Go

Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Meeting Address:
    115 E. Pacific Ave., Spokane, WA 99202
  • Office/Mailing Address:
  • 608 W. 2nd Ave, #101. Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday: 10am
  • Infant through 8th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!

Sermons

FILTER BY:

Back To List

Apr 17, 2016

Running Well... Finishing Well - Ch. 30

Running Well... Finishing Well - Ch. 30

Passage: 2 Timothy 4:1-22

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Keywords: death, finishing, generations, life, mentor, race, success

Summary:

This message looks at Paul's charges to Timothy as his spiritual father and mentor--calls to run the race of life well and calls to finish well.

Detail:

Running Well…Finishing Well

The Story—Week #30—April 17, 2016

 

INTRO:  One of my all-time favorite movies is Chariots of Fire, which came out in 1981.  It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and ended up winning 4, among them Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. 

The film is based on the true account of two Olympic runners, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.  Both trained to run the 100-meter sprint in the 1924 Olympic Games. Both were exceptional at it. 

Abrahams is a British nonreligious Jew who is driven to prove himself by personal success and individual performance. He gains admission to Cambridge and distinguishes himself as an outstanding sprinter. His primary competition for Olympic gold in the 100 meters is Eric Liddell, a former rugby star whose life goal is not athletics but service of God.

The movie presents an insightful contrast between the two runners. Abrahams finds that even victory provides no lasting fulfillment because, ultimately, there is nothing beyond himself that he feels he can depend upon. Eric Liddell, however, has a God-given purpose and a relationship with the Lord Jesus that supplies an unshakable purpose. Liddell lives a life of godly joy—joy that does not depend upon winning or losing—a joy that is the fruit of a Godly life.

As it turns out, Eric’s race in life ended much earlier than Harold’s.  Liddell died in a Japanese internment camp in China during WWII (due to a brain tumor) at the age of 43.  Abrahams lived to be 78 years old and died in 1978 in England.  They both ran well in the Olympics and in life. 

Today is the second-to-last Sunday in our 31-week series working chronologically through the Bible. Last week we looked at the race that the Apostle Paul ran in living out his God-given compulsion to make Jesus Christ known in literally the known world in which he lived in the 1st century A.D.  We saw that it was the incomparable love of Christ that so radically transformed him from being a Christian-killing Jewish zealot to a self-sacrificing Christ-follower. 

Today I want us to hear his heart as both a full participant in the race of life as well as one of the best life-coaches to younger men and women of faith in Jesus.  According to God, it matters both how we run this race of life and how we finish this race.  Unlike the Olympic Games, we’re not running to beat other people; we’re living life to do so in the highest manner possible, for the best goals possible, and in a way that helps as many people as possible finish their race well. 

ILL:  It’s like this commercial made by The Foundation for a Better Life.  Watch: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7XO4/values-com-running-together

[VIDEO]

Now I know this is a commercial.  But what makes this SO special?  It’s not because it’s about a Special Olympics.  It’s because a group of people who society calls “special needs” or “disabled” or “handicapped” is really showing us all what matters far more than coming in “1st”. 

Christian Author Phillip Yancey wrote about this kind of heart when he eulogized Henry Nouwen in 1996, an amazing brother in Christ of the past century.

 [Found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/december9/6te080.html?start=1]

“Trained in Holland as a psychologist and a theologian, Nouwen spent his early years achieving. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, averaged more than a book a year, and traveled widely as a conference speaker. He had a resume to die for—which was the problem, exactly. The pressing schedule and relentless competition were suffocating his own spiritual life.

Nouwen went to South America for six months, scouting a new role for himself as a missionary in the Third World. A hectic speaking schedule on his return to the United States only made things worse. Finally, Nouwen fell into the arms of the L'Arche community in France, a home for the seriously disabled. He felt so nourished by them [italics mine] that he agreed to become priest in residence at a similar home in Toronto called Daybreak. There, Nouwen spent his last ten years, still writing and traveling to speak here and there, but always returning to the haven of Daybreak.

