“For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II-Timothy 4:6-7).
Sooner or later everyone comes to grip with the fact every day spent living brings us another day closer to dying. Which is a reasonable consideration, but to know you are to die by someone else’s hands at a date and time certain is a whole other matter. The Apostle Paul had taken this into account during the last days of his life and is writing farewell letters to the churches of Asia and Greece, as well as, his personal friends. Among them, the honorable young Timothy and traveling partner Titus, these letters are some of the most memorable words of spiritual encouragement and wisdom available. In his last letters Paul gives his testimony of the things he has endured post conversion and what it all meant to him in service to God.
The Apostle Paul—apostle to the Gentiles nations, said he was ready to be offered, to receive his crown of righteousness, the greatest of Christian ambitions. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II-Timothy 4:8). This crown is presented at the moment of judgement for a life of faithful service in kingdom work. Presentation is made by the Lord, the righteous judge at the day of judgement. What had Paul done to make him qualified to receive this highly sought after prize?
A man of clarity in spiritual thought, Paul, looking back over his life rejoiced over three accomplishments during a lifetime of infinite accomplishments; (1) “I have fought a good fight, (2) I have finished my course and (3) I have kept the faith.” What did it mean to him inwardly, personally at the deepest levels of himself? Paul said; “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8), the man had his priorities in order. As his day of reckoning approached he realized he had won the race, he would receive the prize; “that I may win Christ.” Paul won big he won the prize and the admiration of thousands during his life and billions around the world in the days after his death, Christian and non-Christians. Also, I believe he won the admiration of Jehovah El Shaddai, Jesus Christ and Heaven’s hosts.
The difficulty of Christians coming to grips with losing all to win Jesus is a never-ending mystery. It is more than an idea, the challenge of winning Jesus the person, but winning all the treasures of heaven that comes with him. Paul understood the concept of victory in losing all that is not necessary for the course Jesus set for his life. Why is it so hard to see the truth through Paul’s eyes? “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Paul must have used a very different kind of arithmetic in comparison to the arithmetic too few Christians use today he counted differently—more of you Lord and less of me. Unfortunately, we count the very things gain that he clearly said good riddance to without a hint of regret.
“I have fought a good fight.” I am amazed and disappointed by supposedly believing Christians who refuse to accept spiritual warfare as reality. Why would we have to “put on the whole armor of God” if it were not so? To win the good fight Paul did not delude himself he knew who his enemies were and how to defeat them. Paul’s enemies as are ours are not flesh and blood, although we must wrestle them occasionally, the real enemy are the rulers of darkness in this world and their spiritual wickedness in high place. Paul was no amateur shadow boxer he could hook and jab with the best of them, more often than not he fought alone. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (II-Timothy 4:16).
“I have finished my course.” During the course of our life the feeling of loneliness and oneness that comes with dedication to a cause that others do not share weakens lesser men, but Paul had one supporter he could count on at all times through thick and thin, hell or high water. “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (II-Timothy 4:17). Winning the crown of righteousness is not done in one fight but through a series of fights in a cosmic battle that continues even to this day. During the time Paul was in the ring he had to deliver punches as well as receive some, and many of them hurt. It would have been easy to quit and toss in the towel, but Paul was not that kind of spiritual fighter, he kept punching, hooking and jabbing never asking for quarter “neither giving place to the Devil.” Take a look at yourself are you that kind of spiritual warrior?
“I have kept the faith.” Paul was inspired with the knowledge that a man may at times be called to do his duty by doing nothing, to work by keeping still and to serve by waiting in faith. “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3:9). It takes a kind of courage that comes only by faith to so boldly say; “For I am now ready to be offered” and coming from a man also known as Saul of Tarsus is miraculous.
Believing in God is one thing but trusting Him even until the moment of death is a journey that every believer should be on at this very moment. Saul was on a journey when he met Jesus for the first time, a meeting that changed the course of his life and set him on a different journey. A journey of pain and suffering, heat and cold, victory and defeat, from one place to another in service to that same Jesus he toiled day and night. What was his reward? At life’s end he was ready to receive his crown of righteousness.
Bible history tells us through revelations shown him by Jesus and the Spirit of God Paul changed lives from Damascus to Delphi, starting with his own. His life is admired by billions, his words studied by scholars of every persuasion and his crown sought by every believer. “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you” (II-Timothy 4:22). The Apostle Paul’s life is nearing its end and he’s not sad, bitter or afraid, Glory to God on High. He is filled with joy an unspeakable joy, he has something to look forward to it is not the end but a new beginning.
Paul says; “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course” but his greatest proclamation is “I have kept the faith.” We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown, “Which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice. God loves us and Jesus died for us, the Holy Spirit rest and abides with us and His grace is sufficient for us. Be blessed until the blessed call you blessed and bless someone in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Grady Norman Greene, Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