Monday, June 19, 2017

Finish Well.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.

I wonder, what is a good fight? What is the fight? What does it mean to have finished the race?

As I pondered this passage I thought about Paul, who wrote this to Timothy as part of his final instructions before he was to be martyred for his faith. Reflecting on his life, Paul was saying he was ready to meet Jesus, not only was he ready, but he longed for His appearing. 

In my opinion, a fight for a believer is either a trial we are in, a spiritual battle for our minds, or a physical fight that some of our brothers and sisters are in around the globe.  Many are losing their lives, like Paul, every day for their faith.

“Fight the good fight.”  The Amplified version says this is a fight that is worthy, honorable and noble. 

When my daughter was in the throes of teenage rebellion, I was given some good advice, which was to pick my battles.  That advice was good then, and is relevant today for so many things.  For example, do I get into it on Facebook with someone who opposes my views on marriage or the rights of the pre-born? 

Sometimes a fight or battle is thrust upon us and we don’t have a choice.  No matter the battle, it is how I respond that makes it a good fight.

So with that in mind, I came up with some rules to make our fight one that is worthy, honorable and noble.

1.       Expect a fight:  Our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour.  No matter who you are, a fight, trial or battle is coming.  We need to expect it and be prepared.

2.       Fight fair:  No cheap shots.  The enemy will throw them at you all day long, but to be an example of Christ means you must be just.  You never know who you will win over to Jesus just by doing what is right.

3.       Fight with Integrity:  Always remember that others are watching.  How we handle ourselves is just as important as the fight we are in.

4.       Know when to let go and turn the struggle over to Jesus:  There have been many times when I continued on when I had no business fighting, and God was saying, “You have fought well my child, take a breather, it’s my turn.”  Know when it’s time to “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”

5.       Know your enemy:  As I mentioned, our enemy is like a lion, seeking to destroy.  As such he his subtle, and stealth, he also does not fight fair, use integrity, or is in anyway an honorable opponent.  He uses any and all means under his power to try to destroy you.  But God… “Greater is he who is living inside of me that is living in the world.”

6.       Know your weapons:  God has given us some awesome weapons to fight with, some defensive and some offensive. Ephesians 6:13-17 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

7.      Fight with joy:  James 1:2 Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.  We are told to face trails with Joy, how can we do that?  A few years ago, having been sad for so long after losing my husband Dave & my dad, I asked God to restore my joy. I started seeking scripture and looking for everything I could about joy. I came across this revelation. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  God had already given me joy.  Okay I thought, if I have Joy as a fruit of the Spirit, why don’t I feel it?  I began to pray through all of the fruits one by one, saving joy for last, when I got to it, I simply said, “God, restore and increase my joy for you, for your people and for the trial you have given me.”  Within 6 months, I found that my whole attitude had changed.  My circumstance remained the same, but I was joyful, my love for others had improved, and I was truly worshiping God.  Worship, along with a joyful spirit, I am convinced is one of the secret weapons in the Armor of God.

Paul said to Timothy that he had finished the race.  Finishing a race is the one thing every runner strives for.  Runners train, and work hard to be in condition to go the distance. I am sure we have all seen pictures of a marathoner crawling to the finish line.  Or of those being carried across, so they could finish.  Me, I want to run well and finish strong, but some of us have fought such a hard battle, that we need the extra help to cross that finish line. 

Paul, as he looked back on his life was happy to say not only did he fight well, and that he finished well, but he also kept the faith.  We all know the trails that Paul went through, and how he never seemed to waver in his faith.  I, think also of our brothers and sisters around the world who, being persecuted are facing an ultimate choice.  Choose life by denying Jesus, or death by keeping the faith.  Think of those men lined up, and tied up on the beach, with hooded captors behind them. The first person in the lineup had faith, but there may have been a small glimmer of hope that his captor would not actually kill him.  But what about the faith of the second man, knowing for certain he would die?  He remained firm and did not deny Christ.

A crown of righteousness is the reward for fighting valiantly, finishing the race and keeping the faith.  The crown mentioned here is one like those given to a victor in a race or battle in first century Rome.  It is one of laurels. Our crown will be awarded to us from the one true righteous judge Jesus.  It is because of His sacrifice that we are given righteousness, and then, He rewards us for living it out well. 

What will you do with the fight you are in?  The marathon race of this life you are running?  Will you fight well, will you finish well, and will you keep the faith against all odds? 

The reward is not just the crown, but it is Jesus Himself.