I once visited Nouwen, sharing lunch with him in his small room. It had a single bed, one bookshelf, and a few pieces of Shaker-style furniture. The walls were unadorned except for a print of a Van Gogh painting and a few religious symbols. A Daybreak staff person served us a bowl of Caesar salad and a loaf of bread. No fax machine, no computer, no Daytimer calendar posted on the wall—in this room, at least, Nouwen had found serenity. The church "industry" seemed very far away.

After lunch we celebrated a special Eucharist for Adam, the young man Nouwen looked after. With solemnity, but also a twinkle in his eye, Nouwen led the liturgy in honor of Adam's twenty-sixth birthday. Unable to talk, walk, or dress himself, profoundly retarded, Adam gave no sign of comprehension. He seemed to recognize, at least, that his family had come. He drooled throughout the ceremony and grunted loudly a few times.

Later Nouwen told me it took him nearly two hours to prepare Adam each day. Bathing and shaving him, brushing his teeth, combing his hair, guiding his hand as he tried to eat breakfast-these simple, repetitive acts had become for him almost like an hour of meditation.

I must admit I had a fleeting doubt as to whether this was the best use of the busy priest's time. Could not someone else take over the manual chores? When I cautiously broached the subject with Nouwen himself, he informed me that I had completely misinterpreted him. "I am not giving up anything," he insisted. "It is I,not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship."

All day Nouwen kept circling back to my question, bringing up various ways he had benefitted from his relationship with Adam. It had been difficult for him at first, he said. Physical touch, affection, and the messiness of caring for an uncoordinated person did not come easily. But he had learned to love Adam, truly to love him. In the process he had learned what it must be like for God to love us—spiritually uncoordinated, retarded, able to respond with what must seem to God like inarticulate grunts and groans. Indeed, working with Adam had taught him the humility and "emptiness" achieved by desert monks only after much discipline.”

I love that picture of reality!  Did you know we have a couple of L’arche community houses here in Spokane?  What a sad, even sick, culture that sees these truly special people as a burden instead of the blessing God wants them to be, a “goof of nature” rather than a “gift of God” to show us what really matters in life! 

            [If you want to watch a short movie that will show you another saint of our century who got it right, watch The Drop Box and Pastor Lee of S. Korea.]

The Apostle Paul understood that life is about running our race well…and that “running well” is all about finishing with the most people arm-in-arm together in Christ.

            Besides Paul’s relationship with Barnabas, his own mentor in the faith, there is no clearer picture of what this “Running Well—Finishing Well” lifestyle looks like than between Paul and Timothy

            Timothy was a guy who many of us here today can identify with in some capacity.

  • He was a teenager when he first met Paul and thus first met Christ. (How many here meet Christ as an adolescent?)
  • His family lived inLystra, a farming community in what is now central Turkey.  (Anyone from rural America?)
  • Timothy was a mixed-race His father was Greek and his mother was a Jew.  (We’re almost all “mixed-race” people in America!)
  • His home was also apparently a mixed-religion home. There is no indication that his dad was much of a spiritual leader though his mother and grandmother were apparently HUGE spiritual influences in his life (2 Tim. 1:5; Acts 16:1).
  • Timothy probably saw Paul do miracles, healing a lame man in his town. That was an event that made the locals want to deify Paul and offer sacrifices to him and Barnabas on this, their first visit to Lystra.  
  • Timothy may also have watched as the same town’s folk were swayed to turn against Paul and Barnabas by some jealous Jews from Antioch. They became so incensed by the Gospel that an angry mob stoned Paul in the town and dragged his lifeless body outside the city, leaving him for dead (Acts 14:8-20).
  • Yet, he also saw what was certainly a miraculous healing of Paul as he and other disciples surrounded the limp body and probably prayed for God’s power to raise him up.

