Summary: To receive the crown of life we must fight the fight of faith and finish the race.
II Tim. 4:6-8
As a child, I played many different games with my grandmother. One game I remember that she never lost was Checkers. She seemed to have a particular knack of playing that game. For those of you who have played the game, you will recall that when you move one of your pieces to your opponents first row, you say “Crown me!” Your opponent then has to “crown” you or place another checker on top of yours, giving that piece extra power.
In II Tim. 4:6-8, Paul is looking forward to being “crowned.” Only in this case it is the crown of righteous that he will receive when he comes before God on the judgment day.
Chronologically speaking, the book of second Timothy is the last letter that Paul wrote that we have in the New Testament. In this letter he gives instructions and encouragements to a number of people as you would expect from someone in Paul’s situation. He is in a Roman prison and is anticipating his execution at any time. The first 5 verses of II Tim. 4 are dedicated to giving instructions to Timothy, Paul’s child in the faith.
In verse 6, Paul then makes it clear that he feels that his death is imminent. “I am already being poured out as a drink offering.” It is as though Paul already has his head on the block and he can see the ax falling. It is already beginning to happen.
“Drink offering” is sacrificial terminology. Paul is probably alluding to the custom in pagan rituals of pouring wine and oil on the head of a victim when it was about to be offered in sacrifice. Paul was in the condition of the victim on whose head the wine and oil had been already poured, and who was about to be put to death. Every preparation had been made, and he only awaited the blow which was to take his life.
Then he said bluntly, “The time of my departure is at hand.” Paul saw his death as a departure. The word Paul uses can be a nautical term and refer to the casting off of a ship from its moorings or a military term referring to breaking camp and leaving the encampment. In other words, it’s time for me to go and leave this life. But, he says, I have had a good life. He describes his life as a soldier of Christ in three ways.
1. “I have fought the good fight.” I have fought . . . I have agonized and struggled with the enemy all my life as a soldier of Christ. Paul recognized and taught that the Christian life was a fight to the finish with the greatest adversary in the universe, the Devil and his army of demons and for the greatest cause in the universe, the salvation of man through Jesus Christ.
Fighting battles and warfare imagery was common throughout Paul’s writings. In I Tim. 1:18, Paul urges Timothy to “fight the good fight.” In Eph. 6:10-20 he urges us to put on the whole armor of God to help us in our spiritual fight with Satan.
Paul’s life as a Christian had certainly been a fight from the beginning right through to the end he was about to face. From the moment he became a Christian in Damascus, he had fought bravely and suffered greatly for the cause of Christ.
In II Cor. 11, Paul speaks of imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and dangers from the elements, robbers and Jews and Gentiles. But he had fought it all, endured it all and now was about to conquer it all. In Jesus Christ, Paul was more than just a conqueror, he was about to rout the enemy completely and stand triumphant at the throne of God.
2. “I have finished the race.” Athletic contests were some of Paul’s favorite metaphors for the Christian life. In Heb. 12:1-2, the brethren are urged to “lay aside every weight . . . and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. In I Cor. 9:24, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to run the race so that they might win the prize. And of course there is only one way to get the prize; finish the race.
ILLUS: Eric Liddell, as portrayed in the excellent film "Chariots of Fire," illustrates this principle. Just before the first turn in a 400-meter race, Liddell was shoved off balance, and he stumbled onto the infield grass. As he looked up, he saw the field pulling away, but with intense determination, Eric jumped to his feet, and with his back cocked and his arms flailing he flew like the wind. He was determined not only to catch up with the pack, but to win, which is exactly what he did!