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Running Strong, Finish Well


"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; 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." 
Good Morning my beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We would like to welcome all of our beloved brothers and sisters, from all around the world, who have been prompted to join us today. We are glad to have you here! I do not believe it was coincidence or mistake. I believe that Almighty God Himself, has brought you here.
Starting something well is a relatively easy task. Finishing well, however, is a different matter altogether! The Bible is lifechanging. Reading, studying and responding to the Word of God will not only change your life today, but it will continually change you as you keep coming back to it throughout your entire life. God’s Word becomes living and active in your heart when you begin to memorize  Scripture and meditate on it. I am in the Word, the majority of every day, and night, however, it is
one thing to get into the Word of God, but its another thing to let the Word of God get into you. 
The truth, that becoming a Christian is relatively easy, to confess before God that you are a sinner and receive by faith the precious gift of eternal life that Christ provided by His shed blood. You cannot work for salvation nor do anything to qualify for it. God freely gives it to all, who will recognize their need for a Savior and trust in Christ alone.
However, once the excitement of a clean slate, and a fresh start begins to wear off, and the hard part comes, as we begin to face the challenges, the trials, and hanging in there in a world that is hostile towards God and His people. The world constantly dangles in front of you all that it has to offer in opposition to the things of God. From within, the flesh entices you to forsake Christ and gratify your sinful desires. The enemy hits you with temptation after temptation. The real test of your faith is, will you endure? Genuine faith in Christ perseveres to the finish line.
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father,
Father, we again thank You for Your Word for us today. Thank You for such encouraging Words!
Lord, help us each to be able to come to the end of our days on this earth, with the sense of having accomplished what You had given us to do. May there be tranquility in our hearts that we might view death as departure from this life,  seeing it as nothing more than being loosed from the chains of this life, and the beginning of eternal life in Your presence, to live forever in Your kingdom. May we finish well, like the Apostle Paul, knowing that we too have fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. May we strive not to be perfect, but to be faithful servants, bringing glory to Your name, as a careful steward of the treasure of the truth, may we see it through to the end.
In Christ's name we pray

Today's Message: Running Strong, Finish Well

We have each been given a ministry to fulfill, our ministry is to be a Christian, to live as a Christian, to walk and talk as a Christian whatever we do, and wherever we go. It was recorded in the 20th chapter of Acts, while the Apostle Paul was in Ephesus, several years before he wrote this last letter, he himself prayed with the Ephesian elders and said to them these words about himself, "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God." 

Paul thought then that he was about to reach the end of his life. And it is true, that when he went up to Jerusalem he was arrested, put in prison and eventually taken to Rome. From there, some years later, he writes to Timothy and urges him to stay the course to the end. That is the test of reality in the Christian life, we all shall face. Anyone can look well for a while, however, it is those who endure to the end, those who manifest the basic change of their hearts that they are truly born again, who have possessed the life of Jesus. Paul is urging Timothy to fulfill his ministry. The Word of God has been written down, the New Testament has taken the place of the Apostles in the world, while Timothy would never fill the shoes of an Apostle. He was nevertheless to carry on the apostolic ministry, as all of us are also called to do.
Open with me your Bibles to the Second Book of Timothy chapter 4 verses 6 through 8. This the last chapter that Paul would ever write. Today, we will be looking at these three verses, however, before we do, allow me to say that the words of dying men tend to reveal the heart, stripped of hypocrisy.

Benjamin Franklin had the epitaph put on his grave stone which really has stuck with me, it reads, "Here lies the body of Franklin, like an old book, stripped of its lettering and gilding, it lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost, for I will appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author."
I would encourage you to follow along with me as I read to you from our text, to set it in our minds, as we prepare our hearts for what the Holy Spirit has to say to us today. II Timothy 4:6-8

"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; 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."
The clear implication is that Paul is passing the torch on to Timothy. What wonderful words! I'd like you to notice the way the Paul describes his own death in verse 6. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come." The drink offering is a reference in which the Jewish feasts terminated the great Day of Atonement. At the end of all the offerings, a drink offering, a jug of wine, was poured out upon the altar. Paul sees himself in that way. Perhaps he knows that he is about to be beheaded. That was the Roman method of execution for those who were Roman citizens. Others were crucified, but citizens had the right to be beheaded if they were to be executed. So Paul, according to tradition, was taken out and had his head laid on a block and an executioner with an axe or a sword severed his head. Paul saw the pouring out of his blood as a drink offering.
Paul appears to have no regrets. He does not seem to view this as a disaster, a thing to be feared. He sees it as a normal outcome for the life he lived, a sacrificial life so to be poured out as a sacrifice is a fitting conclusion. I do not believe that Paul looked upon this with any dread whatsoever, but with expectation and thankfulness that his death would be like his ministry, a continuation of pouring out of himself on behalf of others. I have often thought that if I were to be poured out as a sacrifice, beheading would be a wonderful way to die for my faith as a Christian. There is typically an audience present, there is one, who is the center of attention. The ending is quick, relatively painless, and the result is conclusive. I do not see it as a morbid end, but a glorious beginning. What a wonderful, sacrificial way to go home to glory to our Lord.

