Enduring to the End

A Time for Reflection

As the apostle Paul languished in a dank Roman prison, he was acutely aware of his situation: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand (2 Timothy 4:6). Yet Paul rejoiced in the victories the Lord had given him. Writing to his beloved spiritual son Timothy, he proclaimed, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

This triumphant statement should serve as the summary for every Christian's life when his or her time comes to go home. How can Christians live in such a way as to one day make this claim?

Fighting the Good Fight

Do you feel as if you are in a boxing ring? Does the alarm clock seem more like a bell signaling the beginning of another round in your bout? Paul understood that life is a battle, and waged against an opponent who isn't merely sparring: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

Yet Paul kept slugging it out with the demonic forces that would destroy him, and absorbed every blow. He said, If I must [boast], I will [boast] of the things which concern mine infirmities (2 Corinthians 11:30). Such was the heart of Paul, perhaps history's greatest spiritual fighter.

Most Christians of free societies today will never endure the hardships Paul experienced, but there are times when we feel we are fighting an unwinnable battle. How do we go on fighting when our circumstances continually beat us down?

Paul was a master of getting up off the mat, and the lessons he learned speak volumes to you. Because your opponent is spiritual, you need to fight him in the spirit, which means calling upon the Lord to fight for you. Paul assures you can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [you] (Philippians 4:13, italic added). He also says, Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you? (2 Corinthians 13:5). And once more, the great apostle counsels you to, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10).

Finishing the Course

If Paul looked back on his life and thought it bore a remarkable resemblance to running a marathon (pardon the abrupt switch in metaphor), he was right, as his three missionary journeys demonstrate. The journeys were remarkable successes: converts were won, churches were launched, and existing churches were strengthened. But what about Paul? He tells us:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

You will likely never experience such hardship, yet enduring in a world hostile to Christ can often make you feel as though you are competing on an obstacle course (yes, a third metaphor). Just the routine of earning a respectable living, raising a family, and building a strong marriage can leave you physically weary and mentally drained.

When you feel overwhelmed, think of Paul. If he had given up, he would never have accomplished the work God had called him to. His counsel to you is empowering: … one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). And this: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Paul understood that it is Christ for whom you endure, run, and compete, and He will give you the endurance to finish.

Keeping the Faith

Paul preached God's message in perilous times. Both the Roman government and Jewish leadership were violently opposed to the propagation of the new sect and its followers they scornfully referred to as Christians. Yet Paul never backed down, defiantly asserting: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

Though you may never suffer physical persecution, the animosity of the culture and attitudes toward the message of Christ can send you sagging into depression. When depression hits, Paul's powerful words to Timothy in A.D. 67 speak just as masterfully to you today: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season … watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry (2 Timothy 4:2, 5).

The Reward

You may be wondering, If I endure, will it all be worth it? What awaits me at the end?

Paul says: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day (2 Timothy 4:8). The crown referred to here is one awarded for lifelong enduring. But ultimately, the real reward will be spending eternity with Christ. And the good news is that it was not only Paul who received a crown of righteousness, but there is one awaiting all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8, italic added).

Are you enduring in a way that will win you the crown? If so, keep running the race with the goal of crossing the finish line in triumph!

David Ettinger is a writer/editor at Zion's Hope, Inc., and has written for Zion's Fire magazine since its inception in 1990.