Hold to the Faith Published week of July 26, 2020
Although many of us do not like to think about death, the psalmist says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). The phrase, “number our days” means to remember that life is short. If we fail to do so, we can become arrogant, living as if we are in control of our lives. Setting aside time periodically to contemplate the brevity of life helps us not to forget that every breath we take is granted to us by the sovereign will of God.
As Paul penned the words of 2 Timothy 4, He was contemplating his own impending death. Knowing his earthly life was soon to be finished, he made a bold statement as he life neared the end, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). Because of this, he went on to say, a glorious reward awaited him on the other side of eternity.
Paul’s criteria for a successful life is certainly very different than our present culture proclaims. Paul had led a life pleasing to God and worthy of a crown, and the success was that he kept the faith? That's right, it all boiled down to steadfast faith. As he “numbered his days” he didn’t list personal achievements like how many people he led to Christ, how many churches he planted, the number of days he spent imprisoned for the gospel, or any other of his life’s greatest works. Rather he said that he was getting a crown because He kept the faith. What does it mean to “keep the faith”?
Paul used two illustrations of a fight and a race to describe keeping the faith. He simply says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.” I believe these two illustrations tell us two things about keeping the faith. First, it must be hard. If he fought to continue in the faith, he must have struggled. Jesus described it this way in Matthew 7:14, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” If few find this small gate, it cannot be easy. Why? It is the sinful flesh that makes it hard, which continually battles against God’s Spirit inside of us. The second illustration of a race shows us that keeping the faith means enduring to the end. In any race, running doesn’t earn an award but finishing the race is when the runner is awarded. This same truth is expressed by Jesus in Matthew 10:22 and 24:13 when He says that whoever stands firm until the end will be saved.
Have you contemplated your life lately? Taking time to do so will bring encouragement to finish the race and a humility to move us to yield more fully to God, for whose sake we have been saved.
Dear God, I want to live the rest of my days on this earth fully surrendered to You. I realize I cannot do this if I don’t purposefully remember that life is short, and that You control the length of my life. Please help me to keep the faith, to remain steadfast, fighting hard against my flesh and this world and continuing to the end. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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.