A Bible study through 2 Timothy
As we’ve mentioned throughout this study, Paul was at the end of his life. He had poured out his life as a drink offering to the Lord, holding nothing back but giving all that he had. Now, as he neared his final days and looked back over his life, he summarized it in a powerful way. He didn’t list his accomplishments, note how many churches he planted, remark on how many miracles he performed, or boast about the number of followers he had. Rather, at the end of his life, Paul’s claim to fame was simply that he had finished his race and kept the faith.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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 4:7-8
This is a powerful statement and a noteworthy life accomplishment. Paul—the great Apostle to the Gentiles, missionary, planter of churches, and writer of over half of the New Testament—had one final boast in life: he finished his race and kept the faith.
Would that be our final boast? When we stand at the end of our time on earth, will we be able to say with confidence and pride that we have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith?
This should be our goal in life. The ministries we’re involved in, work we do, people we interact with, and children we raise are important, but our ultimate goal in life should be finishing our race well. If we keep this goal in front of us, our priorities will fall into proper alignment. We will love people as Jesus did, serve others sacrificially, and love our families unconditionally, all because our goal is to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This declaration of Paul’s is the central theme of 2 Timothy. While it may not seem like this book has been focused on running a race, this concept of remaining faithful till the end was Paul’s whole purpose in writing this letter. He wanted to encourage Timothy to keep his eyes fixed on the end goal and keep his faith above all.
The Greek word for kept that Paul used in 2 Timothy 4:7 literally means “to guard (from loss or injury, properly by keeping the eye upon).” This definition gives us a completely different understanding of what Paul stated. Paul didn’t just keep the faith; he guarded it from loss or injury. It was not a passive action, but fully active. It required diligence, hard work, and constant alertness.
Likewise, we are called to keep or guard our faith from the attacks of the enemy. Satan would like nothing better than to successfully undermine and destroy our faith, and he will use a variety of methods and subterfuge to accomplish his mission. Therefore, we must be on guard and actively watch over our faith, keeping the fire of our passion for God burning and our hope in Jesus always the center of our focus. If we do so, we can join Paul in declaring with triumph and confidence that we will receive the inheritance that God has promised to those who love and follow Him.
On the other hand, if we lose sight of our goal and purpose in life and do not carefully guard or keep the faith, we will get distracted by the temptations and allures the world has to offer. Paul gave Timothy and us a solemn example and warning about this when he shared the fate of Demas, a once passionate and devoted follower of Christ who got consumed by the affairs and pleasures of this world.
“For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”
~2 Timothy 4:10
This is a tragic end to Demas’s life story. In other parts of the New Testament, Paul gives glowing reports about this fellow laborer in the work of the ministry. However, as Paul closes out his ministry and reflects on those who have worked alongside him, he shares this depressing update about Demas. This is the danger of becoming too entangled and concerned about the cares and concerns of this world. We may lose sight of our eternal purpose and perspective and end up falling in love with the world and deserting the work of God.
So how do you want your life story to read? Do you want to share Paul’s declaration of victory and testimony of a life lived in faithful, unreserved service to God? Or do you want to be known as the girl or guy who was once passionate for the Lord, but then got caught up in the world and walked away from the truth?
I think we’d all like to follow in Paul’s footsteps. Therefore, finish your race well! Guard and protect from loss and injury your faith in God and devotion to Him. And don’t lose sight of the wonderful hope and reward God has in store for all those who love and long for His appearing and presence.