“I have finished the race” 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
Today I met with a person who has stumbled in life and is very concerned about their personal history. I felt that this particular person would likely have many years left in which to correct their course in life and avoid the mistakes of the past.
It is an appropriate matter to reflect on our past performance in life. Taking stock is always a worthwhile activity. To examine where we are, how we got there, and where we want to be, is the mark of a progressive thinking person. But while I heard regrets about past failures I became concerned at a lack of comment by him about changing the future.
Being stuck in the past can keep the best of people from improving their lot in life. For too many people, when they come to later life, there is a feeling of regret that more was not accomplished with their opportunities. The remarkable person who is quoted in our verse today is none other than the apostle Paul.
Paul is in the home stretch of life and knows he does not have much time left. Therefore it is remarkable to read the verses that follow this one. Paul appears to be busy right up to the end as he calls for certain individuals to come to him and help him in his ministry. He desires certain books to be brought that will aid him in the final days.
There are marks of organization, a desire to still accomplish things, and the great concern to “finish well”. I have the greatest admiration for Paul as he seeks to keep occupied right to the last moment.
There is a striking resemblance between Paul and our Lord. Even when Jesus was being crucified He was still accomplishing things on behalf of others. His own dreadful situation did not deter Him from doing significant things for the people around Him. For example as the hammer was being used to fix Him on the cross Jesus repeatedly prayed that His executioners would be forgiven.
Then Jesus somehow caught the attention of one of the criminals who were crucified with Him. God caused the man to see past the apparent weakness of Jesus and His situation to recognize our Lord’s true character and ministry. When he asked Jesus for help (Luke 23:39-43) Jesus assured him that he would be in heaven with Him that very day. How could Jesus organize such an amazing thing from such a position of disadvantage? He could because He is God.
Then, while hanging on the cross, Jesus arranges for the care of His mother now that He would no longer be there for her. (John 19:26-27) Jesus also caused a prophecy about His execution to be fulfilled by telling the soldiers of His thirst (John 19:28-29). Right up to the very final hour of His life Jesus was productive and benefitting others.
If we are followers of Jesus we should not let anything stop us from being useful in the work of living for our great Saviour until we cross the finish line. We need to follow the example of Paul because he followed the example of Jesus.