“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)
Whenever I come across these verses written by the Apostle Paul, I can’t help but to stop and marvel. For someone – anyone – to be able to make this statement seems almost impossible.
I would venture to say that most of us, when on our deathbeds, will look back with at least a little regret, and wish we had done some things differently. Some common regrets are: I wish I had spent more time with my kids; I wish I had worked less and lived more; I wish I had shared the gospel with my extended family more often; I wish I had reconciled with so-and-so; I wish I had done more for God.
Why is this such a common phenomenon? I believe that in our heart, we all want to finish well, we all want to be able to look back and feel thankful and satisfied about our lives, knowing we did our best.
Most likely, the culprit is a wrong perspective, which results in wrong priorities. Our human tendency is to focus on the few decades we have on this earth, and to work tirelessly to make our time here cushy and comfy. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting a good life, it becomes a grave mistake when that notion becomes our priority. Suddenly, we lose sight of eternity. We get so focused on the house, the job, the retirement plan, the next vacation, that the things most important in our lives are left by the wayside.
There are times when I think that a clean house is more important than time with my kids. Having my fridge and pantry stocked is more important than giving to the cause of the poor and needy. I deserve a nice house with a finished basement, while I ignore the countless people in this world who don’t even have a place to call their own. Having a good time with family and friends sounds a lot more fun than sharing the Good News of God’s grace with them. Working extra hours to afford the better lifestyle seems more attractive than being satisfied with what God has already given me. The never-ending work around the house and property takes precedence over meaningful time spent with my spouse and children. Hockey and dance practice trump the hard work and dedication of hiding God’s Word in our hearts.
I believe this is where the Apostle Paul had it right. He dedicated his whole life to the service of God. From what we can tell, he did not lose sight of that, even when he did every-day things like earn his own living. In his writings, he often indicated that he dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel to the point of exhaustion, persecution, and even death. He did not let a single opportunity go by without using it to glorify God, and he considered it a joy and blessing to be spent for the Gospel of Christ.
Will we re-dedicate our lives, re-focus our vision, and re-prioritize our goals to fight the good fight? It is incredibly hard, and truly counter-cultural, but so rewarding and worth it. I believe this is what Jesus meant in Luke 12:22-34. In this passage, He urged His disciples not to worry, not to run after the same things the pagans (unbelievers) run after, because our Heavenly Father knows our needs. And then He made this startling statement: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” God wants to give us the Kingdom, if we only let go of our petty little things and seek Him first! He wants to give us so much more than what we can ask or imagine. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me! Let’s take Paul’s words to heart, fight the good fight, and finish the race well! Then we will have no regrets when we breathe our last breath!