I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7
Paul uses three phrases that sum up his life’s accomplishments. What would you say about your life if you were looking back and summing up in brief words what had been accomplished? Here are the apostle’s words.
First, he says, I have fought the good fight. It is very important to see he did not say, I have fought a good fight, as he is often quoted as saying. If he had said that, it would be indicative of his view of how well he had done. It would be boasting: I’ve fought a good fight. I’ve pitched in there and done the right thing. But that is not what he says. He says, I have fought the good fight, meaning the significant fight, the great battle that life had presented to him.
Paul says, I have finished the race. That is another common figure in his writings. In Philippians 3 he describes that race: 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, he says (Philippians 3:13b-14). The race, of course, is the Christian life itself, which is lived moment by moment, just as a race is run step by step. The question is whether you live each step in the flesh or in the Spirit, whether you are walking in the power of the new life you have from Christ or whether you are still running in the old ways of thinking, the old self-centered, fleshly, self-serving attitudes. Every moment is either contributing to reaching the goal for the prize or delaying it, wasting time in the flesh. Christians are called to run that race.
Third, the apostle says, I have kept the faith. He means by that the whole body of truth that is involved in the gospel, what he calls in 1 Corinthians God’s secret wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:7a). This wisdom is totally different from the wisdom of this world. It is the truth that God tells us about ourselves and about Himself, about this world and why it is the way it is. It is the truth about the power of evil, the secret power of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16) with which we can counteract evil. That is the faith that Paul is talking about. On the very edge of eternity he can say of himself, I have kept the faith. I have not lost any of the good deposit that God has entrusted to me. He has guarded it as a treasure, and he tells Timothy in turn to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:14). Paul has kept this treasure from being mistreated or distorted by those who would try to twist it and use it for their own purposes. He has answered its critics. He has warned those who would take it astray, as he does in this very letter; thus he has kept the faith.
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Lord, grant me the grace to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Thank You that You are faithful to enable me to do that.
Finishing well is a worthy aim. Are we clearly defining the journey? Have we grasped the power available in Christ to regularly encounter obstacles and counteract evil?