1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Tim 4:1-8 (KJV)
It doesn’t matter how you start the race. What matters is how you are running when you cross the finish line. Never Quit, ever.
Salvation is not a tick box on a list; check it as done and move on. The salvation of Jesus, the Christ is a continuing effort in faith. We live, move, work, and breathe building on our belief in Jesus as the redeemer of our souls. Faith means not having proof of anything beyond the experiences of a life lived believing God loves you. Christians run a race of faith everyday looking for the hand of God gently and lovingly caressing our lives. Sometimes things happen in our lives that don’t look like a loving touch and we get confused. During those times we need other Christians to help make sense of things. This passage is Paul speaking to his heir apparent, Timothy as Paul prepares to die. This passage sums up all the qualities Brian has been speaking about over the course of this sermon series, but more importantly Paul is emphasizing the finishing of the race. Brain sums up that finishing style in his sermon titled Go for the Gold #3; Finishing Well.
In Brian’s sermon he talks about avoiding burning out before the race, our life is complete. He stresses that we must persevere to the end and to do that we must have an attitude of willing to accept challenges in this life. To finish well Brian says we must finish out, we must tackle life’s difficulties or challenges and keep going. If we do these two things, step up and finish out, and we avoid burning out we can complete the race and obtain the prize Paul speaks about in verse 8, but how do we do these things? How do we make sure we don’t get over-tired of working always in faith and never with solid concrete proof? How do we have the energy to always step up to the difficult things around us, and how do we make sure we can persevere through all the hardships we encounter that life will surely throw at us? The previous two sermons have laid the ground work for how we manage to finish well so let’s summarize them here.
Avoid Burning Out
Paul describes the people who burn out in verses 3 and 4 of the passage for this sermon. They won’t listen to scripturally based discussions of why things in their lives are bad for them, and they do surround themselves with people who lead them to things other than a scriptural foundation for their lives solely to supply things and stuff.
The risk to us as Christians in burn out is that the thing putting fire in our bellies will eventually loose its luster and the newness will fade. We need new things to hold our interest as human beings or we find our attention wandering, searching for that next new thing, “…when the emotional high is gone, or when the ‘new thing’ grows stale…” as Brian puts it. We can find that ‘next new thing’ by studying the word of God and reading books about Christian life.
1. What are you studying now or reading now about Christian life to fill your hopper with that ‘next new thing’?
The other concern about burning out is taking someone with you. The Bible calls this a “stumblingblock” or “an occasion to fall” as in Romans 14:13
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Romans 14:13 (KJV)
We must make sure that our race isn’t run in such a way as to take out someone else running along side us. The body of Christ is here to help one another not destroy each other. We should be fighting against the Adversary and not in-fighting with other Christians. We are called not to cause others to stumble but to help those who have stumbled and fallen to get back up and resume their race for the prize again.
2. Are you causing others to stumble or fall to advance your own race?
3. Who are you helping to get up after they have stumbled so they can continue the race?
It is normal for things to happen that cause us to question things. God is big enough to handle our questions. He is not afraid of being questioned. God does not fear our inquiries as so many earthly institutions and positions of power do fear to be questioned. The concern here is that once we question things we must be willing to accept the answer God provides, even if they are answers we disagree with. No, is an answer. Verse 3 demonstrates it is normal for us to question things and even feel an attraction to the material things of the world. As fallen human beings we should not be discouraged when we find ourselves longing for such things. We should recognize them for what they are, signs we are falling away, slowing down in our race for God.
When you find yourself slowing down or falling away from the race God has laid out before you it is time to step up to the challenge. It is time to rebuke the weakness within the frail human body we have been given and redouble our efforts. Stepping up means taking firm grasp of the Gospel message and remembering the reason we run. Paul reminds us of that reason in verse 8.
4. When you find yourself not doing as well in the race God has placed before you how do you refocus yourself?
5 . What key moments in your life help to pull you back to the reality of The Prize for which Christians strive?
Brian likens finishing the race to the old fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The Hare dashed about hurriedly from place to place always assuming he could sprint to the next place he needed to be at the last minute. The Hare goofed around and played during the race with the Tortoise because he assumed there was no way the slow plodding Tortoise could beat him. But, the Hare got distracted by pleasurable things that had nothing to do with the race itself and he let the Tortoise steadily plod on by to win that race.
Christians are like that Tortoise and that race is like the race of life and faith we run today. This race is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Life does not happen in a flash, we live for many, many years. God’s time is not Man’s time. He does things slowly, with patience. Christians need to remember the patience of God and emulate that as we try to dutifully try to run the race God has asked us to run.
The Prize in verse 8 does not go to the Christian who memorizes the most scripture, attends Church the most regularly, prays longest, is on the most committees, or even works the hardest at his given tasks. The Crown of Righteousness is a prize for all Christians who strive to do their best at the tasks God lays out for them, individually. The Prize is there for each of us as long as we don’t quit. Plod along slowly, work steadily, be as diligent as your nature allows, but never, ever quit.
Finishing out means getting up each day and attending to the work you have at hand to share the Gospel with anyone God puts in your path as faithfully as you can. Finishing out means working at the pace God has set rather than the pace you would set. Finishing out is finishing life no matter what circumstances surround you with faith in God’s words and ways. Finishing out is running the race with love in your heart reflected to everyone God puts in your path everyday of your life, for the rest of your life.
6. How do you reflect God’s love to those He puts in your path each day?
7. When the race gets difficult what tools do you use to center yourself back on the path He has for you?