Finishing the Marathon of Faith Well
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “Abide (prosmenoo) still at Ephesus” (1 Tim. 1:3, KJV) or “Stay there is Ephesus” (NIV).
Literally, he instructs Timothy to “remain longer.” Stick with-it-ness is rare in our world today.
A worker doesn’t complete his task. Couples break their marriage vows. Political leaders begin well and then fail to finish well.
Less than 10% of those who begin a doctoral program complete the dissertation. Similarly, less than 10% of those who enter pastoral ministry at 25 are a pastor at 65.
1. Expect resistance and equip for the battle
“Fight (strateuo or literally “War”) a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Paul is literally instructing Timothy to “do military service” as he leads the church in Ephesus.
“Fight (agonize) the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). The picture is of a crowd gathering to watch an athletic contest.
It means to “enter a contest” or to “contend in a gymnastic wrestling match.” In other words, “wrestle the good wrestling match.”
Paul instructs the church in Ephesus that our opposition is ultimately spiritual and that we need to “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6).
2. Focus on the goal
“Take hold of the eternal life . . .” (1 Tim. 6:12). Eternal life is to know Him the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.
Those who run the spiritual marathon of life need to focus on the goal. These are those who “long for Christ’s appearing.” Our goal is to please Him, the righteous Judge, and to meet Him, our loving Savior.
The writer to the Hebrews, perhaps Paul, reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Keep your focus on the goal of knowing and serving Jesus Christ.
3. Be disciplined in your training
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul refers to the Isthmian games, which were hosted every other year by the Corinthians. “Everyone who competes in the games foes into strict training . . .”
This is a reference to discipline in nutrition and exercise. “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
The ancient boxer punished his opponent with knuckles bound in leather, the opponent took a beating. Paul applied this discipline to himself. He didn’t want to be a preacher who does not practice what he preaches.
A light view of sin is simply unacceptable to the true believer. We must battle against temptation and sin. “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness...” (1 Timothy 6:11).
4. Train with others
Timothy was encouraged to compete “in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). Paul recognizes the value of training with others, “Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas because he loved this world,
has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:9-12).
We need to know one another well enough to challenge us to press on in specific areas of our lives. We need to go beyond expecting to inspecting.
5. Have a good coach and mentor
Paul was a mentor to Timothy. He declares, “I charge you!” (1 Tim. 6:13). “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose . . .” (2 Tim. 3:10).
The apostle Paul was an example for Timothy of someone who finished well. Paul declares, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). “I have fought (agonizomai) the good fight . . .”
Do you have a Paul in your life? I met with my Paul this week who is challenging, encouraging, asking the tough questions. Do you have a Timothy in your life? Are you providing a “brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants” to someone?
“And the things you have heard me say,” Paul writes, “in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). This is not about us; it is about passing the baton to the next generation.
Are you holding on to your baton too tightly? Are you willing to accept the baton?
6. Maintain a joyful attitude
I was helping Paul Riker, a police officer, train for the Boston Marathon. He needed someone to challenge him to increase his pace. We ran the five-mile length of Block Island feeling strong and energetic.
When we got to the point of the island and turned around we discovered that the wind had been pushing at our backs propelling us along and now was in our face resisting our return trip. I immediately responded, “Ugh. This is awful.”
Paul’s quick comeback was, “This is great. What good endurance training!” Paul demonstrated the principle of joy. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
From Series: "Wednesday Family Worship "