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
Are you an adoptive mom? Then you know that feeling of love that continues to fill you. You know the desire to share your love with children who have little or none. This post is a message between me and a young adoptive mom who had expressed a concern that she was being selfish in wanting to adopt more children (her and her husband already had several). Our correspondence is shared with her enthusiastic consent. I have changed the names and edited only to protect the family’s privacy.
Here’s the correspondence:
This one thing I would add. I hope this will not embarrass you, but from time to time it can be very comforting and encouraging to hear what others see of Jesus in us. Permit me to be a “father in the Lord” to you for a moment (1 Thess. 2.11-12). I see that your heart has been enlarged to the degree that God is able to love others through you. He has given you a capacity that you could be tempted to think is “normal” because it’s who you are. But it is not normal. It is a gift of God. That huge love for your children also spills out beyond because the more you love, the more love flows. So that all of us experience something of it. If you do not yet make the most of this in prayer (which I’m sure you do, but perhaps not to the degree that you’d like), I believe that intercession (learned first over your children) will become the keystone of your ministry to your family and overflowing to us as well. Beth, I’m up at 4:30am writing this to you. I sense that I am way out of what my normal comfort zone would be so I can only assume the Lord is encouraging you, but for your sake and mine, please run all this by Sean and let’s see if he confirms what I’m saying.
Trust in that love that God is giving you. Don’t be tempted to think it is selfishness. Or that you have some inordinate desire. You have been given a mother-heart that will bring great healing to others. Don’t worry about it being broken either, because God and your husband stand guard over it. Your children will rise up to bless you.
I’m not going to reread this letter, because I’m afraid I’ll start editing and second guessing myself or how something might sound. Self-doubt can be such a nuisance when God tries to speak through and to us. So I’ll sign off now that I’ve said what I was compelled to say. Blessings!
In His love and fellowship,
Any words I use to express what God has shown me today since reading this could not come close to describing what I have experienced within the spiritual realm. Thank you for your obedience to God by sharing your encouraging (prophetic) word with me. Sean and I were in complete awe that your words were spoken as if you had been a part of our private conversations regarding Michael’s adoption. God is good!
I hope to share more with you as God enables.
©2011, David C Alves