Finish the course

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2 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

We’ve been thinking about Paul’s parting words to Timothy:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  (2 Timothy 4:7)

First Paul compares himself to a single-minded soldier.  The victory is certain in Jesus but the fight remains arduous.   One day, however, it will be finished and peace will reign.

Now we turn to the imagery of an athlete.  The “course” which Paul pictures is a running track.  And the Christian is an athlete – compelled by a vision of the crown and striving to persevere to the end.

Athletes make immense sacrifices to compete in the games.  But a vision of Olympic glory sustains them through long-hours of training and many set-backs.  Paul wants to instil this basic long-termism in Timothy.  After the exhaustion and self-sacrifice comes the prize.  And the prize is worth it.

That’s how he goes on…

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:8)

In our modern games the athletes are awarded medals.  In the ancient games it was a crown.

Who is the crown for?  Well Paul’s phrasing is telling.  He does not say “This crown is for all who have soldiered as hard as I have.”  He does not say “This victory is for all who have run as hard as I have.”  He does not say “This crown is for all who have persevered as valiantly as I have.”  No, the crown is for those who “love his appearing.”

If we simply love Jesus.  If we simply want Him – then we will receive the crown.

What kind of crown is Paul anticipating?  Well he tells us in Philippians and 1 Thessalonians.  He calls them:

my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown (Philippians 4:1)

What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.  (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

Paul’s crown will be to share in the victory of Christ with the Philippians, with the Thessalonians, with Timothy.  That’s the prize which makes all our efforts worthwhile: we will enjoy Christ along with all those we have touched with His love.

Think now of those you’ve ministered to in the name of Jesus?  Think of those you want to see sharing in Christ’s future feast?  They are your crown.

Stay the course.  It’s definitely worth it.

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