Summary: We finish well when we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith... just for the honor of doing well for the glory of God and the good of others.
Title: How to Finish Well!
Text: II Timothy 4:6-8
Thesis: We finish well when we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith… just for the honor of doing well for the glory of God and the good of others.
The Word of God inspires us in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since you are surrounded by such a huge crown of witnesses to the life of faith,” then urges us to, “strip off every weight that slows us down and every sin that trips us up so that we may run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”
In some ways I see that as a “getting started” in the Christian life Word of inspiration, while I see our text today more as a ”finishing up” Word of encouragement… a Word to finish well.
You recall last week I spoke of my fondness of the signage on the descent on Floyd Hill… “You Are Not Down Yet.” Another sign reads, “4 more miles of steep 6% grades and sharp curves before you reach the bottom.”
In our text today, as noted last week, the Apostle Paul had made it all the way down and looked back over his life with a great deal of satisfaction. He could honestly say, “I have done my best to be a devoted follower of Christ in the arena of life. We on the other hand are not down yet. We are in the enviable position of looking forward with heartfelt determination to finishing well in the arena of life.
Our text today gives us insight in the nature of the Christian life as a struggle in the arena of life.
I. The Christian Life in the Arena
“I have fought a good fight…” II Timothy 4:7
If we were to read this phrase as it was written it would say something like this, “The good struggle I have struggled.” The struggle is described as a good one which does not necessarily reflect the manner in which he struggled but more of implying the struggle itself was a good one or a worthy one.
Gk. Agon: The word for a contest in the arena.
I talked to a young man this week who works over at George’s. The night before he had fought his first cage fight. He said, “I was doing pretty good while we were boxing but then he did a leg sweep, took me down and put me in a choke hold and the lights went out.” Being a good fighter is different than fighting a good fight.
Paul describes the Christian life as an intrinsically good life. When we say something has intrinsic value we are saying that by virtue of what it is, it has value. The Christian life is a worthy way of living. It is in and of itself a good way to live. In a similar way we might say that living a life of debauchery and sin is intrinsically bad. So in Paul’s mind the Christian life was for him and is to us, a good way to live.
However, he also describes the Christian life as a fight or a struggle. The word for fight is the word used to describe what happens in the sports arena… the arena is a place of contest and conflict.
In 1863 William T. Walters commissioned a painting that was not completed for some twenty years later. In his letter to Walters the artist identified the setting as ancient Rome’s racecourse, the Circus Maximus. In the painting there are interesting details like the goal posts and circular chariot tracks in the dirt. The seating very much resembles that of Rome’s Amphitheater in which gladiators did battle and other spectacles were held. On one side of the painting is a group of huddled Christians and on the other lions were being released. The painting is called “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer.” It is hardly historically accurate in that Christians were never martyred in Circus Maximus… but the arena as a setting for athletic contests and chariot races and even the martyrdom of the saints would be vivid in the minds of his readers as a place of contest and conflict… places of struggle and survival.
The Apostle’s life was one of ongoing struggle unlike anything most of us will ever experience. On one occasion when his integrity and the authenticity of his Apostleship was being questioned and in what seem to be an uncharacteristically weak moment for him, the Apostle Paul unloads in II Corinthians 11:16-33. The heading for the passage is “Paul’s Many Trials.” He wrote of being whipped and beaten and stoned. He wrote of being ship wrecked and crossing rivers and facing robbers. He wrote of sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and shivering in the cold all for the cause of Christ.