A Fight to the Finish
2 Timothy 4:6-8
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” vs. 7
A Momentary Lapse
Show clip of Lindsay Jacobellis and her unfortunate fall in the 2006 Olympic snowboarding finals. Listen to the enthusiasm of the announcer too.
So what happened? Analysis showed that she took her eye off the goal. She was so assured of winning that she decided to do a little showboating. She grabbed her board and makes a little hand gesture with her right hand and ends up falling on the landing and finishing in second place. Now before you are too hard on her, think about this for a minute. How many times in the course of a day or week do you/I have one of those momentary laspses and do something that we look back on and say, “What was I thinking” or not thinking for that matter. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul talks about keeping our focus and he likens life to a sports event and that we need to finish strong. If you are able, please stand as we read verses 6-8.
Read Passage – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Whatever we do in life, it takes time to prepare for it. If you’re a doctor, you spend 10+ years in school and time as an intern. If you are a CPA you spend about 4-5 years schooling and in training. If you are a teacher you earn a degree and usually a certificate and you usually volunteer or train with another teacher. If you a psychologist you earn your degree and spend time interning. You get the idea. An athlete trains long and hard too. An article in USA Today from January 8, 2008 took a survey of 21000 Division I college athletes revealed that these weekly average hours for players:
Football – 44.8 hours
Baseball – 40 hours
Basketball – 36.8 hours
Women’s Basketball – 36.1 hours
Golf, Hockey and Women’s Softball over 36 hours
To excel at things we need prep time and it takes work. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13
“Therefore, get your minds ready for action…” 1 Peter 1:13 (NET)
Our faith takes time, work and preparation. We shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking we don’t need to put some effort and time into preparing ourselves to live a Christian life. Lindsey Jacobellis had a goal, to be the best in the world and to win. She prepared for that, trained for that, everything was about that, and in an instant it was gone.
What is our goal, your goal, when it comes to your life? Is it to live a good Christian life? To get to heaven? To hear God say “well done”? If so, how are you preparing for that?
Finishing Strong Doesn’t Happen By Accident
I believe Finishing Strong Doesn’t Happen By Accident. I believe Paul helps us understand that in this passage of Scripture and that he gives us some insight as to what it takes for us to finish strong.
- Giving It Your All
First, he reminds us that it takes giving it your all. Verse 6:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” vs. 6
There is a great word picture here for us to absorb. A drink offering was a type of sacrifice. Both Old Testament Jews and their pagan counterparts were familiar with drink offerings. A worshiper would approach the altar of hot coals with a goblet of wine. As a prayer or special vow was spoken the wine would be poured on the coals. The whole goblet was poured out to the last drop. The wine instantly evaporated giving off a cloud of smoke and a sweet rich fragrance.
The Romans often ended a meal or banquet with such an offering. It marked the time to rise and move on as well symbolized the giving of last drop to glory of the gods. Remember Paul is sitting in prison awaiting his execution; this is how Paul viewed his coming death. It is as if he was saying: “The day is ended; it is time to rise and go; and my life must be poured out as a sacrifice to God.” His executors might think they were taking Paul’s life. He viewed his death as an offering he was giving to God. He has one thing left to give—his life. He offered that too as a sacrifice of worship to God.
Jesus was speaking with his disciples in Luke 13 and he told them these words in verse 24:
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Luke 13:24
You might not have consider your life as a preparation for eternity but it is. How are you preparing for it? How are you preparing to meet God? Paul encourages us to make every effort. That means giving it your all. It takes reading your bible, praying, going to church, fellowship, tithing (yes, I said tithing), etc. Not to be negative but we may need to ask ourselves a tough question:
“I am giving everything but…” What am I holding back?
2. It Takes Determination
A second point that Paul makes is that it takes determination. Let’s read verse 7 again:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” vs. 7
Everything Paul mentions in this verse is about determination. It’s the idea of definitely deciding or fixed intention, or to achieve a desired intention. Paul looks back with confidence that he has fought hard, and kept his eye on the goal and has been striving to achieve that. This takes persistence and as I said, determination.
Life is like a rollercoaster. You go through ups and downs. It is very rarely level. Persistence and determination is hanging on when you’re at the top and holding on harder when you’re on the bottom. Not to long ago there was a phrase that was somewhat popular about this, it was:
Keep on keeping on.
Determination is getting back up when you fall and trying again. And sometimes it takes a lot of tries.
Ex. Learning to ride a bike and taking the training wheels off. It’s scary. It takes full effort and focus. It’s hard and tough. But when it comes, what a great feeling. The results are so freeing and exhilarating. A few weeks ago we read these verses in 2 Timothy 2:11-12:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” 2 Timothy 2:11-12
Failure can be frustrating and deflating. But it can also be a learning and growing experience and when we move past the failures, we find new places we never imagine. Paul tells Timothy that the part of the reward for determination is that we will reign with Jesus.
3. Know Your Desired Result
The third key to finishing strong is to know your desired result; verse 8:
“ Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…” vs. 8
Paul understands what lies ahead; a crown of righteousness. And let’s take that a step further as well. We can look forward to receiving a crown but even more important, we achieve the goal of being eternally with God. Paul also said in Phil. 3:14:
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14
Let me explain this through a story.
Ex. In one of his books, A.M. Hunter, the New Testament scholar, relates the story of a dying man who asked his Christian doctor to tell him something about the place to which he was going. As the doctor fumbled for a reply, he heard a scratching at the door, and he had his answer. “Do you hear that?” he asked his patient. “It’s my dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up and hears my voice. He has no notion what is inside this door, but he knows that I am here. Now then, isn’t it the same with you? Even though you don’t know or understand everything that’s on the other side, you know who’s there. That’s what makes the difference.”
Our desired result is to ultimately be in heaven and with God. He is what we want.
Not Too Late
Now I believe that one of the things that stops us from finishing strong is our failures. They can discourage us and sometimes drive us away from our desired goal. But here is the thing, if you are still breathing, if you are still here on this earth, if you still want to finish strong, it’s not too late.
Let’s go back to story of Lindsay Jacobellis. After such a huge mistake, I am sure it was tempting to give us and wallow in self-pity. She was only 18 when that event took place. She got back to snowboarding and listen to her accomplishments after that event:
2010: Olympic team
2011: Gold at World Championships
2007: Gold at World Championships
2011: Three World Cup wins
Two-time SBX World Cup Champion (2007, 2009)
2008: Back-to-back World Cup SBX wins at Lake Placid in ’07 – SBX
33 career World Cup podiums (23 wins, 22 SBX/1 HP)
Seven-time X Games Champion SBX (’03-’05, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11)
2009: Visa U.S. SBX champion
2008: Visa U.S. SBX champion
2007: Silver at X Games – SBX
2007: 2nd at Tamarack Grand Prix (HP)
We can make mistakes as well but it doesn’t need to be the end. The important thing to remember is the God is a God of second chances. It’s never too late. Keep the goal in mind. Be determined, and don’t be afraid to give it our all. The reward is far to great to let a mistake, a misstep, or a failure stop us from hearing those words, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matt. 25:21)