In a race, how you begin is not as important as how you finish. And this same principle is also true to a large degree in the spiritual realm. That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us to “lay aside every encumbrance” that hinders us in the race set before us. A believer’s lifetime is not a sprint but a marathon walk with Christ, and our goal should be the same as Paul’s—to fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.
It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuits and pleasures of this life and forget that we have a higher goal. Once we cross the finish line and see Christ face-to-face, everything else will fade in comparison. So let’s run with endurance the race set before us.
The Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy were spoken near the end of his ministry. He was in prison and he was expecting to die soon. He wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (II Timothy 4:6). Many of his associates had deserted him, probably for fear of ending up in prison like him. Onesiphorus and Luke were among the few who remained with him.
Paul summed everything up in three statements. First, “I have fought the good fight.” Paul used a metaphor derived from military battle to describe his life and ministry. It had been a fight. One is reminded of his teaching on the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. Our fight or struggle is not against human beings, but “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Thus, his fight was not just any fight; it was the “good” fight. It was good because he fought for the Lord Jesus Christ against the hosts of hell.
Second, “I have finished the race.” This time, Paul used a metaphor derived from athletic games to describe his life and ministry. It had been a race. One is reminded of Acts 20:24 where Paul referred to his desire to finish “my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” His life and ministry had been a race on a course around the known world. He had fought the good fight in every place that he had visited in his missionary journeys.
Finally, “I have kept the faith.” With this statement Paul stopped using metaphors to describe his life and ministry. During the good fight he fought in the race on a course around the world, he had remained faithful to Jesus Christ and the ministry he had been given. His fight was over, his race was finished, he had kept the faith, and it was now up to Timothy to follow his example.
Timothy kept Paul’s letter, obviously, and Paul’s message to him has now become a message to all of us. Hence, let us also follow Paul’s example. Let us fight the good fight, and finish the race, and keep the faith.