Summary: As we run the race the journey will be one where we face many faith-testing situations. In that journey we can endure and “finish well” because our Saviour gives us all we need to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith.

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2 Timothy 4:1-8

Finish Well

I want to start by talking about epitaphs. An epitaph is the words which are written on a tombstone and they act as a way of remembering a deceased person’s life.

One day a man and his brother were walking through a cemetery in the country which contained old gravestones. Most of the gravestones contained epitaphs like, “Loving father”, “Beloved mother”, “Rest in Peace”. “Asleep in Jesus”, and so on. Eventually they came across a grave which contained these words: “A man of unquestioned integrity”. That is a great way to be remembered isn’t it.

When you die, how do you want to be remembered? What will be the defining phrase that summarises your life?

That will be your epitaph.

It might not be written on your gravestone.

But everybody will have one.

This morning we are going to focus on Paul and the epitaph which defined his life.

It is found in 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Paul is encouraging Timothy here to focus on the fundamentals of ministry.

• Preach the Word … and be prepared to defend it.

• Don’t be distracted by worldly arguments … but instead press on.

• Be willing to stand firm in the difficult times.

It was a word for Timothy but a word that has been spoken at the ordination of many pastors, teachers, and leaders.

However it is also a word for each one of us. Because when we are running the race this is our calling. To be those who keep the word central. To not be distracted by the world. To stand firm in difficult times.

We do that because Jesus has come into our lives to help us in the race and to be able to finish well. Have a look at 2 Timothy 4:6-8. It is the epitaph of Paul where he describes “finishing well”.

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.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

How do we finish well?

By being those whose lives are focused around passing on the baton of the Gospel.

Paul’s last will is for people to see that the fight for faith is the noblest fight you can participate in.

To fully appreciate the impact of Paul’s words it helps to know a bit about

Paul’s present circumstances.

The year is about 65ad and Emperor Nero has taken the throne – Nero despises Christians and persecutes them with severity and brutality. Paul is a casualty of this persecution and is in prison awaiting his death. It is in that situation that he says, I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure.

To see what that is all about we need to go back to the Old Testament.

The drink offering accompanied nearly every temple sacrifice which was made.

The morning and evening temple sacrifice.

The sacrifices made at all three Israelite feasts.

It also accompanied all personal sacrifices.

The drink offering was the last step in the sacrificial process. The whole fermented drink was poured out in the holy place – nothing was held back from God. Whenever this was done the result was a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

I am a drink offering.

I am always before God.

I have been set apart for service to God.

My purpose is to please God.

That is my calling.

And knowing your calling is very important ... because it gives you purpose and enables you to know you are contributing to the overall goal.

For a long time now there has been work going on to widen the Gateway arterial.

It has been a huge task involving massive earth movers, and cranes putting in huge concrete trusses, and large trucks. But what I find amazing is that there will always be a man in a tiny excavating machine working on the project. I don’t know what he is doing but his contribution to the massive project must be just as important, and have just as much purpose, as the people driving the heavy machinery.

When we know our place in the God’s plan … and see our place in the church … then we have a calling. We are contributing to the overall purpose of God’s plan. And we can make that contribution no matter what circumstances are taking place at the time.

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