometimes we think we are the only ones standing in our situation. However, Paul makes it clear in 1Cor.10:13, that we are not: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”
Realise that hardships and problems are inevitable. “…endure afflictions/hardship…Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm…You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.’ (v.5,14,15). Sometimes the problems we face are in your face aggressive, like Alexander who seemed to relish opposing Paul. Then at there are those problems that more ‘quiet’, like Demas forsaking Paul in his hour of need.
Entrust yourself to the Lord, forgive, and move on. “the Lord will repay him according to his deeds…At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them” (v.14,16). Learn to take God more seriously than you take yourself. Trust God to handle the things that you don’t need to worry about and do what you can in living out Christ in the situation.
Let you faith find its resting place wholly in the Lord. “But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (v.17-18). God is not looking for people to work for Him, so much as He is looking for people who wholly desire Him and trust Him. It is to these dear saints that He shows Himself strong.