KEY TEXT: 2 Timothy 4:6-8 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. 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.
KEY THOT: Finishing a race is what counts, not the starting. No athlete is rewarded for starting the race, only for finishing it. God's reward of the "crown of righteousness" is reserved for those who finish the race, not those who started it: "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" (vv. 7-8).
Sadly, Paul himself has personally come across many who have dropped out of the race for various reasons: "At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!" (v.16). In 1 Tim 1:19, Paul warns Timothy to "wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience" because "by rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19).
The Christian race is a marathon and we must be self-disciplined and focused so we can finish the race and not fall out of the race. While we will need God's grace to run the race to the finish, we nevertheless have a choice whether to continue in the race or to drop out of the race completely. The key to staying in the race is obeying the Spirit: "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16),. We walk by the Spirit by choosing to align our life with the desires of the Spirit while rejecting the desires of the sinful flesh.
Like divorce, desertion from the Lord never happens suddenly. It is a consequence of daily yielding to the flesh little by little while ignoring the Spirit's conviction in our heart. May we confess our sins daily once we are convicted of our sin by the Spirit so we may be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Let us not.allow sin to harden our hearts so as to shut our ears to the voice of the Spirit.
Father help us finish the race well by contnually abiding with Christ. Develop in us the discipline of godliness that we may not yield to the desires of our flesh. Amen.