ˇ°SPIRITUAL IN ENDURANCEˇ± By Pastor YAU
Text: 2 Timothy 4:6-8 August 31, 2014.
1) In the sports arena: On October 20, 1968, the most anticipated marathon race of the Olympic Games in Mexico City, drew the world's attention by a runner from Tanzania, John Stephen Akwari. Mr. Akwari fell and injured his knee and ankle badly in the middle of the run, but he insisted on continue to run the race after first aid people stopped the bleeding, wrapped his leg in gauze. The injury slowed him down so much, that he became the last person to finish the race. When he eventually finished running the 26 miles and 385 yards race, entered the Olympic stadium after 700pm as the last runner to finish the race, sirens of the escorting ambulances and security vehicles all sounded in his honor. The over 45,000 spectators on the stands honored him with a standing ovation that lasted for 10 minutes. When he was interviewed right there at the finish line, asked why he didn't quit the race when he suffered the injury, he answered like this, ˇ°When my country sent me here to the race, I didn't promise them I will win a medal. But I did promise them I will run the whole course. My country didn't send me here just to start the race, but to finish the race as well, and that is what I need to do.ˇ±
2) In the spiritual arena: Though many of the kingdom soldiers had quit in the middle of your service for various reasons, some had never reported for duty in their life time to become soldiers of the Lord. Paul has been a superior model of real soldier of Christ both in his courage and life long persistence. At his twilight of life, after he had won many battles for Jesus, he tried in a personal way, to encourage Timothy, his beloved son in the ministry, to be steadfast in his commitment to the ministry God had called him into. He said, ˇ°I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I had kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.ˇ± (2 Tim 4:7-8) Paul had no cause to be ashamed of his life long service to the Lord. When he looks back on his life, he has nothing to feel bad or regret both to God and to man.
Using his personal life as an example, Paul tried to encourage Timothy, his dear partner in the service of the Lord to stand firm, be strong, be fearless in ministering God's message to people in his world.
After Paul, in the over 2,000 years of Christian history, we see millions after millions of young men and women, dared to step forward to answer the calls of God into gospel ministry. (Tears of joy floating in my eyes at this moment) It is because of Paul, Timothy and countless of these faithful servants of God and their life long dedication, this world has a hope to hear the word of God and come to Him for the forgiveness of sin.
COURAGE TO FACE A WARFARE: ˇ°I had fought the good fight.ˇ± (4:7)
1) A winning life is a spiritual warfare: In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul pointed it clear to the Ephesian Christians, ˇ°Be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our battle is not against fresh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.ˇ± All Christians are to see spiritual warfare we face each and everyday. We are the soldiers of the Lord in this world, not just to fight this war to keep us safe, we are here to safe millions of souls that are being captured and oppressed under the yoke of sins by the power of Satan. There is a war in our life we need to win. There is a war in the world we also have to win to save the souls of men.
2) A winning life is about sacrifice: If you haven't been to a war zone, all you need to see and know how life is like in a war zone is to watch a war movie. There isn't such thing as safety or security in a war zone. There isn't any of comfortable life, much less luxury life in a war zone. Things we think that are yours today may be brown in pieces tomorrow. Things you hold as important and precious in peaceful days may become burdens in war time. All you care to protect is your very life and the lives of those you love. Jesus told his disciples, ˇ°Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.ˇ± (Matt 8:20) All who are committed to serve the Lord, either full-time or volunteer, we need to see and be ready to give up, to sacrifice and to be willing to let go, so we can be faithful soldiers. When you are not afraid of sacrifices, you will win the battle and the war. That is why Paul could claim he had fought a good fight and he had won.
ENDURANCE TO FINISH A RACE: ˇ°I had finished the race.ˇ± (4:7)
1) A winning life is a competition: A race is a competition, any race you participate, you are in competition with someone or ones. In Christian life, we are not competing with men, we are in competition with the Devil, Satan. We are competing with them for souls, saving human souls. Paul was in that race to save souls. Millions faithful soldiers of Christ throughout the 2,000 plus years, endeavoring the gospel ministry are competing for souls. We are racing with time, opportunity, methods and all means to reach the loss souls. It is a race we are called to win. Countless dedicated soldiers of God starting with Paul and his fellow servants, we need to continue the race regardless of the price we may have to pay. We are called and sent to reach all nations, peoples of the world. If we fail to do that, souls will be lost forever. These included those souls of your family, your close friends, classmates, neighbors, people work with you, you know them and you love them. We need to race fast to save their souls. If we fail in the competition, Satan will get them to hell.
2) A winning life needs sustenance: Everyone who has ever been in a race, particularly a long race like the one John Stephen Akwari of Tanzania did, a marathon, he will know the hard part isn't about participating in the race, it is about how and where you get the sustaining power to continue the race until you are at the finish line. This is a very important issue for many once good and faithful servants of God. They started with all the enthusiasm, energy and good faith that they want to and will finish the race. But too many had failed, deserted their posts, disappeared and forgot their call from God. These are preachers, pastors, church leaders, Sunday School teachers, group leaders and once fervent servants of the Lord in His churches. They can't keep up with the demands of energy, time, resources and will power to finish their race. I particularly admire Paul and all those who made a commitment once, and they keep that commitment all the way to the last day at the finish line. It isn't about how you get started; it is all about how you get to the finishing line. A half-baked cake isn't any cake at all.