Seeing all this most certainly had an impact on Timothy.  Seeing first hand both the power of the Gospel and the price you may have to pay to preach it would make any young man think twice before throwing his lot in with Paul.  But God had stirred something deep in Timothy…just like He is stirring something new and deep in the hearts of some of you in this day and age. “To whom much is given, much is required.” 

  • So, when Paul came back to Lystra a couple of years later on his second journey, guess who he invited to join him on his world travels? Young Timothy was Paul’s intern of choice. APP: Ever been selected by someone you respect for a job or position or opportunity?  Must have been pretty heady stuff for Timothy.  Despite that, the constant encouraging Paul still gives him years later to be bold instead of timid, a public example of godliness instead of a private, hidden figure, makes it clear that Timothy was an unlikely candidate of a young man to be selected for this giant of an Apostle. 
  • Timothy went on to help Paul establish churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (acc. to Acts 16:1– 17:14). He was sent back to at least one of those churches (Thessalonica) to help strengthen it later. Can you imagine the doubts that must have attacked this self-doubting young man? 

APP:  Ever felt that…especially when it comes to building or volunteering or leading in the life of God’s people? 

  • Though probably a generation younger than Paul, Timothy became a trustworthy friend. He carried money collected by the Philippian church to care for Paul’s needs in Corinth. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years, Timothy was right alongside him much of the time unselfishly taking care of Paul’s needs. By age 30, Timothy had spent at least 13 years learning from Paul how to teach about Jesus and serve God’s people well.  Talk about an apprenticeship!  The expectations must have been enormous!  The critics must have been numerous.  Reality must have been painful.

APP:  Haven’t ever felt that in the church, have you?  

  • After Paul’s release from prison in Rome, Timothy traveled with him to visit friends in the churches they had founded. Finding false doctrine being taught about Jesus in Ephesus, Paul left Timothy there to teach truth to the church while Paul went on to Macedonia. Not able to return to Ephesus like he had planned, Paul wrote Timothy the letter we now call 1stTimothy around AD 64 from Rome or Macedonia.

APP:  Every felt unqualified to teach the Word of God?  Ever had to say, “That’s a great question.  I’ll get back to you on an answer…after I consult Paul”? J  Ever wondered what on earth you are doing trying to help anyone grow in Christ when you look in the mirror?

  • Interestingly, 6 of Paul’s epistles include Timothy in their salutations.

APP:  Older saints, it’s time we let some of the younger saints “get under our skin”…in a good way…by getting hold of our hearts.  It’s time we took this discipling, this mentoring thing seriously.  It’s time we chose one or two younger believers to challenge, to write to, to text, to call, to meet with, to minister beside, to push out into this hostile world to give their lives for the only Kingdom that will truly matter in the end. 

  • The most tender and moving of Paul’s letters was, I think his last one. It was to (guess who) Timothy. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in a Roman dungeon.  He wrote 2nd Timothy, around about AD 67. He knew he had a short time to live, so the letter is his spiritual last will and testament – his “dying wish” – to encourage and challenge Timothy and to request that Timothy join him during his final days of imprisonment (2 Timothy 1:4; 4:9, 21).

APP:  Who do you want around your bedside when the end comes?  Isn’t it your “family”—the close friends and family members who you’ve poured your life into, given your all for, laughed and cried with, sweat and bled with, prayed and debated with?  Those kinds of deep connections don’t come in a 6-week course.  They don’t come in a 5-day retreat.  They don’t come from Sunday morning-only glancing greetings.  They come from years of shared ministry and persecution, days and nights of hard work and spiritual battle.  There is no shortcut to deep spiritual impact nor lasting spiritual bonding.

Let’s listen, for an extended reading, with the ears of a son/daughter who is hearing his/her deeply loved father’s voice in a letter…let’s listen to words written specifically to you but also clearly to be read in front of your whole spiritual family, your much loved church, right here. 

