Crossing the Finish Line

Today’s Reading: 2 Timothy 2:15 – 4:22

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:5

In Paul’s last letter, he speaks again of the holiness to which God has called each of us. He has given us the Holy Spirit, through whom we have the power to stop giving in to our sinful nature and start following the urgings of the Spirit. He warns believers not to live as if they have to sin, as if they cannot overcome sin. As we talked about yesterday, he calls us to recognize that the power of the cross is available to us today through the fire of the Holy Spirit.

In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. – 2 Timothy 2:20-26

God has a purpose for each one of our lives and the pursuit of righteousness is what keeps us ready to be used by Him, for His purpose, in His time, in His way. The captives are waiting for their release. Will you be faithful so that God can use you to change someone’s heart today?

But you must remain faithful to those things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teach us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14-17

I love this scripture because it reminds me of the change that takes place in me each morning as I sit down with my Bible and my cup of coffee and spend precious time with my God. I am changed each day by His words I read on the page and His words I hear Him gently whisper. I don’t have to trust in my own ability to live a holy life but I can trust in Jesus to make changes in my heart and in my mind.

When I read a verse or passage that convicts me, I have a choice. I can say, “That’s me. I’m sinful and I mess this up every day. That’s just what I do.” Or I can say, “Lord, you know I need your help in this area. Teach me to do the right thing. Prepare me and equip me for every good thing you want to use me for today.” I use grace not as an excuse or explanation for my sin, but as the power to clean me up and make me a “utensil for honorable use.”

It is believed that this is the last letter Paul ever wrote. He speaks again of persecution, something he is experiencing first hand as he sits in a Roman prison cell, waiting for what is certain to come – a death sentence from Emperor Nero.

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord…With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News…Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution…But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling the Good News, and full carry out the ministry God has given you. – 2 Timothy 1:8; 3:12; 4:5

He puts in one sentence a summary of how he looks back at his life – a testimony that I pray I can give at the end of my life:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. – 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul goes on to speak of his eternal reward, knowing God has never abandoned him and will be there beside him, even if he is not rescued from physical death this time. His death will not mean defeat but simply completing the race and safely crossing over the finish line into the open arms of his Savior.

And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing…

The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. – 2 Timothy 4:8-9, 16-18