“Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith,”
It has been said that your talent is God’s gift to you, what you do with it is your gift to God. Although it is a wonderful and insightful comment on God-given gifts, it lacks urgency.
In roughly 30 years of ministry, Saint Paul spent about six of those years as a prisoner. In the Roman system of justice a pre-trial was held to clarify the charges against the accused. It is after this pre-trial that Paul writes his second letter to Timothy. It has the tone of a condemned man giving final instructions to those who will take up his mission.
Paul does not dwell on his accomplishments. He does not hold up the churches he founded or the thousands of souls he brought to God’s Kingdom. Instead he says of his ministry that he has “competed well.”
Like Saint Paul we are all “on trial.” God is the author of all life and our benefactor who has given each of us a unique set of gifts and talents. At the end of our lives we will look back and realize we had very little time to use those gifts to glorify God. The race is very swift. Along with our talent and abilities, God has written His law on our hearts. We know deep within our hearts if we are using our gifts generously or if we are using them selfishly. It is very easy to be self indulgent, to pander to the public’s baser desires and motivations. In fact it can also be highly profitable.
But pursuing profit solely for its own sake is not a generous use of our gifts. We have been entrusted with a task, a very specific way to accomplish that task, and very little time to do it. At the end it will not matter how much money we made or how highly we were regarded as artists.
In the end, what will matter is whether or not we used what God has given us to reflect His splendor and bring hope and joy to His people. Most importantly we need to remember that God is always there, to help us, guide us, and strengthen as we endure the trial, and finish the course.
In his final days Paul trusts in God’s mercy. Recall the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector as they prayed to God in the temple. The Pharisee focuses attention on himself, his deeds and his actions. He shows no desire for God’s mercy or any need for God Himself. But the tax collector’s prayer has become a summation of Christian spirituality and forms the basis of what has come to be known as the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, only son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
There are many similarities between our world and the Roman world of Saint Paul. There is constant pressure on Christians to compromise their beliefs. But Paul gives us his example and his instructions.
Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith, and trust in God’s mercy. There is no better epitaph a Christian can aspire to be worthy of.
© Lawrence Klimecki