Take this for a motivating statement: “We are judged by what we finish not what we start.” There are boatloads of people who are good at starting purity, education, marriage, parenting, ministry, and the list goes on and on. But persevering finishers are a rarity in these same categories. How do we FINISH? There is definitely a holy art to ending well our divinely-sanctioned responsibilities.
How do we finish well with so much friction and resistant in this sin-cursed world? The Apostle Paul gives us the tough but inspired solutions.
II Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
According to Paul in II Timothy 4, finishing spiritually requires enduring two resistances:
As someone recently stated, “Some people are like clouds; when they disappear, it is a brighter day.” To finish requires relating properly to people who unwittingly or knowingly provide friction that wears us down over time.
Finish despite compromising individuals. (10)
Paul’s need for Timothy was intensified by the defection of Demas who, instead of loving the Lord’s appearing (v. 8), loved this world. Demas deserted the apostle to embrace the safety, freedom, or comfort of Thessalonica. During this compromise, Paul longed to be near those he had commissioned (Crescens, Titus) and his most faithful disciple Timothy (v. 9). In seasons of abandonment, seek to build deeper connections with those God has given you who are faithful and reliable.
Finish despite inconsistent individuals. (11)
For many of us it is not the attacks of the heathens but the apathy of believers that causes us to contemplate quitting or at least “easing up” on our own consistency. Timothy is instructed to pick up Mark along the way. It is not known where Mark might have been located. But this one whom Paul had once considered untrustworthy (Acts 15:36–40) was now considered helpful to Paul in his ministry. The word “profitable” in 4:11 is the same as “meet” in 2:21. We must persevere for the future ministry of the very people who presently disappoint us.
Finish despite antagonistic individuals. (14-15)
Alexander the metal worker may be the same man named in Acts 19:33–34, or more likely, the person in 1 Timothy 1:20. But since the name Alexander was common, one cannot be certain. The Alexander referred to here was well-known to Timothy and had done a great deal of harm to Paul by opposing his message. What can we learn from how Paul interact with the “Alexanders” of serving the Lord?
How to Handle Your Attackers without Quitting:
Don’t long for personal revenge. (14b)
The apostle had no desire for personal revenge, as may be seen by his reference to Psalm 62:12. In the face of ill-treatment remember, “Rudeness is a weak person’s imitation of strength.” In Romans 12:17-21, Paul reminds us that vengeance is only God’s responsibility. The moment we start seeking personal revenge is the moment we stop doing God’s will!
Do specifically warn those you influence. (15)
Paul does take the time to warn Timothy lest he be ruined by Alexander’s attacks. Who do you focus on in “the heat of the battle?” We wrongly tend to focus on the one we are engaged with rather than the spectators that are watching. How you engage with your enemies directly impacts the generation that follows not your start but your “FINISH.”
In face of human resistance remember that it is really only about ONE Individual, Jesus Christ (v. 8)!
Isolated Resistance (12-13, 16-22)
Being with people is challenging; being in places without people is also extremely discouraging!
Finish despite needy isolation. (12-13)
Paul’s resistance was not just unfulfilled desires; it was made up of basic, desperate needs. Paul asked for the cloak he had left at Troas; winter was coming, and he would need it in his Roman prison. The “books” were probably some of his own writings; the “parchments” would be his copies of the OT Scriptures. While awaiting trial, Paul would spend his time studying the Word. What an example to follow!
In Job 23:12 the lonely, criticized, sick, and poverty-stricken Job declares, “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” You must embrace the Word of God during seasons of loneliness.
Finish despite vulnerable isolation. (16-18)
As on author put it, “Loneliness stalks where the buck stops.” Paul’s first defense evidently refers, not to his first Roman imprisonment, about which Timothy would have already known, but to a preliminary hearing leading up to his present trial. At such trials it was common to hear advocates for the accused, but in Paul’s case no one came to his support, but everyone deserted him. The widespread desertion of the apostle may be explained by the fact that, unlike the period of his first imprisonment, it had now become dangerous to be a Christian in Rome.
How to Handle Your Loneliness without Quitting:
Intercede for those who are unfaithful. (16)
In fact Paul was understanding toward their unfaithfulness, and he expressed the hope that it not be held against them. These is reminiscent of our Lord’s prayer as he surveyed his tormentors from the cross of Calvary-“Father, forgive them.”
Press into the Lord’s strength and testimony. (17)
At least 60 journalists around the world were killed in 2014 while on the job or because of their work, and 44 percent of them were targeted for murder, the Committee to Protect Journalist said in a recent study. We have a much high report to get out in the face of grave threats.
Paul’s courage in proclaiming the gospel was not dampened by the weakness of those around him. The secret to his ministry was his dependence on the strength of God. Though nobody remained with him Paul said, The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength. Paul is not focusing on the strength of “lion’s mouth” but the strength of the Lord’s mouth! When you are “alone,” it is clear that the Lord is the only one to rely upon and you are the only He wants to be a witness for Him!
Rely exclusively upon the Lord’s protection. (18)
Paul knew that his fate in the Roman courts was sealed (cf. vv. 6–8), and he was ready to die. Yet he saw his death not as a victory for Rome but as a rescue of the Lord. Despite every evil attack, he had complete confidence that God would bring him safely to His heavenly kingdom (cf. v. 1). For this Paul, even in the face of his own death, could do nothing but praise God. When you surrender your security to the Lord, you now possess the strength and time to finish your responsibilities within God’s will.
Finish despite intensifying isolation. (19-22)
It is clear to Paul that the situation is trending in a more and more difficult situation from a human perspective. Though facing certain death, Paul still thought about others just like his Savior. Paul fulfilled the pastoral requirement given in Titus 1:8—he was “a lover of good men.” “Grace be with you!” says Paul, and closes his part of the NT writings. “Grace” was the key word in his ministry. No matter how much of a free fall we may be experiencing, may God’s grace be the key word in our lives too as we strive to finish.
Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had big problems with the climate and the geography. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project. Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer these critics?” “In time,” answered Goethals. “When?” his partner asked. “When the canal is finished.”
As a pastor, I am committed to finishing in a God-honoring way whatever my “tenure” at North Pointe is supposed to be. I, along with other spiritual leaders in your life, may be perceived at times as insensitive or tone-deaf to human perspective, but ultimately man’s opinion is only ounces where God’s is eternally weighty! Your family and church needs more of us to follow in the footsteps of this stop-at-nothing-including-prison-walls Apostle Paul.
In Acts 20:24, he tenaciously bellows, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Will you FINISH by enduring INDIVIDUAL and ISOLATED resistance?
Here is link to the sermon on this post.