“Fight the good fight of the faith.” (Timothy 6:12)
As the semester draws to an end, there is a lot of emotion in the air. The last week of class is always a blur of packing, studying, goodbyes and exams. For some of us, the end could not have come sooner and for others it felt like it should never come. Regardless of whether you’re a senior or a freshman, the end of the semester marks the conclusion of one chapter and the beginning of the next one.
In talking with friends about what this last week holds, the common theme has been, “I just want to finish strong.” With life moving so quickly, this is a cry for discipline and time management. But this kind of discipline extends far beyond academics, work and even relationships. We need to remember to finish strong every day by putting the Lord first in our ever-changing, busy lives.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to discipline. Before encountering Christ, he was a religious elite – a biblical lawyer of sorts. In his own words from Philippians 3, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” No man can say that they righteously kept the law flawlessly without being full of self-control and drive.
But Paul considers all of this accrued religious credit to be nothing in comparison to the value of simply knowing Christ! He trades in the righteousness he mustered by following the law for the pure, overwhelming righteousness of Christ through faith. Now after being saved, Paul’s ultimate goal is to know Christ more and to be closer with Him in relationship. He reveals this goal to us in Philippians 3:13, where he says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Knowing God and being used for His purpose is the end goal, and the grace of Christ always demands a response. In Christ’s words to His followers in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Following God demands a response, not for salvation which can only be received by grace, but for sanctification – becoming like Him.
God calls us as believers to “be holy, because I am holy.” This seems like a lofty command, but when we realize as believers we already have Him working inside of us, it becomes pursuable. God is asking us to let Him transform us to be more like Him, which requires us to surrender our own desires and obey Him. But this obedience is not a burden – it is actually freedom in its purest form!
Throughout Paul’s life and ministry on earth, he compared the Christian life and this transforming relationship to an athlete running a race, a fighter striking blows, a soldier taking orders and a farmer plowing his fields. With each of these pictures, it is clear that the Christian life cannot be lived stagnantly.
Overall, Paul’s life was a vivid picture of pursuing the Lord and His purpose relentlessly. In his last letter, when facing an eminent death, he wrote to Timothy, a young church leader and practically a son, telling him, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.”
Through it all, Paul fought the good fight of faith and encouraged Timothy to do so as well. In the same way, we are encouraged to do so too. So no matter where you find yourself in this last week of the semester, finish strong and fight the good fight! Use discipline to put the Lord first in all you do and He will sustain through whatever comes your way in this new chapter of life.
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