2017-12-31 – 2 Timothy 4:1-8 – Finishing Well

I pray you all had a wonderful Christmas experience. Christmas reminds me how much I am blessed, with family, friends and church especially. However, at this point some of you may be experiencing what is called the Christmas let down – disappointed that the Christmas magic is over, and I understand that. But in reflection of the Christmas story, think about what the shepherds must have felt. They saw the angels and spent time with baby Jesus. However at some point they left that stable, and the party was over. However, scripture tells us that “the shepherds returned praising God for all they had seen”. Perhaps we can learn something from them. Even though Christmas is over, we should continue to think about the positive things of Christmas. And continue thanking God for Jesus in the days ahead, and show our joy to the world as the shepherds did. Okay?

Last week we completed the sermon series leading up to Christmas. We shared God’s words about Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that God gives freely. And my hope is that you experience more of that yourselves as you draw nearer to God.

Today’s message is a tribute to this being New Year’s Eve and thus it is entitled Finishing Well. Finishing our year well, but more specifically as Christ followers we should also be striving towards finishing our earthly lives well too.

Please turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 4, pg 213 in the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, and let us start with prayer.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote almost a third of the New Testament was writing these last words to his understudy Timothy while he was locked up, and right before he was beheaded as traditions tells us. Paul was in a cold prison cell, and he was downtrodden. However as these verses convey, Paul was still, enduring suffering, and carrying out his ministry fully as he wrote this impassioned letter.

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:
proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 
and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

So Paul instructs Timothy and us to proclaim, convince, rebuke and encourage. Proclaim the Gospel message to the world, and to convince, rebuke and encourage each other as we are doing it.

Paul warned them and us about a time when people will not put up with sound doctrine anymore, where they will be wandering away to just about anything other than the Bible for inspiration and instruction. Kind of sounds like that today doesn’t it? Not only do many people not trust the Bible, but they go to far lengths attempting to make a mockery of it. You might notice though that they won’t attempt to make fun of any other religious book except the Bible because they would be in fear of their lives for doing so. But the Christian bible is open to all for ridicule and to make fun of. And why you might ask is it a fair target for those that oppose? Well because it is true; because it calls peoples sins out; and it brings light onto their dark folly. The Bible is a target due to God’s righteousness. And the Devil is urging people to mistrust its instruction, just like Satan urged Eve to mistrust God’s word in the Garden of Eden. Fact is, there is nothing new with Satan’s schemes, and God’s word is always true and trustworthy.

This Bible is simply an amazing gift from God. I refer to it as the Inspired, Infallible, and living Word of God, because it is the Inspired, Infallible and living Word of God. If you ever find anything in this Bible that you think might be contradictory to those terms, please let me know. I have been reading and studying it for years and not only do I find it meeting that mark, but it is also amazing in its accuracy and just a priceless miracle in so many ways. The Bible is actually a library of 66 books, written by 44 authors over a period of about 1500 years. The 39 books of the Old Testament were composed between 1400 and 400 B.C., the 27 books of the New Testament between A.D. 50 and A.D. 100. Originally penned in 3 languages from 3 different continents. But the most amazing thing is that the Bible is one complete story. One story that shows above else, like I said last week, God’s enduring and insufferable love for us. Paul calls this Bible sound doctrine and the truth, and we should not only pay attention to it, but we should preach it, teach it, and proclaim it. Preach, teach and proclaim God’s word to the nations; are ya with me?   [Talk about brother Jim’s question]

Paul continues here in verse 6 of 2nd Timothy 4:

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.

This is kind of a farewell letter from Paul to Timothy. It is sad when we think of people that are preparing to die. I personally know of four people this last month who finished their race with life and are now with the Lord. We celebrate their lives as we remember them. But Paul is attempting here to be an encourager and a good example of a sold-out Christian leader to his protégé Timothy.

And there is something special about peoples last words as they have no reason to boast or brag or lie, some of the most truthful words a person speaks are in their last days as they have nothing to gain or lose by giving them.

