The Finish Line
“6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV
Dear Church Family,
Myra was out of town for a couple of days last week, so John and I spent a little father-and-son time putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Well, that is, we put together 549 pieces of a 550-piece puzzle. The last piece? Well, we’ve learned that, if any piece of a puzzle hits the floor, Rusty, one of our dogs, will find it immediately and eat it. It's a little frustrating to work for hours on a project only to find at the very end that you won’t be able to complete it. Even though you can see the (almost) finished picture, just knowing that last piece is missing gnaws at you a bit.
Jigsaw puzzles, of course, are nothing compared to the really important things of life. Paul wrote 2 Timothy from a Roman jail, awaiting execution. He wrote the last chapter of his last letter with a somber tone, but there is also hope. He knew what was coming—in more ways than one.
A few early traditions relay some possible details of Paul’s execution. So, it seems, Paul was marched some distance from Roman and beheaded along the Ostian Way, probably in A.D. 67. One tradition names a Roman matron, Lucina, who buried Paul on her own land.
Paul knew what was coming; he had time for reflection. What would he think about in these last days? Well, first Paul was thinking about his co-worker, Timothy, and his work in Ephesus. The letter of 2 Timothy shows that, in the face of death, Paul was still focused on his mission, giving instructions and advice to help Timothy as he tried to establish a strong church in Ephesus.
The second thing on Paul’s mind was his own life. He could have focused on the bad things he had done, like when he persecuted the church. But, no, Paul was too well-rooted in God’s grace to allow Satan to fill his last days with guilt. Now, I don’t think he was bragging, but Paul looked back on a life of service to his Lord, and said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” There were no missing puzzle pieces in Paul’s life.
Finally, Paul reflected upon his eternal reward. As I said above, Paul knew what was coming “in more ways than one.” Sure, he knew death was coming. But he knew death would not have the last word. On “that day”—the day of Christ’s appearing—Paul knew he would be raised to spend eternity with him. That is the ultimate finish line; that is the final picture when all the pieces are put together. How about you? Will you finish the race? No, I’m not talking about living a perfect life, for we all stand by grace. But I am talking about living a life of service to God you can look back on and say, “I crossed the finish line.”