2 Timothy 4:6-7 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
As we look at the various steps we encounter along Life’s Journey we come to probably the greatest, the last one. The Bible describes this journey as a race and this race is not so much to finish first but to finish well, to step across the Finish Line hearing the words “Well done good and faithful servant.” The bible reveals people God used to reveal Himself who started out well but who didn’t finish well.
JONAH (Jonah 1-4):
The prophet Jonah, though extremely reluctant to reveal God’s message, did and saw revival take place in Ninevah. Sadly as Jonah revealed God’s message his heart was also revealed and he became angry at God for showing compassion on the wicked Ninevites. The result was that he withdrew to the outskirts of the city removing himself from experiencing the revival of repentance. He chose instead to pout under a vine and when the vine was gone, Jonah got even angrier. He was called and chosen by God yet he let anger lead him instead of the Lord. As the story starts to wrap up we hear one of God’s closing question in Jonah 4:9 “But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” For Jonah it ended in a sad state of depression, isolation and a desire for death. Jonah chose to be defined by what he was against and most angry people do. The outburst of anger in our lives is really a reflection of what we are protesting. Jonah got off track when he started to protest God’s grace, and become mad at mercy. Anger is a powerful feeling and it can become the fuel that drives and directs our race. We become derailed when we are driven by our feelings over the desires of the Father. Instead of being driven by a desire to follow the Father he focused on his feelings and was derailed even to the point of death. Like Jonah we too can be tripped up and diverted in the race by anger.
SAUL (1 Samuel 10:1, 9):
Saul was chosen and called by God, anointed by Samuel and even prophesied, yet his race came to ruin. How did he depart into disobedience? He became jealous of a younger more talented soldier by the name of David. Saul’s jealousy drove him to attempted murder and eventually a tragic death at the end of his own sword (1 Samuel 31). Saul was driven by a desire for praise of self more than the Savior which is always at the root of jealousy. Many today suffer from similar emotions, they let their desire for praise direct their path so they justify their jealousy and their run becomes based in rage. It’s easy to get sucked into the comparison trap where we judge ourselves according to others. Finish well, don’t get tripped up and diverted by jealousy.
SOLOMON (1 Kings 2:45):
Solomon was blessed by God to be the wisest man ever, he built the temple, was visited by God and prayed great prayers. Yet Solomon was pulled away by pleasure, he was extremely taken by women, 1 Kings 11:1-2 “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.” Solomon had a wrong appetite for women, what the Lord calls lust, Matthew 5:29 “Anyone who looks upon a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Today many men are more moved by lust than the Lord, pornography has become one of the greatest pot holes on the path. Finish well, don’t let lust cause you to lag behind.
It’s easy to get tripped up and diverted by our desires but Paul tells us to be determined, he says that finishing means:
Paul reminds us that every race has a start and that to be a good soldier we have to first enlist. The race begins when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. The same call that came to Peter and his brother Andrew in Matthew 4:19, “Come follow me” also echoes into our lives. Scripture says that straight away they left their nets and followed Jesus. In order to follow they had to forsake, for them that meant leaving their livelihood. Often today we want to follow and fool around; we divide our time between our feelings and the Father. But following Jesus is not just the start of the race it is what sustains us through the race. Today who and what are you following?
Paul followed the Father, he was loyal to the Lord and you can always spot a faithful follower by their:
Patience, they endure hardships and don’t quit. They understand that the race is plagued with hang-ups, hurdles and holes because they have heard the voice of the one they follow: John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And they hear the truth about tribulation and focus on the voice of victory.
Priorities, they seek to please the commander first. It’s time for us to ask these questions, what comes first in my life? What keeps me from serving God? Because what you faithfully follow will becomes first.
Practice, a good soldier guards the truth, he driven to do a good job and determined not to do anything to bring disgrace and dishonor to his commander. It’s about what’s right regardless of the results. When I think about faithfulness and loyalty of doing what’s right regardless of the results I often think about Uriah The Hittite. He was one of David’s mighty men who did what was right and would risk his life for his lord and anointed king. In 2 Samuel 11 when David instructed Uriah to go home and rest he insisted that it would be wrong for him to seek pleasure while the rest of the army remained vigilant. His conviction wasn’t based in being comfortable, he was hung up on honor and led by loyalty. So it is with God’s warriors and mighty men, they want to live their lives in a manner that brings honor to the Lord. What was the result of doing right, he was sent to the slaughtered. For many of us we focus on the injustice and injury instead of the instruction, “fight the good fight, finished the race, keep the faith”. Unlike Uriah who served a king that coveted and stole what belonged to him, we serve a King that cares and will bless. Are you a faithful follower, will you commit to be brave and serve the King with your last breath?