2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 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.
This past week or so has been a particularly stressful time. I spent several days in a row with a young man who is in hospice, in the hospital. He is at the end of his earthly race. He has not yet crossed the finish line, but it is in sight. At the same time, my father-in-law entered the hospital , having suffered a heart attack and three small strokes. On Monday morning, he crossed the finish line. He had a second heart attack and the doctors were unable to revive him. If that was not enough, I was informed that a dear lady in our church was diagnosed with bone cancer. To my surprise, she was in worship on Sunday morning, with her bright smile and cheerful attitude.
All of this has had me thinking about finishing well. As I was running Monday afternoon, I thought about how we live as if tomorrow is a given. We assume that we have time to do all the things we need and want to do. Yet, the reality is that tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. The Psalmist reminds us that life is fleeting. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalm 103:15-16
James is a little more blunt and not so poetic in his depiction of life. Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. James 4:13-17
I have been keenly reminded this week that life is both uncertain and short. So it brings me back to my original thought. How do we finish the race well? Someone once gave me this piece of advice, which I have held onto. Whoever and whatever you want to be in the future, start being that today. The best way to finish well is to live well. Paul says that he fought the good fight. Because none of us know when we will approach the finish line, we should live as if it could be today. Paul challenges us, in Colossians 4, to make the most of the time we have. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4:5-6
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Colossians he laid out the foundation for finishing well. For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14
Even though the past week was very stressful for my young friend in the hospital, I believe he has fought the good fight and will finish well. Mrs. Johnson was in church on Sunday, even in the face of her news. She is determined to finish well. My father-in-law finished his race well. It is up to the rest of us to pick up the baton and keep the race going.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.