Paul considered Timothy like his own son. Paul knew that Timothy was his legacy or the fruit of his ministry. In John 15:16 Jesus said: You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will remain.
Like Paul, we all should be mentoring somebody in ministry. That is God’s will for each of us. Who is your protégé? What is the fruit of your ministry that will remain after you die?

Paul’s life on this earth is coming to a close. This is his final correspondence with Timothy, and he gives him instruction about living and about continuing on. But there is also a tone of victory in Paul’s letter here. And there are three claims Paul makes here in this last section that I want to bring out, he said, “I have fought a good fight”, “I have finished the race”, “I have kept the faith”. I will talk briefly about each of these.

“I have fought a good fight”:  Our fight is outside of us, and inside of us. We know that Paul was chained in a cold place and was in prison. That is the outside the body situation. Not to mention the fact that he also wrote about being beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and a number of other external life challenges. Paul had a very challenging life, but he also fought a “good fight” internally as will. In 1 Corinthians 9 he wrote: “I discipline my body and I keep it under control, lest I be disqualified” He also said that I have to tell myself over and over again no. Paul is admitting that there is a battle that raged in his life and our lives as well. And Satan and the world at large wants to manipulate you all the time, which adds to the stress. Today, the world says that everything is for me. They even say that God wants all things work for my happiness, and that just isn’t true. That is Satan’s lie. According to the Bible, all things work together for God and His purpose, and the sooner we realize this the better. I’m telling ya, this is a spiritual battle ladies and gentlemen, Ephesians 6 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So I plead with you to let-go and let-God defend you against such things.

That is another reason why Jesus gave us the Church and He sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can stand up against the devils schemes. We need to take this threat seriously and we should be in constant prayer about this so we too can say with some assuredly on our death bed like Paul, that “I have fought a good fight”, and finished well.   And that is the next phrase, Paul said:

“I have finished the race”: The image of our lives as a race, is what Paul talks about frequently. You may recall in Philippians 3, Paul said, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew where the finish line was and he didn’t turn around to see where he was running from or what was behind him.

Like Paul, are you “pressing on” in your life? If not maybe you are looking too much about where you have been instead of where you are going. The enemy Satan and the world’s lie is that you have to constantly look back and deal with the past. Well I’m here to tell ya, you cannot run the race while you are looking back. Anyone here ever been a runner? If your looking back you lose the race.
I have seen so many people get stuck in the past. Many of us are shipwrecked in our effectiveness. Paul especially had many things in his past that he was regretful for. If anyone had a reason to reflect and get stuck in the past is Paul. But Paul gave his grievances, his woes, his regrets to God and we should do likewise. God can deal with your past when you can’t. Press on, walk forward and trust God with your past. Know that it is covered by the blood of the lamb.
Like Paul we should be forgetting what is in the past and press on. Get rid of the anchor that is keeping you from serving God; that is His will for you. How easy it would be to stop and just say “I’m Done”, that is not God’s will for you Christian. Finish the race that God placed you in.   Paul also said:

“I have kept the faith”: Meaning, not letting go of the fundamentals of the gospel. Staying true to Christ crucified, and staying faithful to your calling.
Why are you here? Why did God create you? Are you here to just make money? Are you here to make people happy? Why are you here? The Bible talks about this in Ephesians 2, It says “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”.
God prepared your mission for you before you were born. You are not here just to enjoy the pleasures of life, you are here to serve Him. That is our ultimate purpose as Christians. We are to walk in faith and do what God wants us to do. There is a huge percentage of Christians that are not serving God within or outside of the church; and that is so sad. That is not God’s will for you, and that life doesn’t satisfy. We are called to greater things. To keep the faith, to serve Him with everything we have.

1 Corintians 3 “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one being snatched from the fire”.

What you do now will be rewarded in heaven, and it will be a reward that will last throughout eternity. What do you want your eternity to be like? Yes all Christians will be in heaven, and I really don’t understand completely what this all means myself, except I know our works will make a difference. And I want to serve God, I want to perform well for Him. I don’t want to be like the one who was saved but snatched from the fire. I want to have a life well lived. I want to hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant”. According to Paul here, he kept the faith; finished the race and fought the good fight. That’s what I want to be able to proclaim on my death bed. How about you?

