Summary: A funeral message for a believer.
Departure times are funny things. Almost without fail my family sets departure times for trips and vacations yet fail to meet them. Why? Because there are too many things to be accomplished before we can leave. Errands need to be run, bills need to be paid, travel supplies must be purchased and it all must be done before we can travel.
As a result, departure time sneaks up on us and is here before we’re completely prepared for it.
Much like our brother Ken, the Apostle Paul saw his departure time approaching. He told his friend and associate Timothy that he was ready to go:
2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.
“…the time has come for my departure.”
How could someone so calmly face the end of his life on earth? Paul’s confidence was rooted in both the past and the future – in what he had accomplished with this life and what was coming in the next one. That knowledge gave him peace and comfort to move ahead, to depart.
It’s my belief that some of that same confidence belonged to Ken as he approaches his own departure time. While we’re never completely prepared to say farewell to friends and family in this life, we can find a measure of peace in knowing we’ve faithfully completed our journey and have a future ahead of us.
Paul made three statements of fact:
1. I Have Fought the Good Fight
Ephesians 6 tells us that we’re engaed in spiritual battle as believers in Jesus Christ. However, our call is not to win the battle, but as soldiers to fight in the battle.
Ken heard these words and he fought the fight.
2. I Have Finished the Race
What was Paul’s race? In Acts 20:24 he says, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish th race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
Paul stayed on course when others went their own way. In 1980 Rosie Ruiz seemed to have won the 84th Boston Marathon. However, race officials determined that she had not completed the entire 26.2-mile course, but had registered for the race and later jumped in from the crowd and sprinted to the finish. She didn’t truly finish.
God lays out our course for us – it’s up to Him what race we will run. It is not for us to determine the course but to run the race to completion, to finish well, testifying to the goodness of God.
3. I Have Kept the Faith
1 Corinthians 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
According to Paul’s own words, he would be judged according to his faithfulness. If ever there lived a man who could be excused for straying from his faith due to the circumstance and difficulties of this life, it was Paul. He endured incredible persecution, torture and abuse, yet at the end of it all, sitting in a wet, smelly prison cell, he could say with a clear conscience, “I have kept the faith.”
On September 11th of this year I sat with Ken & Lois during a trying time. As we celebrated Grandparents Day with a brunch here at the church Ken became ill in what was a turning point for his physical health. In the face of sickness and uncertainty Ken’s faith never wavered. He remained faithful and continued on the course laid out for him.
Why is all of this important? With these things in mind Paul had an assurance about what was to come:
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…”
As a young man I looked forward to approval from my father, whether it was for a high test score or my performance in a baseball game. There still isn’t anything much better than hearing my dad say, “Good job, son!” Today my own son looks to me for the same sort of affirmation on a job well done.
Paul was looking ahead to the same sort of a moment, only on a far greater scale. Having fulfilled to the best of his ability everything God had put before him in this life, he knew what remained was to hear the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!”