I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
Last week, I began a three-part series called “The Deathbed Perspective.”
If you missed last week’s blog, let me briefly explain: The apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the young pastor Timothy from a deathbed perspective. He was in his last days on earth and penned the words we’re focusing on in this series: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
But those aren’t just words to die by—they’re words to live by.
This week we’re going to look at the second part of that verse: I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE.
I’ve always admired runners for their coordination and grace, which I never possessed, even when I was young and much lighter. Although I don’t run, I do understand what Paul is referring to and why he compares living the life of faith to running a race.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews best describes how to run this race in chapter 12, verses 1–3.
First, “throw off everything that hinders,” or, as the New Living Translation phrases it, “strip off everything that slows us down.” Ever try to run with a pack on your back? Or with clunky boots instead of running shoes? Sin hinders. Sin trips us up midstride. Unforgiveness, holding grudges, anger, jealousy, envy, resentment, pride, being judgmental . . . the list goes on. Each unconfessed sin is like a rock in a pack on your back. So confess it to God, ask forgiveness, ask Him to pluck from your heart and mind, and fling it off!
Second, “run with perseverance.” Remember, the race we run is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. To persevere, we need fortitude—strength, courage, resilience, stamina, grit, determination, and endurance. At the start of a race, these qualities are in abundant supply, but as we run, they dwindle. When the race of life is getting too much for me, I’ve learned I can slow my pace or stop and rest a while. Sometimes we need that time to lie down in green pastures, beside quiet waters, to restore our souls (Psalm 23:2, 3). Replenishing that which was spent in the run is a good idea, too. Runners feed their bodies carbohydrates to give them energy. Spiritually, we feed ourselves on God’s Word—His promises—and reminders of how He’s come through for us in the past.
The third way we persist in the race is to keep our eyes on the finish line: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” While I’ve never run a race, I have hiked a mile up a mountain and another mile down (neither was easy, believe me). Toward the end, every muscle in my body screamed with fatigue. Every pore oozed sweat. I just wanted my husband to pick me up and carry me the rest of the way. I finished the hike by putting one aching foot in front of the other and imagining my reward when I got back to the camper—a long, hot shower, clean clothes, and a soft seat by the campfire (with a good book).
For the joy at His finish line—the salvation of our souls—Jesus endured the cross and was given a throne of honor in heaven. I haven’t endured such shame and pain as He did. Few in this life of faith will. But the joy we have waiting for us at the finish line, is “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
So keep your eyes on the prize, pilgrim, put one foot in front of the other. Someday you’ll reach the finish line and rejoice.
Dear God, give me the strength, courage, and fortitude I need to run the race of life. Amen.
NOTE: Next week, we’ll look at the third part of that verse: “I have kept the faith.”