You know, death is a topic that many of us prefer to avoid. But Psalm 90:12 instructs us to "teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom." This basically means remembering that life is short. If we forget this, we can become somewhat arrogant and live a life as if we are in control. The fact is, we can sometimes benefit from taking time periodically to contemplate just how short life is so that we don't forget that every breath we take is a gift from God.
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul reflects on his approaching death. He knows that his earthly life is nearing its end. As he considers the days that God has given him, he makes a bold statement in verse 7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Because of this, he goes on to say, a glorious reward awaits him on the other side of eternity.
It’s somewhat fascinating to notice that Paul's criteria for a successful life, one that is pleasing to God and worthy of a crown, is that he kept the faith. To Paul, it all comes down to steadfast faith. As he "numbered his days," he did not list personal accomplishments such as how many people he led to Christ, how many churches he planted, the number of days he spent imprisoned for the gospel, or any of his other life's greatest works. "I am getting a crown," he said, "because I kept the faith."
What does it mean to "keep the faith"?
In this letter, Paul uses two illustrations to describe keeping the faith: a fight and a race. He says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race." These two illustrations reveal two things about keeping the faith.
First, it is difficult. If Paul had to fight to keep the faith, it must have been a challenge. Jesus described it this way in Matthew 7:14: "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." If few find it, it cannot be easy. Our sinful nature makes it difficult because it constantly battles against the Holy Spirit within us.
Second, the illustration of a race shows us that keeping the faith means enduring to the end. In any race, running does not earn you an award, right? finishing does. Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 and 24:13 that whoever stands firm until the end will be saved.
So the question today is, have you taken the time to reflect on your life lately? In Doing so humbles us and motivates us to yield more fully to God.
As we close our time today, I leave you with a simple prayer:
Lord, our desire is to live the rest of our days on this earth fully surrendered to You. We cannot do this if we do not purposefully remember that life is short and that You are in control of our lives. Please help us to keep the faith, to remain steadfast, fighting hard against our flesh and this world and continuing to the end. In Jesus' name.