We are reflecting on what it means to finish well and considering Paul as he approached the finish line of his life and passed the baton on to Timothy.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have 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—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4.1-8
Paul was clearly at rest, confident in the way he had spent his life, and calmly assured as he faced death by decapitation. To finish well, Paul kept his focus on the present, the past, and the future.
Paul could finish well because he had reproduced himself in others. A paraphrase of what Paul said here could read, “Timothy, you preach the Word even in the face of opposition, because I am about to die. I’m handing you the torch to carry!” I think Paul was saying that the end of his race was easier because he knew he was leaving behind people (Timothy in particular) who could carry on with the race because of his influence. He had given himself to the task of making disciples.
This is what I have been asking of myself. As I reflect on my past, have I been working at that task—making disciples? I can honestly say that during all the years of my ministry this is, in fact, what I have been attempting to do. The desire, the goal, and the activity of my time as a pastor has been to grow disciples who are following Jesus with wholehearted devotion. No, I have not always done this in the most effective manner—this lifelong project has been made up of fits and starts. Yet God has been faithful, and his promise to use me in the lives of others has been fulfilled in many ways over the years. I hold on to that truth in my heart.
I would say that each of us needs to ask ourselves, “Am I working on that task?” I am talking about obeying Jesus’ Great Commission, to make disciples of others. That Commission applies to every Christian at some level; it certainly applies to our corporate life together. If we know Christ as Savior and are following Him, then He calls us to make disciples of others. To be his disciple is to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus, and be changed by Jesus from the inside out. To be his disciple is also to seek to help others along the path of discipleship as well. It doesn’t require a discipleship program nor does it require special skills. What it does require is a certain amount of long haul commitment—commitment to continue to follow Christ to the very end. Commitment to continue to keep on learning and keep on growing no matter how long the race. Commitment to be in authentic relationship with others along the way—this isn’t a solo race. And a commitment to a certain degree of intentionality, seeking to welcome others and love others even as we have been welcomed and loved by Messiah Jesus.
Finishing well means we allow the Spirit of Christ to have his way influencing us to the very end. Finishing well also means allowing God to use us to influence others so they too can carry on the task of making disciples.
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”
2 Timothy 2.1-2