The Deathbed Perspective, Part 2: Running the Race

Read and reflect on 2 Timothy 4:6–8; Hebrews 12:1–3.

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.”

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 back 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.”

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Images courtesy of Pixabay.

Clean Out the Closet!

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! –2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB

I knew I was overdue to clean out my clothes closet when I tried on three outfits for church one Sunday morning and none of them would do.

My wardrobe included three pairs of polyester slacks I’d worn nearly every week for ten years (I exaggerate not) and were coming apart at the seams, missing buttons at the waist, and were way too baggy since I’d lost some weight. My sweaters were fuzzbally, nearly transparent in places, or had shrunk in the wash. Most of my skirts, blouses, and dresses were tired and lifeless and looked like I felt. And most everything was way outdated.

Over the years, I’d added a piece or two to my wardrobe here and there, but, instead of removing anything to make room in my four-foot-wide closet, I simply shoved the old stuff back where it was hard to reach. My dresser drawers weren’t much better. I had to iron anything before I wore it.

Finally I decided it was time. No more hanging on to stuff in case I lost weight or in case I’d want to wear it someday. No more “fat” and “skinny” wardrobes.

My tastes were changing, too. Instead of prints (usually flowers), I wanted solids in shades that complimented my coloring and in styles that complimented my body shape.

So after a daylong shopping trip and another daylong closet-cleaning session, I had fifty empty hangers, two empty dresser drawers, a healthy donation for Goodwill, and an equally healthy donation for the garbage man—and a feeling of being set free.

Every time I wear one of my new outfits, I feel like a new woman, lighter and happier than I’ve felt in years. Amazing how hanging on to useless old things can bog us down.

We do the same spiritually, don’t we? Those old sins are hard to let go because we have a hard time believing we are truly forgiven and so we refuse to forget. We won’t forgive ourselves, so we carry around a load of guilt, thinking this is our penance.

Is that what God does? No!

When we asked for His forgiveness and accepted His Son, we were changed inside. Not patched up, like a garment that needs mending. We were born again (John 3:16), given new life—His life in us. We became not fixed-up versions of our old selves, but brand new persons!

We were washed completely clean (1 John 1:9). All our sin-stain was bleached out entirely by the Son, and our hearts are now as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:2,7). All the garbage of sin and guilt was flung as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and God remembers it no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

So why do we? Perhaps because we feel unworthy? But God considered us worthy enough to send His Son to die in our place and open the way to Heaven.

So, Christian, clean out your closet and toss the fuzzbally attitudes, oversized guilt, outdated shame. Don your new clothes—clothes as clean, fresh, and new as a spring morning—clothes that will make you feel like a new person—because, Child of God, you really are.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Amen. (Psalm 51:10,12)

Read and reflect on Matthew 9:14–17.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Image 600-02377761 © Lisa Brdar