However, if you have been trying to live a Christian life, in your own strength, then stop it. Paul tells us in 1 Colossians 1, “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.

God’s word says “I can do all things through Christ which gives me strength”. Through His power, strength and spirit, He can do with me so much more than I can do myself. That’s the way we are to serve. God has given us all we need for a life and Godliness. That means we have everything we need to serve Him now.
It is our responsibility to humble ourselves and connect to His power and grace, to serve and live the life that God has for us to live.

Let go and Let God do His mighty work through you. Let us finish this year and finish this life in such a way that will make our Father in Heaven proud. And may we all be Finishing Well together, for His purpose and glory.

I have given a lot of thought to how one might finish well. Although a number of things could be said, I have come to the conclusion that there are three fundamental actions we can take to help us in this regard. They are:

First; daily time of focused personal communion with God

In my Army days, before we had global positioning satellites we used what is called a Lensatic Compass to navigate from one place to another. The way it would work is we would use that compass to get our general direction, but then we would “shoot an azimuth” or find a point to a feature on the horizon, then just walk to that feature. Once we got there, we would pull out the compass, and do it again until we got to our final destination. You learned to appreciate that compass. Well ladies and gentlemen, God and His Word are your compass. Every day we should be “Shooting an azimuth” or getting our direction from Him.
Let God guide you in this life.

One thing I am going to do this coming year is to be a little more deliberate about reading more of God’s word. My sister-in-law pointed me to a nice resource from Answers in Genesis, where they put together a nice Bible reading plan, which is actually a summary of whole Bible covered chronologically in daily 10 minute segments. Lisa printed out some copies of the plan so you can consider joining me in this journey. Let’s be a little more deliberate about putting first-things first.

Second; daily adoption of the gospel

Consider Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The context of this verse is the subject of justification. Paul says we’re not justified by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, and he keeps repeating that thought throughout his writings. And then in the next verse he says, “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And what should keep us from becoming prideful is knowing that we are all sinners, still practicing sinners, even though we’ve been delivered from the guilt of our sin. And we are now called saints, separated ones. But we still sin in thought, word, deed, and most of all in motive because we often do the right things for a wrong reasons. So we come to the Lord and we say, “Lord, I come to You still a practicing sinner, but I look to Jesus Christ and His shed blood, His perfect obedience, and His righteous life that has been credited to me; and I see myself standing before you clothed in His righteousness.”  We must humble ourselves and adopt the gospel daily.

Third; daily commitment to God as a living sacrifice

For this I direct your attention to Romans 12:1: Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
As we daily reflect on the gospel and what God has done for us in Christ, this should lead us to present ourselves daily, as living sacrifices.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, then from that moment, we are willingly subjecting ourselves to His will and His mission. The apostle Paul also tells us in
1 Corinthians 6:19, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” Paul wants us to affirm in our hearts and in our emotions what is true, but he approaches it by way of an appeal. He doesn’t say, “You must sacrifice your bodies.” He doesn’t say, “you don’t have a choice in the matter.” He says, “I appeal to you . . . by the mercies of God.” If you are a Christian, then you should want to serve God. But if you don’t actively serve Him that doesn’t mean that you are not going to Heaven, it just means that you are not sharing in the joy and pleasure that you might have otherwise. Like Paul, I appeal to you to choose to serve for His and your good pleasure, and may your joy in this be complete.

In closing may I suggest that when Paul says, “I have finished the race,” basically he was saying, “I have persevered.” Like Paul, we Christians must move forward. We must persevere. We must be like Paul and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” May you and I be more like the Apostle Paul in this.

We are finishing the year of our Lord 2017, and starting the year of our Lord 2018, may this new year bring each of you His purpose, His comfort, and His joy.

Please Stand..

2017-12-31 – 2 Timothy 4:1-8 – Finishing Well, pg 213

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.

I personally know of five people finished their race with life and are now with the lord this year. We celebrate their lives as we remember them.