COMMITMENT TO KEEP THE FAITH: ˇ°I have kept the faith.ˇ± (3:7)
1) A winning life on the word of God: ˇ°Ten pistin,ˇ± noun, the faith. This is the word of God the gospel message God has entrusted Paul. We may translate it ˇ°the Christian faith (teaching, doctrine).ˇ± The Lord called Paul to bring his message of salvation to the world. ˇ°The Lord said to Ananias: Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.ˇ± (Acts 9:15) Paul testified the call of God in 1 Cor. 9:16-17, ˇ°When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward. If not voluntarily I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.ˇ± The word of God and the responsibility of spreading it is the core of the life of Paul. There isn't any other purpose for Paul's life, except knowing, believing and sharing the word of God. Getting to know the word of God is what all Christians should do because we were called to share His word. How can we share God's word if we ourselves don't know the Word of God. The ultimate purpose of our existence on earth today is about being witnesses of Christ. We need to be serious to learn God's word so we may be effective in sharing God's message to those who need salvation through faith in Jesus.
2) A winning life is a faithful life: ˇ°Have keptˇ± is from tereo, which means to watch over, heeding or preserving the integrity, truthfulness. Throughout his whole life, Paul was faithful both in keeping the integrity of God's word from being corrupted and in spreading the message regardless of opposition and persecution. This is a very important characteristic of Paul's life: Faithful in the message and faithful in the preaching of the message.
There are dangers in many Christians, both preachers and believers alike: We face a world of changing the integrity of God's word in order to buy in to the trend of the world. Many leaders of churches and denominations had been led by secular culture and Satanic temptation to change, dilute, degrade, even totally abandon the word of God in the Bible in order to follow the secular trend. These people will face the judgment of God when they stand before the Lord. The second danger on the faith is lacking the desire to ˇ°keepˇ± the word as the center of our life. Too many Christians either don't know God's word or don't follow God's word in their everyday life. Both dangers are being unfaithful in keeping God's word alive and powerful. When we receive a trust, we are to be faithful in keeping that trust.
NOW REWARDS OF A WINNING LIFE: (4:8) Many Christians shy away from living a winning life because they worry about the sacrifices they have to give in this life. Their goal of life is short and temporary. We need to remember that we are only sojourners in this world. Our eternal home is in heaven with God and our Lord. Listen to what Paul said about his goal of life in the future:
1) A crown from a righteous God: ˇ°In the future, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.ˇ± (4:8) Paul was sure that there IS a crown laid up, reserved for him to be awarded on that day, the day either he would go to heaven to meet his Lord in heaven, or the Lord would have returned to meet him here on earth. ˇ°Crownˇ± is always a symbol of glory, prestige, honor and authority in the Bible. Think about it: what can we sacrifice here on earth to trade for a crown in heaven? Paul was so sure he would receive the crown because God is a righteous Judge who will make the fair and righteous decision based on facts and evidence of his life. What are the facts and evidence in your life the righteous Judge, God, may reward you when you see him in heaven? Don't be fooled by the lies in this world that you neglect to give and save for that day when you arrive in heaven. Jesus warns us in the parable of ˇ°building on the rock or on the sandˇ± in Matthew 7:24-28. You will be left behind empty handed when you see God in heaven if you are not prepared today. Ask this question: Do I live a righteous life that the righteous Judge may award me a crown of righteousness?
2) Crowns for all who have loved God: ˇ°And not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.ˇ± (4:8b) The glorious prospect of receiving the crown from the righteous Judge, our God, not only belongs to Paul, but also to all who have loved God and long for his appearing. Paul set one simple but necessary condition for anyone who desires to receive that crown: To have loved the Lord. Here the perfect tense means one needs to establish a loving relationship with the Lord, not just for his own salvation, but to LOVE the Lord. When asked of the greatest law in the Bible, Jesus easily pointed out ˇ°love the Lord your God with all you heart, all your mind, all your strength.ˇ± (Matt 22:37) How much have your loved the Lord? In what way or ways you may show Him you have loved him? From the level of your love to the Lord you may almost know if you will receive a crown once you arrive in heaven. This is recorded here as an encouragement for all Christians the opportunity to win a crown while you are still here. It also serves as a warning sign to all who have neglected to build a loving relationship with the Lord to catch up fast while you still have time to do so.
1) Are you ready to quit the race? Do you feel weary and tired in your heart as a Christian, feeling weak and down on your life? Have you stumbled and hurt in your journey of faith and you are read to quit? Don't look to those who have failed before you, look to Paul and people like John Akwari, those who keep running the race until you reach the finish line. God is there at the finish line, waiting to welcome you as you finish the race. Don't quit God because God hasn't quit you.
2) There is a crown waiting for you: Turn your life around from loving the world and self to love the Lord and all belong to the Lord, his people, and his church. Live your life as if you are going to heaven to receive that crown. Be sure you are well prepared while you still have time and opportunity to show God you LOVE him, so, you will receive a crown when you get there. Life is not all about today or tomorrow. It is about where you will go and what you will receive once you finish your journey on earth. Be wise and be prepared.