Keeping the Faith
Robert Wurtz II
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Paul is writing to young Timothy prior to his appearance before Nero and his eventual martyrdom. 2 Timothy is loaded with figurative language comparing the spiritual life to to our physical lives. Here he uses a favorite figure of fighting the good fight of faith, as it were an athletic contest. This is how Paul explains the life of faith. Many run, but one receives the prize. We are to run that we might obtain. Paul gives insight into his approach to the life of faith telling us that he brought his body into subjection lest when he had preached to others he himself would be a castaway. (1 Cor. 9:27) Some of the Corinthians desperately needed teachings concerning sexual immorality, so the language employed is particularly strong. The passage means to “hit under the eye.” This is not a literal smiting, but to take himself by the scruff of the neck, if necessary, to keep control of his natural physical desires. This takes discipline. He was conditioned to fight a good fight. Why? Because he wanted to finish his course.
Finishing our course
When Saul was confronted by Jesus on the road to Demascus, He was given a task to complete that would consume the rest of his life. He was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, preaching the Gospel in places never before reached. Paul states at the end of life, I have finished my course. The word course (dromos) is used by Luke (and Paul) to first describe the ministry of John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Christ and when he had “completed his course” of preaching repentance declared he was not worthy to loose the shoes of Christ. (Acts 13:25) It is used by Paul in Acts when he tells the Ephesians that he wanted to finish his course with joy, in spite of the fact that the leaders wept hoping he would remain there. (Acts 20:24) Writing to Timothy at the end of life he could declare, I have finished my course. He did everything necessary to bring his body into subjection that he might fight a good fight. This set the stage for the lifetime accomplishment of finishing the course that had been set before him. He worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It’s what we all have to do if we are to share Paul’s testimony.
Keeping the faith
It would be beyond the scope of these thoughts to even begin to explore the great many sufferings and trials that Paul endured over the course of his life. He suffered the loss of all things and was frequently alone being tested for his faith. He was a true leader that knew Him in whom He had believed. His trust was in Christ. In his own words, I have kept the faith. What a staggering miracle! He had been beaten enough times to kill multiple men and yet, he could say “I have kept the faith.” He lived with a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan buffeting him, but he kept the faith. He watched as people he had ministered along side abandoned Christ, but he kept the faith. His life was one dramatic act of suffering after the next. He confessed at one point, For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus. (2 Cor. 7:5-6) The Devil threw everything he had at him, but he kept the faith.
The battlefield of faith
I wish to end this entry with a passage from the writer to the Hebrews:
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39)
Our word here for draw back is hupostello and it means to furl the sail. When a ship was going into battle it might lower the sail or ‘draw back’ so as to avoid the danger. As believers we must keep the sail raised and at full mast. that is to say, we must allow the Holy Spirit to carry us along to what He has for us. There will be a great many trials along the way. Some will be very difficult. This was Paul’s experience. His ultimate destination was martyrdom under Nero. Not all people end their life this way. Some suffer terribly with sickness or loss. Keeping the faith at these times will come as a result of walking with God all the other times. We must bring our bodies into subjection and be disciplined for this fight of faith. All that we are experience right now is preparing us for our future. Paul was ready when the time came. He could state with confidence, For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)