October 24, 2010
I remember that as I was growing up, my parents went deer hunting each fall at Sportsman’s Haven, leaving my brother and me at home. Hearing about the hunting lodge and cabins always seemed so exciting. Then one summer, Dad said we were taking a family vacation there. On the trip we frequently asked, “Are we there yet?” Finally we turned onto a dirt road, and Dad announced, “It’s at the end of the road.” What excitement!
Similarly, Paul reached the end of his road. As he did, he encouraged his friend Timothy with two key truths about ministry readiness.
Ready for Life’s End (
Paul uses his life as example of the first key truth: proper ministry prepares you to meet Christ.
A. Facing Present Circumstances (
Paul knew his earthly ministry ended in contrast to Timothy’s, which would continue. Waiting in a Roman dungeon, what was the end of the road like for him?
It ended as an offering. The words “already being poured out” indicate the end has begun. This refers to the Jewish custom of pouring wine over a sacrifice when offered (
His life also ended as a departure. The word departure was used in Greek literature to refer to a ship as its moorings were loosed to set sail to its proper destination. Death, therefore, is not a shipwreck, but a ship ready to sail to its new destination.
B. Remembering Past Experiences (
Paul next remembered how he faithfully fulfilled his ministry.
He was faithful to the fight, the Christian fight that all of us are called to wage. The word fight was used to refer to Greek athletic contests. The word good emphasizes that which is observable by others. Paul continued the fight until the contest was won.
Paul also was faithful to the finish. The word race was used in ancient literature to refer to a racetrack on which horses ran or in the Olympic games of a course which men ran. The course was marked and the contestants must stay on it until properly completed.
Additionally, Paul was faithful to the faith, the deposit of Christian truth, now completely revealed in Scripture. To maintain the testimony of Christian doctrine is a constant struggle, and we must be ever vigilant to preserve it (
C. Anticipating Prospective Reward (
Paul anticipated reward for ministry. A crown was in store for him, safely kept until time for distribution as was the laurel wreaths displayed at the Greek athletic games.
The crown is for the righteous. This reward is for showing practical righteousness in our ministry lives. It is awarded by Christ, the righteous judge, in contrast to Nero’s court. Paul would receive his crown on that day when Jesus comes again to receive us to Himself. We must be so in love with Jesus that we want Him to return and the expectation of His return affects our lives and service for Him. The final emphasis in this verse is not on the prize, but on the Person. We must love Jesus above all else.
Ready for God’s Kingdom (
Paul likewise used his life as example of the second key truth: how a proper ministry prepares for God’s Kingdom.
A. Friends May Abandon (
Paul’s friends deserted him at his preliminary hearing in Nero’s court. He felt abandoned, but not vengeful toward them.
B. The Lord Sustains (
The Lord stood by Paul—in marked contrast to those who deserted him. The Lord also strengthened Paul to proclaim the gospel at this crucial point.
The lion’s mouth is metaphorical; as a Roman citizen, Paul could not be fed to lions. It refers to his impending martyrdom. From it the Lord delivered him temporarily. Why? Probably so he could write 2 Timothy.
C. The Lord Safely Delivers (
People may have planned every evil attack against Paul, but he trusted in the Lord’s deliverance. Killing Paul only results in God bringing him into His heavenly kingdom. Thinking of that kingdom results in a doxology to the Lord.
One day our ministry will end. As we complete it faithfully, we will be ready for the Lord’s “well done” in our lives.