2 Timothy 4:6-8 Death itself is the only retirement for a true disciple
2 Timothy 4:6-8 Death itself is the only retirement for a true disciple
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 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.
Paul makes known his ministry philosophy, the principles that undergird his illustrious life of service. Paul has never considered retiring from his apostolic work for death itself is his only retirement. Now that death is imminent, he lays down three principles that see to his eventual glorification: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Today’s devotion teaches us: Death itself is the only retirement for a true disciple.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
After charging Timothy to preach in season and out of season, and to fulfil the work of an evangelist, Paul spoke about his imminent death (departure). Paul, by refusing to recant his teachings, he seals his death warrant. By staying true to the gospel, the apostle offers to shed his blood as a sacrifice (already being poured out as a drink offering).
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.
Paul views his service to God and the church as one without end, for he will serve until his dying breathe. He had earlier used the same words in Philippians 2:17 to express his ministry philosophy,
“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.”
Paul wrote the epistle of Philippians on 62 AD during his imprisonment in Rome. And he wrote his final epistle of 2 Timothy between 66-67 AD, also while in prison. Paul did not recant his teachings but kept the faith from the day he was imprisoned in 61 AD until his death. Paul described his ministry of unceasing dedication as having fought the good fight… finished the course… kept the faith. What does Paul mean by these words?
Fought the good fight: Paul did not draw back despite violent oppositions but seized opportunities to teach the truth in every place (see Acts 17:2). For the salvation of humanity, Paul vehemently spoke against evil men and their deceptions exposing their hypocrisy. Paul did his utmost fighting the sinister oppositions of his days so much so he was maligned, imprisoned and eventually executed. One cannot be counted as having fought the good fight if he becomes self-serving or draws back in the face of difficulties.
Finished the course: Paul never considered himself as having finished the course until his dying moments. As long as he lived, he did not relent in his struggle against the oppositions of the truth. Paul’s quote, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) encapsulates the spirit of it: He will do the works of Christ as long as he lives. And through his sacrificial death he obtains an eternal reward: the crown of righteousness. One cannot be counted as having finished the course if he retires before his time.
Kept the faith: Faith pertains to putting God’s directives as the highest mission of life. For the sake of the apostolic mission, Paul fulfilled his mission amidst great sufferings:
I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Indeed, the true marks of an apostle was displayed by great perseverance and by signs, wonders and miracles (see 2 Corinthians 12:12). Paul considered himself as having kept the faith when he gave his own life to accomplish his apostolic mission. One cannot be counted as having kept the faith if he allows oppositions or personal comfort to hinder or derail his mission and calling.
In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness…
Paul, in anticipation of his death, sets his sights on meeting the Lord where he will receive the crown of righteousness. Righteousness is a divine quality that is attributed exclusively to God. Whenever the word righteousness is mentioned, it draws upon God’s authority and attributes. The psalmist said,
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Psalm 97:2.
Concerning the Son, God says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. Hebrews 1:8-9.
The crown of righteousness carries with it the kingly authority to reign. And it is given to all who fought the good fight, who finished the course and who have kept the faith.
We need to know what we are fighting for or against.
Paul proclaimed that he had fought a good fight. But what was Paul fighting for or against? It is most probable that Paul was referring to his opposers that persecuted him because of the truth he stood for. It is important to understand that Paul was not fighting against human beings per se, but against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12). But ultimately, Paul was fighting to save souls from the tide of deception and evil. He fought by preaching the truth everywhere in season and out of season. When they shut him up in prison, he fought by writing letters to encourage the church. When they threatened to execute him, he fought by refusing to recant his teachings thus sacrificing his own life.
In the light of Paul’s own battles, believers must understand what they are fighting against and for what purpose. Regrettably, many ministers are fighting not to save souls from evil and destruction, but to raise their personal profiles. Leaders of churches fight among themselves in the bid to become the greatest. Their members fight to become richer than their neighbours, or to become popular in the social media.
Paul reminds believers to fight for the right causes. For God judges not our achievements, but the motives and intents of the heart. All believers must fight to maintain truth and justice in our family, workplace and community. We must fight to reconcile all men to God with the gospel of peace. We must fight against discouragement in the face of persecutions by taking up the shield of faith. We must fight to destroy the evil one by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (see Ephesians 6:10-17).
Death itself is the only retirement for a true disciple.
Paul did not consider his mission accomplished until his dying moments. His attitude towards the gospel work is a relentless fight against evil for the souls of men. For Paul, as long as there are souls waiting to be saved, there is no retiring. However, retirement, to many is a personal right, a reward for a life of toil. Yet, Jesus talked about denying oneself of his rights as the condition for being His follower.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25.
And to deny oneself is to take up the cross by serving God until his very last breathe. The call of a disciple is likened to the marital call of caring for one’s spouse thus fulfilling the matrimonial duty as long as one is still alive. As a spouse never retires in his/her marital duty, so does a disciple to his God. And every believer is a disciple, ever seeking to obey the directives of Christ in life or in death. That said, God is not a slave driver who subjects all his children to His rule without their consent. Each person is given free will to decide for himself how much of Christ he wants to emulate. And no one has the right to judge him for the decisions he makes. Indeed, most work for their own benefit. Yet many out of fear. But few work out of love and goodwill. Whatever the motives, the Son of God will return with glory to repay every man according to his deeds (see Matthew 16:27). Indeed, every man will receive a reward for the work he has done according to Christ’s righteous standards; love.
That said, a life fully dedicated to God is one of pure joy, glory and power. You never have to wake up each morning wondering whether your life will ever turn out right. If you give your life fully into God’s hands, God will fully obligate Himself to make your life an enduring miracle and legacy.
The highest call of life is to understand God’s directives and to fulfill it.
Each person is given a unique calling and mission of which he will call to account when Christ returns as Judge. Paul was given an apostolic mission which he has fulfilled through great power and perseverance. Thus, by virtue of his steadfastness through imprisonment, he has kept the faith. Likewise, each believer must seek to know his calling and fulfill it through suffering and sacrifices. However, many are mesmerised by the glamour of seemingly great men and women. Such are captivated by fleshly ambitions without understanding the divine vision and the sacrifices that go with it. Thus, many worked all their lives thinking they have achieved much. But in the eyes of God, their works profit them nothing for their motives were self-serving (see 1 Corinthians 13:2-3).
Therefore, it is paramount that we understand God’s call for ourselves and not be captivated by the passing glamours of the world. God does not measure us according to the scale of our achievements, but He will reward one who serves out of faith and goodwill.
In the daily battles of your work, what are you fighting for? Many fight to secure a position of prominence, but God has called you to be salt and light of the world; to fight for justice and mercy in your family, company and community.
Are you looking to retire so that you may finally enjoy the resources that you have accumulated. Instead of looking to retirement, look to a life of power and significance. Get involve in missions and community works and be a blessing to others. In so doing, you live more meaningfully, becoming happier, and healthier.
Dear Lord, give me greater wisdom so that I may become a positive influence in my family, community and workplace. Strengthen me so that I may uphold the truth by speaking out against evil and oppression. Reveal to me my calling in greater detail and equip me to fulfill it. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.