I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
I’m often given the privilege of leading spiritual retreats. Getting away for a few days to pray and reflect can be deeply enriching, and during the program I sometimes ask participants to do an exercise: “Imagine your life is over and your obituary is published in the paper. What would you like it to say?” Some attendees change their life’s priorities as a result, aiming to finish their lives well.
Second Timothy 4 contains the last known written words of the apostle Paul. Though probably only in his sixties, and though having faced death before, he senses his life is nearly over (2 Timothy 4:6). There will be no more mission trips now or writing letters to his churches. He looks back over his life and says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (v. 7). While he hasn’t been perfect (1 Timothy 1:15–16), Paul assesses his life on how true he’s stayed to God and the gospel. Tradition suggests he was martyred soon after.
Contemplating our final days has a way of clarifying what matters now. Paul’s words can be a good model to follow. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith. Because in the end what will matter is that we’ve stayed true to God and His ways as He provides what we need to live, fight life’s spiritual battles, and finish well.
Imagine your life is over and your obituary is published. What would you like it to say? What changes might you make now to “finish the race” well?
Father God, strengthen me to live faithfully for You, right to the end.
Paul used several word pictures in 2 Timothy 4 to describe his life. He noted that he was “being poured out like a drink offering” (v. 6). This is likely a reference to the sacrificial ceremony instituted by God in Numbers 15:1–10, in which wine was poured out (see Hosea 9:4). However, well before the time of Moses, Jacob “poured out a drink offering” to God at Bethel (Genesis 35:14).
Paul also employed two metaphors from athletic competition, including fighting “the good fight” and completing “the race” (2 Timothy 4:7), references to Olympic sports of the day. And he spoke of “the time for my departure” (v. 6), an image evocative of a voyage. Paul, who’d traveled much during his lifetime to share the good news of Jesus, was now constrained by chains. Yet one final trip awaited him. His cold, damp prison cell served as a port of departure for heaven.