What makes this amazing journey a true victory? As an athlete, I was never a star. My brother was amazing–won decathlon 2 out of 3 years and finished 2nd the middle year by 10 points–sporting a cast on his right arm. He was the fastest most gifted runner we knew. Me, history explains, not so much…my coach said it best, “Well Smith can’t catch, but he sure is slow!” So, early on, I learned that for me it truly was a victory to simply finish the race and fight the good fight.
Paul was, by far, a greater spiritual athlete. He completely embraced the faith he sought to destroy. He focused his ministry upon the people he was raised and trained to abhor. He taught salvation by faith–when his legal righteousness was above reproach–he was a Christian superstar. Yet, on this day, as his final appeals were winding down and Nero was soon to take his head, Paul faced the truth–HE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, FINISHED THE RACE and kept the faith. He realized this marathon was not about the medals; it was about the journey and the struggle.
As he was sharing his heart with Timothy, he expressed his loneliness, his regret for not using John Mark–and his gratitude to Luke and to God who had remained along side. Paul never expected to win the race or win the fight–that was for God. He only expected to finish strong and fight to the end–a great goal.
As for us–we are called to follow Paul’s example–Phil 4:9-“ Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” If we will embrace what is tough, focus on those no one else will, and keep battling until God calls us home; even if you are not a christian decathlete–you can run, fight and finish–ready to claim the reward for which you were prepared. Not a bad trade off!
God Bless You
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 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.
9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.