“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 course, I have kept the faith.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-7
The Apostle Paul wrote the words above in a letter to his protégé, Timothy, as the elder leader reached the end of his journey. He proclaims it with such confidence, so certain in his appraisal of his life. But what did Paul mean when he said he had “finished the course”? How did he know it was finished? How did he know he had fought a “good fight”? What is a “good fight,” anyway?
There’s something that happens in the hearts of those who live long in the Faith, something they may not speak about often for fear of being misinterpreted as morbid or depressed. But every soul long surrendered to God will know what I’m talking about:
You are longing for Home.
Here’s how we experience it: Even though you know your time here is not yet done, it can be so easy at times to slip into a dull weariness of this life, though it is beautiful, and you are deeply thankful for it. But you know it is just a shadow of the real thing. It seems the longer a soul is surrendered to God, the more deeply they experience this to be true. You ache for Home, and the pull of it seems to grow stronger with each passing year. You come repeatedly to these “threshold” moments, when you must rally your heart to choose again this life, here and now. The song of heaven beckons you like an irresistible fire. It takes all your resolve to remain fully here.
If this describes you, you are not alone in this heavenward ache. Several faith leaders I have worked with have spoken of it. No wonder Paul wrote of this struggle with such passion. He understood well this deep pull on the mature heart of faith:
“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in this body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through me being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” ~ Philippians 1:21-26
There comes a time in the journey of Faith when the only thing that keeps you here is the call of God’s work through you for the sake of the world. The only thing. All of the rest of it is preview, and will be much, much better and more satisfying on the other side.
And yet…and yet…while we are here, we must live here well. We must do the work necessary to create something beautiful, honoring to God and all of humanity, in every arena of our lives. We cannot quit the race until the race is well and truly done.
Do you know the specific race assigned to you? Do you know the course laid out for you, and what is required of you to complete it? Seek that clarity first. Then run it well, and fully, all the way to the very end.
“In the future 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 4:8