“Our Father, speak to us today by these words from our own spiritual grandfather from long ago.” 

I Timothy 1—

12 My son/my daughter, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.

I Timothy 2—

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

I Timothy 4—

If you explain these things to [your] brothers and sisters…, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come

11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

I Timothy 5—

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. 

21 I solemnly command you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus and the highest angels to obey these instructions without taking sides or showing favoritism to anyone.

I Timothy 6—

11 But you, [you], are a man/a woman of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. 

13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

20 [My son/my daughter], guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

2 Timothy 1—

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 

13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 2

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 

20 In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

2 Timothy 3

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it. 12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

2 Timothy 4

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing 

Paul ends his life and his last book to his best friend, Timothy, with 4 challenges and 4 achievements.  The 4 challenges apply to every one of us who want to run well this race of life.  The 4 achievements apply to every one of us who wants to finish well.  I’ll point them out but you’ll need to chew on them and ask God to show you what you need to do both to run well now and finish well when God says the race is over.

4 Rules for Running Well:

  • Keep a clear head (I Tim. 4:5). The term is the opposite of being intoxicated.  It is thinking clearly about life, being able to see life in the clarity of God’s vision, His word and His perspective. 
  • Expect suffering and hardship. This isn’t a pessimistic view of life; it’s a realistic grappling with life.  To expect a life with little suffering as a child of God is to set yourself up for disillusionment and defeat.  Growing and developing our theology about suffering will suit us well for the days ahead. 
  • Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of things that, if we fail to do them, we won’t regret it at the end of life or in eternity…things like spending more time at the office OR playing more rounds of golf OR watching more TV programs OR buying more clothes or shoes.  BUT, failing to share the Gospel that is the power of God to salvation is one thing we will all regret if we don’t.  It’s the only thing that can save a person’s soul and turn them from being a sinner under God’s judgment to a saint under His love. 
  • Live out fully your God-given ministry. God has given ALL His children spiritual callings to carry out.  If you don’t know yours, you better start asking God to reveal it and do what you can to discover it.  Once you know what He has equipped and asked you to do, never give up doing it…never.

That kind of living will lead to Paul’s kind of ending:

  • A life that has been a poured-out offering to God. Everything we do should be a living sacrifice to God… or we shouldn’t be doing it.
  • Fighting the good fight: this journey in Christ is a battle, but it is the best battle.  Don’t expect it to be a pleasure cruise.  Until you take your last breath, expect each day to hold battles and wrestling matches with the world, the flesh and the devil.  Fight hard.  Fight persistently.  Fight every day.
  • Finish the race: This isn’t a 100 meter race.  This is a 100 year race!  It’s a marathon, not a moment.  Expect it to consume every day of your life.  Expect it to be utterly depleting at times.  Expect it to test you more than anything else in life.  But decide now and every day of your life that you will not drop out, give up or wander off.  You will run until you can run no more to the finish line of Jesus Christ himself.
  • Keeping the faith: To keep something to the end you must have come to own it somewhere along the journey.  The “faith” Paul is talking about is not some bland, generalized “keep-the-faith-brother” sort of thing.  It is THE FAITH that has been handed to us…entrusted to us… by Paul and Timothy and centuries of Christians who knew the Gospel of Christ and lived it out. It is our job…every one of us…to know the truth of God, to guard it well and to pass it along to everyone willing to receive it. 

Lose everything else along this journey of life.  But DON’T lose true faith in Jesus Christ! By keeping your faith in Jesus Christ to the end, you are preparing a “prize” of inestimable value for yourself and all those who follow in your footsteps.   

Then, when you are drawing your last breath… or facing your last day on earth…you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul himself, “Now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And this prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Timothy remained in Ephesus until AD 97. During a pagan celebration of a feast called “Catagogian,” Timothy severely reproved the people for their ridiculous idolatry. This so antagonized the partygoers that they beat him with clubs “in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.” 

Run well in Christ…finish well in His arms.