I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Some have said that Paul was talking and acting from pride. They must not have read or thought much about Paul, his teachings and his own testimony. He told us to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Humility was constantly modeled and taught by Paul. No, Paul was merely stating what was true to encourage his son in Christ. He was urging Timothy to follow his “father’s” example.
As a spiritual dad and son of the Living God, I too want to finish well. I want to finish stronger than I started. And I want that for my spiritual sons–the young men I mentor/coach.
Paul used a couple of metaphors. Each brings something special to the table to be seen. He was in a habit of mixing metaphors, but not by mistake like so many of my previous students in English. He knew what he was doing and what those metaphors would evoke in the mind of his reader(s).
First he says in verse seven that he has fought the good fight. Faith can be just that too. Faith fights the deadly “D’s” of the enemy–doubt, discouragement, disappointment, depression, and darkness. Holding onto the promise can be hard–a fight. Certainly we’ve all fought doubt and discouragement. We know what it is to battle against unbelief. Unbelief plagues every promise and word of His. Paul has been there and holds up a picture for Timothy. He has fought the “good” fight. The fight is worth it. IMPLICATION: And so can you. You can and will. Paul, ever the encourager, places this encouragement before his “son.”
Second, he brings in an entirely different picture. “I have finished the race.” Interesting from two vantage points.
Paul sees our sonship as a race in that it has a starting line and a finish line, toward which we “run.” We began completely by the grace of our Father. Likewise, we have a destination. Otherwise how could he say that he “finished.” How did he know that? I think when you or I finish, we too will know. We don’t quit. We FINISH. As long as we finish well, we don’t need to finish first or even second. Even if I come in dead last (no pun intended), I want to FINISH. And from beginning to end, God’s grace and delight will carry us the distance.
Both metaphors–the fight and the race–point to activities that have an END. He says, I have fought and I have finished.
Finally he says, “I have KEPT the faith.” The word literally is “kept watch over” in the sense of a sentry on guard. Are you guarding, watching over, the Good News and your spiritual formation? Paul made sure that he held on to what was important to Father in the ministry he carried out. He was faithful, like his Master.
I love it that Paul was not asking Timothy to live something he had not lived. He was encouraging Timothy to walk like his “father.” To pass on what he had seen and heard in Paul (2 Tim. 2.2; Phil. 4.9). This is the pattern given us in Jesus (1 Jn. 2:4-6). The pattern is passed on through Paul to Timothy and all of us.
From start to finish, the fight, the race, the keeping of the treasure ALL require endurance. That is where the power and steadfastness of the Holy Spirit must be the energy at work in you to keep you going until the end. Paul desired for us to know the power and he wanted also to know the power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the same power that can carry you through all to finish well.
With all this in mind, we do well to invite Father’s Holy Spirit to empower us to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith until we see Jesus face to face.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this pattern in Jesus, Paul, Timothy, or YOU?
©2011, David C Alves