The last several weeks at Westwood have been filled with rich content from the Word of God. Our journey through the end of the 5th chapter and beginning of the 6th chapter of Hebrews has afforded us all an opportunity to drink deeply. But it has also (hopefully) challenged us in seeking to properly interpret a very difficult and widely debated section of Scripture. In the end, though, I pray that we have all been called to take inventory of exactly where we stand in relation to a Holy God while understanding the serious warnings of neglecting the great salvation we have in Christ.
As I sat in my class at Southeastern on Monday listening to my professor walk us through the book of 2 Timothy, I couldn’t help but recall the teaching we have heard from Hebrews 6. This was especially the case as we looked at chapter 4, as Paul wrote to Timothy these words in light of his impending death…
“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.” (4:6-8 ESV, emphasis mine)
Did you catch that? What is it that gives Paul comfort as his death is near? Certainly he, in seeking to encourage Timothy, could have reflected once again on his incredible, miraculous conversion experience on the road to Damascus. But, he doesn’t do that, does he? He instead rejoices in finishing the race. He rejoices in the fact that he kept the faith until the end. It is because of this (“Henceforth”) that he is confident of the crown of righteousness that he will receive from his Lord. This is not a unique crown to Paul, rather the same award that will be given to “all who have loved his appearing,” or in other words, to all who finish their race.
Don’t miss this…I believe that this message to Timothy serves as both an encouragement and an admonition! Despite the persecution and hardship that Timothy will endure, the reward that awaits him is greater. But, in the meantime, Timothy is to keep fighting the good fight. He is to strive to finish his race and continue in the faith. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the Word…” (4:1-2b)
As he approaches the very end of his life, Paul is filled with assurance as to his salvation in Christ. He is confident of his reward. I believe that God wants all of his (true) children to be filled with the same assurance.
We all struggle with doubts. I see that as a part of our human nature. We are still clouded and struggle with this sin nature despite our redemption in Christ. I have had many people share these kinds of doubts with me in the past. I think we can do a great injustice to a person by simply urging someone in the midst of their doubts to simply return to the time and place that they “were saved” in order to be reassured. It seems as if both Paul and the writer of Hebrews would not endorse this type of council. Instead, we should be driven in times of doubt to take inventory of our lives presently. Are we fighting the good fight? Are we keeping the faith? Are we striving to finish?
If we are learning anything from our study through Hebrews it should be that our salvation is a serious business. Salvation brings transformation and transformation always will breed change. We still struggle with sin and the tendency to become lazy and spiritually numb. But, Scripture is clear that the true child of God will finish the race. Don’t rely on a prayer once uttered or a feeling once experienced. Instead, take constant inventory and continually examine how the Gospel is changing you to be more like Christ. Take your spiritual temperature often in order to understand your desire to know Him more.
Paul does not encourage Timothy to somehow rest or find abiding comfort in the memory of a conversion experience. The Christian life, after all, is not about resting…it is about fighting. It is about preaching and working and loving and sacrificing. We are to do all of this with the expectant hope that when our work here is done we will then enter our rest! So, let’s get to work! Let’s finish our race! I have been convicted that laziness provides a sanctuary for doubt. Let us instead be filled with assurance as we run our race together with endurance with our eyes squarely focused on the author and perfecter of our faith until the day He decides that our work is done and our race is completed. And this will be the day of our death.