Our Scripture reading is from 2 Timothy 4:6-8:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
At the beginning of a new year there is talk about resolutions, goal-setting, and fresh starts. Much of the talk is insightful and needed. And we all know that changing ingrained bad habits is often a Herculean task.
However, what we don’t hear much about is finishing well. About sticking with something until it is completed. About hanging tough when the excitement wanes and the fun fades. Many of us find it easier to “give up,” “check out,” or make some excuse about why we “changed our minds” concerning our former resolutions and goals. Sadly, this is not limited to the secular realm. It affects the spiritual realm also. The “let’s-just-quit” attitude and the “I guess I don’t have what it takes” mentality is everywhere.
May I make a suggestion? Perhaps one of the ways we can defeat such an attitude and actually follow through on our resolutions and goals is to have the right kind of “models.” Let me suggest that all of us purpose to live like the Apostle Paul lived. He lived each day so that if it were his last day, he would have no regrets. He lived “in the clear.” Paul was within months, if not weeks or days, of his approaching death.
Hopefully, our death is still in the far future. But we have no guarantee of the future. Therefore, let’s be spiritually wise and purpose to live each day in such a manner that if it turns out to be our last day, we will have no spiritual regrets. Using the Apostle Paul as our example, here is how to live each day in the clear.
Like Paul, All of Us Face the Certainty of Death (2 Tim. 4:6)
Live each day spiritually as if it is your last day.
Paul had an inner assurance that he was spiritually ready. In 2 Timothy 4:6-7, he wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
The statement, “I have kept the faith” indicates a confident assurance that one is right with God. Each of us needs such an assurance. And in order to have assurance that one is ready to die, one must be sure that the following is true in his or her life.
First, one must be sure that he has repented of all his sins and has placed his faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sins.
Second, one must gain and maintain a clear conscience.
Paul testified that he always took “pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16). To have a clear conscience toward mankind means that to your knowledge, no one can point their finger at you and truthfully say that you knowingly did them wrong and did not attempt to make the wrong right. To have a clear conscience toward God means that you do not have any known sin in your life that you have not confessed to God and forsaken.
Ask God to help you to adopt a Biblical view of death
Paul refused to be fearful of death. Although Scripture calls physical death the last “enemy” we will face, we are told that Christ has conquered death and removed its sting for Christians.
Paul pictured death in his mind as a “departure,” a term used of sailboats in the first century of the Christian era when they would hoist the anchor and set sail. It is also used of a traveling soldier who, when it was time to leave a certain place, would take down his “tent” and get ready to go.
Concerning his own death, Paul knew that the moment of departing the physical body brought with it the immediate presence of Jesus Christ. He said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). It is important that Christians learn how to stop fearing death.
Like Paul, Let Us Seek to Demonstrate Each Day Our Loyalty to Jesus Christ
Paul’s life as a Christian had not been easy. He had encountered many difficulties and experienced much satanic opposition. He wrote, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7a). Paul was not looking for problems, but when he encountered them, he did not give up. He was not a spiritual “quitter.” He wrote, “I have finished my course” (2 Tim. 4:7b). It is important to learn the truth that one of the greatest abilities is dependability.
In Paul’s case, he purposed to live each day in full obedience and loyalty to Jesus Christ. He had one spiritual goal: to please Jesus in everything (Col. 1:10). Paul fixed his gaze on Jesus and let nothing and no one distract him from fully following his Lord. He wrote, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Paul was faithful and loyal to Jesus through thick and thin.
Like Paul, We Can Be Certain of Our Spiritual Destiny (2 Tim. 4:8)
Because of his obedient relationship with Jesus, Paul had a confident expectation. He wrote, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
To Paul, death would be the last challenge to face before the righteous judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, presented him with a “crown of righteousness.” Paul lived to the glory of God. Yes, people misunderstood him, and falsely accused him, but Paul knew in Whom he had believed and was persuaded that it was possible to finish the spiritual race successfully. Yes, Emperor Nero could declare him guilty and condemn him to death because he was a follower of Christ, but Paul knew that when he stood before the “righteous Judge” there would be a coronation.
Whatever we as Christians face in this life, no matter how difficult or painful, Jesus is keeping track of our lives and counting on our loyalty. He assures us that each of us can be faithful to God and receive, like Paul, a crown of righteousness at our death. Such a crown, Paul writes, “is not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8b).
Starters are one thing. Finishers are another. If Jesus would suddenly appear, would you be ashamed of anything in your life? Don’t leave anything unsettled. Being completely clear is the right standard.
Don’t be like the fellow who sent a confession to the Internal Revenue Service. He wrote, “I have not been able to sleep well for two years. Here is my check for $1,200 for back taxes.” He even signed his name and added a short P.S. which read, “If I don’t sleep better in a week, I will send you another $1,200.” He felt he had to do something to relieve his guilt, but he didn’t want to do too much. Nothing kills the joy of meeting with God more thoroughly than guilt – yet it is so common.
Recurring guilt is perhaps the most frequent struggle in our Christian lives. Let’s purpose in our hearts that by God’s grace we will finish well, and when we die, because we daily lived in the clear, we will have “no regrets.” This can be true of each of us if we will fully obey Jesus in all that he says to us.
Do you have feelings of guilt bothering you? Why not take them to Jesus? Now.
Originally published in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.