Recently I was preparing for a sermon and a funeral where the same verses in the Bible would be appropriate for both. The verse is found in 2 Timothy 4:7 ESV “I have fought the good fight, I finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The writer is near the end of his life and is indicating that he has finished the work he was created to do. He was ready to die.
The application in my sermon and the application at the funeral were slightly different. For the funeral, I was reflecting on how faithful the person had been even in the most difficult of situations. Throughout a life of 100 years, he had worked to live on purpose and to fulfill God’s call on his life. In the sermon, I was reminding people of the challenges that lie ahead in the life of a believer.
That is what I want to address here. The obstacles to being faithful to your purpose and calling in this life. He mentions three specific things: a fight, a race and remaining faithful.
A fight indicates an intense struggle. It involves confrontation. There may be blows exchanged and weapons used. Fights usually do not last a long time but they require focused strength for short periods of time. They are usually intense. One of the parties usually comes out the victor. Occasionally there is a draw. Rarely does one party walk away without wounds or scars.
Life will bring its share of fights. Intense moments of conflict that challenge our strength and resolve to overcome. We leave these times weary and tired and sometimes with scars that follow us the rest of our lives. There is no way to avoid the fights of life. The only thing we can do is be prepared for the fight. Lack of preparation will usually lead to defeat, or at the very least bring damage to our lives that we could have avoided. Strength to fight is critical. Fighting too much can be deadly. But understanding there are battles to face on your journey will assist you in overcoming.
Just as with fighting, racing requires preparation. The Bible speaks frequently about endurance. Distance races require high endurance. Training and preparation on the front side followed by a determination to overcome pain and inconvenience to complete the race on the back. In a long distance race, there will be many times when your body and mind will tell you to quit. It is in those moments that perseverance and endurance must win out.
Some days are easy. Other days are challenging. The race of life will have moments when the ground is level, the breeze is blowing and you are cruising. There will be other times when things feel like a steep hill with the sun blazing. Completing the race of life requires you to overcome the moments when quitting appears easier. The times when it doesn’t seem worth all the work and the moments when everything in you says stop. Matthew 24:13 tells us that the one who perseveres to the end shall be saved. Anyone can quit. It takes endurance and perseverance to finish the race.
Faithfulness is constant, long standing commitment to something that you have pledged yourself to. The easiest illustration is marriage. Marriage demonstrates our willingness to remain faithful to a covenant we have made a vow to. The value of faithfulness is seen in the long term benefits of remaining steadfast. When you see someone who remains faithful to anything over a long period of time, it does not indicate they were never tempted to change direction or to quit. It just signifies they made a choice one time and then continually repeated that choice over a long period of time.
When it comes to following Christ and living a life that remains faithful, it will require a decision to start in that direction and continued decisions to fulfill that commitment over an entire life. There will be many temptations. Temptations to turn away. Temptations to disobey. It is in those moments when the decision to remain faithful must be reaffirmed and the choice made again to do what needs to be done. Remaining faithful, or keeping the faith, will require the same decision to be repeated numerous times throughout your life.
It is in the end when we see the value of these things. It is sometimes difficult to see the benefit of fighting a good fight, running a race and remaining faithful throughout our lives. But as we near the end, we can see the importance of following through in these areas. Funerals are much easier for people who have fought well, ran well and remained faithful. Make that your life determination.