For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Timothy 4:6-7 ESV)
Even before I became a true believer, these verses in 2 Timothy were familiar to me. We have used these passages on my grandmother and mother’s respective funeral services. However, after reading through the bible, I have a better grasp of what these verses really mean.
Today I would like to look back at the life of Paul. We all know his background and pedigree as mentioned in Philippians 3. It is estimated that Paul met Jesus via Damascus Road in 37 AD. He was martyred in 67 AD, some thirty years later.
Paul was one of the pillars of the early church who gave his all for the work of the gospel. Yes, he started out as a zealous persecutor of Christians but when God got a hold of him, he went all out. Nothing held him back. He did not fear anyone. He did not hesitate to speak against his former colleagues, the Pharisees. He was not intimidated to speak to people of authority. The higher the better. Causing a riot? Well, the people needed to hear the truth. He was not afraid to tell it like it is. When he thrown in jail, he witnessed to his jailers – and they get saved. His main focus was the spread of the gospel. It did not make for an easy life, though.
It is an understatement to say he suffered greatly. 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 ESV …with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who can endure? Only one who derives his strength from Christ. Paul truly lived out what he preached. He taught us in his epistles written in chronological order (from ESV Study Bible):
- the second coming of Jesus Christ in 1 & 2 Thessalonians,
- to let go of divisiveness and work together for the gospel, about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians,
- about suffering in 2 Corinthians,
- about the new covenant and justification by faith in Galatians,
- the foundations of our faith in Romans,
- the strength of our armor in Ephesians,
- how to have joy in Philippians,
- the truth about Jesus in Colossians,
- about forgiveness and the power of a transformed life in Philemon,
- that Christ is greater than any angel, priest or old covenant institution in Hebrews,
- how to choose godly leaders in Titus,
- how to combat false teachers and how the true gospel leads to godliness 1 Timothy,
- how to endure, not to be ashamed of the gospel, to carry on and end well in 2 Timothy
Based on his epistles, Paul showed us the whole range right from the beginning – from our hope in the resurrection of Christ, on how to be a Christian, then how to live it out and lastly, how to end well. What better proof than to have us here now almost 2,000 years later, still benefiting from his letters and his sermons.
Tomorrow as the whole world celebrates the birth of our Savior, maybe we can learn something from Paul’s life. Perhaps his secret to a life of service can be gleaned from our main verse. The secret to a life well lived is not to take but to be to be poured out. To give instead of expecting gifts from others. Why not give Him the best birthday present of all? A life sold out for Him, just like Paul’s. All for Christ. Nothing held back. Paul certainly lived by this credo: To live is Christ, to die is gain. He did it all for God’s glory and His Kingdom.
Let us all finish the race like Paul did. Wouldn’t it be wonderful as we take our last breath on earth and our first in heaven to hear these words: Well done, good and faithful servant.
What a life.
[Reading from Blue Letter Bible – Chronological Plan]