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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7,8).

A CURIOUS THING HAPPENS AS THE YEARS GO BY AND WE GROW OLDER IN CHRIST. Toward life’s end, we grow weary; the body deteriorates and the toll taken by the struggles of life can no longer be ignored. But at the same time, we become more excited and enthusiastic. The thought that we’re getting close to the goal for which we’ve always lived fills us with a zest that simply can’t be experienced any earlier in life. With each passing day, Paul’s words become ever more real to us: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul was getting close to the end of his life when he wrote the words we find in 2 Timothy 4:7,8. Meditate with me on the phrases in this text. They tell us much about what life in Christ is about.

Fought the good fight. Our adversary, Satan, will make our path to heaven as hard as he can make it. He cannot separate us from God against our will (John 10:28,29; 16:33), but Jesus Himself said that the way would be hard (Matthew 7:14). In this world, there happens to be a war going on, and we need to be able to say, as we come to the end of life, that we have fought the good fight.

Finished the race. If life is a war, it’s also a race. Unless we die when we’re young, it will be a long race, one in which we’ll often be tempted to give up and quit running. Lately, I have found myself saying almost every day, “Feet, don’t fail me now.”

Kept the faith. Of all the things Paul could have said, this is the grandest. To be able to utter these words as we come down to the end is, in a sense, the principal goal in life. To say that we have “kept the faith” does not mean that we never betrayed the Lord. It means that when we saw that we had betrayed Him, we sought His forgiveness, got back on our feet, and kept striving forward.

“Henceforth,” Paul wrote, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” It is only the rugged who will receive this crown, those who have fought and run and been tested in the fire.

“The devil tempts that he may ruin; God tests that he may crown” (Ambrose).

Gary Henry — +

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