2 Timothy 4

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Running the Good Race
Reading: 2 Timothy 4.6-8 and 16-18

Introduction

2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 7, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’

Ever since coming to Hook, I have made a point of entering the Hook fun run, every May. It is good fun but the 10-mile run can be difficult. I need to train for the run, to make sure I am physically fit and not putting myself under any risk by taking on the distance, then fill in the entry where there are some restrictions to make sure only people capable of running 10 miles can take part. It is a great journey and the route this year (which was new to me) helped me see sights I had not seen before. The run takes you in and out of villages and through the countryside and can be quite lonely especially when you are near the back. You have to keep persevering, but what an encouragement it is to see someone you know giving you support, to come across a water station when someone gives you water, it helps encourage you and give you the strength to keep running on.

Paul was in this letter to Timothy facing death, he knew his time on earth would be coming to an end. So, he reflects on the race he has run for Christ. It was analogy well known at the time as there were competitive sports. We are called to run the race in Christ, to persevere, to run it in love for Christ and others and when the going gets tough we can be sure of Christ’s support and encouragement along the way.turning away and how they could turn back to hope and freedom from their fears.

Perseverance

This passage starts off with this message form Paul, ‘For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.’ This letter to Timothy was likely one of the last to be written before Paul died. Life was grim, with Emperor Nero at its head the Roman empire declined into cruelty and sadism sponsored by Nero himself. In AD 64 there was a fire in Rome. This fire spread uncontrollably through much of Rome, and the Emperor made sure the Christians were blamed. This led to persecution of Christians. Paul, already imprisoned now found conditions even tougher, house arrest turned into proper imprisonment and the prospect of execution was becoming clear. He therefore reflects on his life, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ Paul has followed his calling, he had fought the good fight for Christ and he had kept true to his faith. He continues, ‘Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.’ Paul looks forward to meeting his maker, he has faith that he will receive the crown of righteousness, the word used is stephanos not a crown for a King but a crown for an athlete. By writing this letter to Timothy, Paul is thinking of the next generation and how Christian ministry will continue after he dies.

This year, as a community we have said good bye to two people who have the run the race for Christ, Gordon Crowder and Kate Blackman, they showed in their own ways how to run the race for Christ. The perseverance it takes, the energy it needs sometimes to make things happen to bring about change. They ran with energy and determination the race for Christ and we miss them dearly and their stories give us inspiration. John Wesley once said, ‘God buries His workmen, but His work goes on’. The Christian race is a relay race as two loyal servants pass to the risen life Christ has promised to all who believe in Him, the relay baton has passed to us, we are called to run the race, to build this church community, to build his kingdom from our work places, our homes, in our community. Just as Timothy would pick up the baton of Christian ministry from Paul and be inspired by his ministry, let us continue the great Christian ministry of the past as the baton is now held in our hands.

Racing for Christ

Paul originally called Saul was a Pharisee very like the one described in our Gospel reading today. He knew all the scriptures, he obeyed all the rules yet like the Pharisee in our Gospel reading he was running the wrong race, the reason he was running was for personal gain, the gain of approval from God and so long as he obeyed the rules, and ticked off the items on the check list he would be OK. He ran the race without love or compassion for others that is the central character of God. Yet Paul was called by God to run the race for Christ and like the tax collector he recognised his sin and received grace and mercy and started running the race for Christ by sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles. Paul ran this race with determination and consistency in his actions. In 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 16 he says, ‘At my first defence, no one came to my support but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.’ Paul who was forgiven for the way he persecuted Christians knew about forgiveness and now forgave others who deserted him.

Lance Armstrong the cyclist won 7 Tour de France races. A detailed report released in 2012 followed by a confession in 2013 revealed that he had used performance enhancing drugs in all 7 of them. He is now disgraced, he was running the wrong race, he thought it was all about winning, he forgot that the purpose of big sporting events is to demonstrate human capability at its best and to inspire future generations to take part in sport. He ran the race for personal victory only. So, let us run the race for Christ, not thinking about our own needs or desires but instead with eyes fixed on Christ let us focus on the race that we are called to run.

Support from Christ

2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 17, ‘But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all might hear it. And I was delivered form the lion’s mouth.’ Even in the difficult times in Rome, he had a sense that God was with him. He goes onto show his utter trust in the Lord with a wonderful statement of personal faith in verse 18, ‘The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Do you remember the story of Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee at the final of the  World Championship triathlon this year? Jonathan Brownlee had been leading the race when complete exhaustion go the better of him, Alastair Brownlee was passing him on his way to win when he saw his brother, he picked up his brother and pulled him the last few hundred meters across the finish line. Alistair lost first place as another athlete passed them both, then Alistair pushed his brother over the line for second and then crossed it himself in third place. This story went viral on social media and was shown in the news about what sportsmanship is all about, helping and supporting one another. Alistair was running the right race showing the true Olympic spirit. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2016/sep/19/alistair-brownlee-gives-chance-win-helps-brother-jonny-video

We too in our race for Christ may get tired, but look out for and accept help along the way it is likely God offering you support. If we see others struggling let’s encourage them and let them know that God is with them as they run the race. Keep praying so that you may know God is with you.

The entry forms are available, there no restrictions on who can enter we are all called to join the race for Christ, let’s pick up the baton from previous generations, run with determination, our eyes focussed on Christ with his full support and do something beautiful in his name in this world. Amen

Jonathan Bushman (LLM). St. Johns Hook Church. 23rd October 2016