Just over two decades ago, a young man attending one of our church camps, whose name was Michael, tragically drowned. Michael was born with cerebral palsy, had a hunchback, and was profoundly deaf. However, when he was young, though he had special needs, he attended a government primary school.
At his funeral, his mother told us that when Michael would compete in the school’s athletic races, he refused to have any advantage, like starting 10 metres ahead of everyone else. Instead, he would line up with all the other kids and watch for the smoke from the starter’s gun. His mother said that he would run with all his heart. Inevitably, because of his disabilities, he would always come last. However, when he crossed the finishing line, he would throw his hands in the air like an Olympic athlete winning the gold medal.
To Michael, it wasn’t about competing, it was about finishing.
This short article will draw some principles from 2 Timothy 4:6–18 about how we, like Michael, can finish our race strongly.
These are some of the Apostle Paul’s final written words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
Obviously, Paul was writing about the end of his life, but what can we apply from his words about how we can finish our current season or this year strongly?
(4:7) “I have fought the good fight.”
Paul parallels gospel ministry to siege warfare. The lesson here is that if we are to finish strongly, we must renew our courageous and uncompromising commitment to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ until our last breath. This is the good fight.
(4:7) “I have finished the race.”
In Scripture, the imagery of “race” was often used as a metaphor for our assigned task, God’s will or God’s call (see Heb. 12:1; 1 Cor. 9:24-26). As Paul looked back over his life, he was able to confidently proclaim that he had finished what Jesus had called him to do. By way of parallel, if we are to finish strongly, we need to prioritise and fulfil our God-given assignment and call – our race.
(4:8) “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…”
Paul had a strong, unswerving sense of expectation about the future. Paul anticipated the “blessed hope”. We, too, should have hope and expectation about the future – not just eternity, but today, tomorrow and the new year. Stay focussed on what is ahead.
(4:9) “…Demas…has deserted me…Crescens has gone…(14) Alexander…did me a great deal of harm…(16) At my first defence, no one came to support me…”
Often the biggest disappointments we experience are from people. Paul expressed some of the deepest and most sensitive veins of human pain, but there is no detection of bitterness, self-pity, regret or anger. Paul obviously had dealt with the enormity of the pain he experienced. He gave a powerful insight into how he did so: (17) “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… (18) The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.”
If we are to finish strongly, then we, too, must bring all our disappointments to Jesus – the unfailing, faithful, and ever-present Lord of our lives.
After reflecting back on all the good things God had done for him (in verses 17-18), Paul bursts out: (18) “…To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Paul was so overcome by the faithfulness, comfort and strength of God that he couldn’t help but thank him for what he had done. Likewise, if we are to finish strongly, we must remember with thankfulness the small and great things God has done in our lives this year.
This is my last eNewsletter as International Director. Ben B, who takes over on the 1st of September, will be writing all subsequent ones.
Thank you for your support and commitment to World Outreach.
World Outreach International Director
Bruce has served as International Director of World Outreach since January 2017. He joined the World Outreach team in July 2010 as Leadership Development Director, a role he served in up to his appointment as International Director.