2 Timothy 4:4-8 NRSV
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Do you listen to advice? For myself, I suppose it depends on who is giving me the advice, whether I respect their judgment or not. Here in II Timothy, the Apostle Paul is trying to share important wisdom with Timothy and shape his ministry. Paul seems to know his own time his short, but Timothy being younger, may have years ahead. Paul wants him to focus on what matters: share the good news of Jesus, embrace the difficulties that life brings as a chance to live your faith, and don’t give up on what God has called you to do. Paul himself has fought the good fight each step of the way, and did not abandon the race of faith, persevering to the very end.
We are near to finishing our season of Lent and our reflections on the intentional way of Jesus. The life of faith calls us to stay in the race of discipleship. Authors like Paul and the words and actions of Jesus urge us onward, when we are so tempted to give up. Staying faithful can be challenging. Living with integrity can sometimes be lonely. Standing with those who suffer or with those who are marginalized, as Jesus did, can lead to ostracism, and make us the target of critics. Yet Paul knew the race was worth it. The convictions we hold in faith matter. The stands we take for God mean much, not only to God, but to those in the faithful community who learn and mature from our example. Every one of us would want to reach that culminating point in our own life and be able to say with thankfulness, I too have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.
Prayer: Enduring God, give us the strength each day to run the race that life and faith brings to us. Give us a persistent trust in you that does not give up nor run out. Bless us to find your constant encouragement and know that the help you gave to our spiritual ancestors is also ours in this time. Amen.
Pastor Dave Summers