In verse 7, Paul then uses three phrases to summarize his life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." I'd like you to notice that he says "I have fought the good fight," and not say "I have fought a good fight," as he been often quoted as saying. That would be boasting, as he had somehow pitched it and done something right. Instead he says "I have the good fight," having fought the battle which was presented to him in his life. Paul sees it as having been a tough, hard fight, which at last has reached the end. "I have fought the good fight." A fight which has involved persecution, beatings, stonings, and hardships. Beloved, this is all part of the battle, and Paul has now finished his.
I believe that all of us, would like to be able to say that we too have fought the good fight, a battle against the invisible forces, clever, malicious masters of human psychology who know how to manipulate us, deceive us, twist us and attempts to lead us into destruction. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul says "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
This Christian life, is lived moment-by-moment, step-by-step. The question is however, whether you're living it in the Spirit or the flesh, running the race in the power you have been given in a new life with Christ or are you still running in the old ways of the flesh, with self serving attitudes and selfish desires. We are all called to run this race, and every moment is spent either reaching for the prize or delaying it. The prize of which Paul speaks of in Philippians 3, is the new resurrected body, fit for eternal life, and the glory that awaits us.
The goal of the Christian life is not simply to reach the age of retirement, collect social security and move to Florida or Arizona. But to finish this race, fulfill the ministry which we have been given, and receive the prize, which is the glory that awaits. Paul ends verse 7, by saying .." I have kept the faith."
In I Corinthians 2:7-8, Paul describes this as "God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; he wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." As those of us who believe, we know that this wisdom is very different from the wisdom of this world. It is the truth that God tells us about Himself, about ourselves and this world.
It is the truth about the power of evil, which Paul says in II Thessalonians 2:7, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." And in I Timothy 3:16 he says is "great is the mystery of godliness." with which we can counteract evil. Beloved, this is the faith which Paul is talking about. In II Timothy 1:14 Paul says "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."
The Apostle Paul kept the treasure which he had been entrusted from being distorted by those who would seek to use it for their own benefit and purposes. He answered his critics, he warned of those who lead others astray, Paul "kept the faith."
In verse 8, Paul says "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." Here, Paul describes four aspects in his expectations at this moment in his life. The first, "the crown of righteousness," many misunderstand this to mean that Paul is not going to be made righteous until he appears before the Lord at this great Day of award. However, we know from the book of Romans that God makes us righteous at the beginning, not at the end. The gift of God is righteousness, which is given by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is instead waiting for the crown of righteousness, which is the manifestation of authority and glory, which accompanies righteousness. 
In II Corinthians 4:17, Paul describes the glory of which he now speaks "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."
And in I John 3:2, John says "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." This the crown of glory that awaits us, the resurrected body, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 
In Closing...
When I meditate upon these verses, there is an overwhelming sense of joy that I feel, which is indescribable. When I begin to think about the new body I will have, totally responsive to my spirit, able to do, go or be anywhere at any time, any place, instantly, without pain or difficulty. Though I do not claim to fully know what all this means, but Paul says there is awaiting him an indescribable weight of glory. And, it will be given to us "by the Lord himself, the righteous judge." Here, Paul was speaking in contrast to Nero, the unrighteous judge, who, after examining this righteous man will nevertheless pronounce him guilty and condemn him to death.  
However, that judgment before the Emperor will shortly be reversed by the Lord himself, who, knowing everything about Paul, will hand him the award, the crown of glory, because he is a righteous man by faith in Jesus Christ. 
What a glorious day it will be, "on that Day", to have the Lord Himself hand to us, with His pierced hands that were broken for us, the glory for which we have been waiting all our entire lives, "on that Day" when we shall be made to be like our Lord's Himself! However, this will not be just for Paul as he says "and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."
May it be so..
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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