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 (2 Timothy 4:6–8, esv).
Final words are carefully chosen and should command our attention. When the apostle Paul wrote his last words to Timothy, he chose to encourage his young disciple to persevere—to run the long race for Christ without shame. In the closing moments of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight.” He had no regrets about fighting against anything that would keep him from pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
The battle isn’t against other people, though they may be involved. The battle is a spiritual one, and the battlefield keeps changing (see Ephesians 6:10–20). We are called to fight the “good fight.”
You will discover that the struggle may be about finances, marriage, or employment—but no matter where you are called to battle—keep fighting. Don’t give up!
Paul goes on: “I have finished the race.” There is a celebration to anticipate as we approach the finish line. Done! I have finished! This is the same expression Jesus uttered on the cross in John 19:30, “It is finished.” Our goal is to run through the finish line—accelerating as we break the tape!
The greatest shame of human existence is when we start something but don’t finish well. Think about it—give up on your marriage, your kids, or on God, and you may feel a little relief at first, but give it some time. The waves of Why didn’t I press ahead? Why did I give up? can overwhelm you. You have to be willing to struggle on for as long as it takes. If you don’t cross the finish line with your family, friends, and the Lord, what have you accomplished?
Paul wasn’t going to end his race empty-handed. While some had fallen away, he could still say, “I have kept the faith.” He didn’t lose it, distort it, or fail to pass it on. He kept it, and the faith kept him. Paul realized that beyond the finish line there waited an award worth far more than anything he might have to endure this side of eternity. He had his eyes on the prize: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” The words laid up mean already on the shelf, stocked, and ready.
His claim can be yours, too. Your crown is already on the shelf. It has your name on it. God wants so much to place it on your brow. In just a very short time, you are going to cross the line—that day will arrive. You can affirm the source of your crown by saying with Paul, “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.”
The words “loved his appearing” perfectly describe the persevering Christian. His eyes are on the future; she’s waiting for the day Christ will return, wanting to be found faithful. Does that describe you? Are you fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith? The day is coming, and if you are fighting, finishing, keeping—your crown will be waiting.
Lord, I don’t know if I have minutes, days, or years ahead of me, but whenever my time comes, I want to be found faithful. I want to run this race with endurance for Your glory, so keep me near Your Son and help me keep the faith. I confess how desperately I need Your strength in the fight. Spur me on to cross the finish line and break the tape, accelerating with joy! In Jesus’ worthy name I pray, amen.