************ Funearl Sermon on 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 8, 2016
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Christine Fukano memorial service
A week before she died Christine and I were talking about her funeral. She asked for Christmas music. She asked that we sing "Lamb of God." I asked if there was a text she wanted me to preach on. She recited the words before us this morning: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
If ever there is a text that fits Christine, this is it. Because Christine was a fighter. There is no doubt about that. For thirteen years she fought cancer:
-When she was first diagnosed with cancer, she told me her prayer was to see Allison graduate from grade school; instead, she saw Allison graduate from grade school, high school, and college.
-She was on hospice February 2009 and staying with her parents; an elder and I came over to visit with the Lord's Supper; we were sure this would be the last time she would ever celebrate the sacrament. She lived seven more years and celebrated the sacrament at least thirty more times.
-She was on hospice multiple times. But she never once quit fighting and living.
-She signed up for drug trials. Afterwards, she learned she was on a placebo; but, the tumors did not grow during the trial. She did so well that one of her doctors knew her only as the patient he never met.
Yes, Christine, when it comes to cancer you have fought the good fight. In fact, you have been amazing. You have been a source of inspiration and hope for all cancer patients.
It is the Apostle Paul who said the words of our text. His fight was no less amazing than that of Christine:
-Five times he received the forty lashes (minus one).
-Three times he was beaten with rods.
-Once he was stoned.
-Three times he was shipwrecked.
-He spent a night and a day floating on the sea.
-He was constantly on the move.
-He was in danger from rivers, bandits, Jews, and Gentiles.
-He was in danger in the city, country, and at sea.
-He was attacked by false brothers.
-He labored and toiled and often went without sleep.
-He knew hunger and thirst.
-He knew weakness and temptation.
-Besides all this, he was filled with concern for the church.
(Cf 2 Cor 11:24-29)
As Paul thought about all of his struggles and trials he could say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Why was Paul thinking about this? Why was he reviewing the struggles of his life? Paul was in prison. He knew there was little chance of his getting out. Like Christine, Paul knew that he was soon going to die. So he writes,
(2Tim 4:6) For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
Paul raises two images here. The first image is that of a cup. Did you know that a wine offering was given at the conclusion of every Old Testament sacrifice? Paul views his life as a drink offering. Meaning what? Meaning the sacrifices he has made over the years are finally reaching their conclusion and it is time for the drink offering to be poured marking the end of the sacrifices. The second image is that of a ship. Its anchor has been lifted, its sails have been unfurled, and it is about to depart for distant ports. That's Paul -- the time of his departure from this earth and this life has almost arrived.
On New Year's Day, Christine's sufferings finally ended, the drink offering was poured, and the time came for her departure.
We do Paul a disservice if we only view his words from an earthly point-of-view. Paul is talking about more than earthly struggles. He is talking about spiritual matters, spiritual struggles.
"I have fought the good fight." We know that Paul means he has fought and struggled for the Lord Jesus and the faith. He says earlier to Timothy, "Fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Tim 6:12). Paul talks here, then, of how he has fought against error and heresy. He speaks of his fight to win souls for the Lord. He speaks here of his fight against sin and evil. He speaks of how he fought to preach, correct, rebuke, and encourage because many in his audience did not put up with correct doctrine (cf 2 Tim 4:2-3). "I have fought the good fight."
Paul also says "I have finished the race." Notice, Paul doesn't say he won the race; rather, he only claims to have finished the race. Paul is talking here of a life of Christian discipleship (cf 1 Cor 9:24; Heb 12:1-2). He is talking here of how he has lived and worked for the Lord Jesus. He didn't quit part way through. He finished the race. He never quit the struggle. He never gave up.
"I have kept the faith." Paul writes this as a prisoner for the Lord in Rome. He is being guarded by soldiers. It must have been boring duty. More than once the soldiers must have wondered why they were guarding what seemed like a harmless old man. Yet, they faithfully guarded him anyway. Like the Roman soldiers, Paul has been faithful and true to his calling. Paul is thinking of obedience to the Lord and loyalty to the faith. Paul knew first hand of many people who had slipped from the faith. He knew of persons in whom the Gospel flourished for a brief time only to wither and die. He knew of individuals who had left the church and turned or returned to a life of sin. He knew souls that fell into error and heresy. "As for me," says Paul, "I have kept the faith."
Paul never quit. For the sake of the Gospel and his faith in Christ he was put in prison, he was whipped, he was threatened, he was ship-wrecked, he faced a martyr's death. Did he ever give up? Did he desert the faith? Did he stop fighting the fight? Did he stop running the race? No!
Only one things counts for Paul -- whether or not he has served the Lord Jesus Christ. His life, the things of this life, none of these were important to him. What was important was a life of continuous service to and for the Lord.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Like Paul, Christine was talking about more than earthly struggles. She, too, was talking about spiritual matters and spiritual struggles. She, too, was talking about her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I remember the first time Christine called me with the news of her cancer. She was shaken to the core. And she was crying a couple of years later when it came back. Did she quit her faith in Jesus Christ? Did she stop living the Christian life? Did she stop attending worship? Anything but. We saw her in worship twice each Sunday. She poured through Scripture and soaked in its promises. By her own admission, she didn't have much of a singing voice but she sang the songs of faith when she was by herself. Over and over she sang her favorite song, "Lamb of God." This song says it all. Christine knew she was a sinner. She knew her need for the Lamb of God as her Savior. And she rejoiced that she was washed and cleansed in His precious blood. What an example she was for her fellow believers! An example of faith, an example of endurance, an example of trust.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Christine was this way because -- like Paul -- she knew Who Jesus was and what He did. She knew Jesus to be the revelation of God. She knew Jesus to be the Word through Whom God created the universe. She knew Jesus to be the second person of the triune Godhead. She knew Jesus crucified and resurrected. She knew Jesus as her friend and as her brother. She knew Jesus as Savior and Lord. She knew Jesus to be all-powerful. She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith -- all because of Jesus. Christine knew what was at stake.
Our Bible reading ends with a promise: "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."
Paul sees the day when he stands before the Lord. The Lord reviews his life and says, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Here is your crown of righteousness."
Think about this. This promise means death is not the end. Death is never the end. There is life after death. There is life for Paul. There is life for Christine. There is life for all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, what is this reward that God gives not just to Paul but to all His faithful people, including Christine? It is a "crown of righteousness." In the Greek athletic games that Paul was thinking of when he wrote to Timothy, the victor was crowned with a garland or wreath made of branches and flowers. The crown itself has no value; its value consists solely in what it symbolizes; the crown symbolizes victory. The same is true of the Christian's crown -- the crown itself has no value; its value consists solely in what it symbolizes; the Christian's crown symbolizes victory. By grace, God gives a crown of victory for a life of faithful service. Those who wear the crown are victorious over death, over sin, over evil, over Satan, over sickness, over discouragement. They are victorious in Christ and with Christ.
Oh did Christine ever love hearing about this crown. Did she ever love hearing about life with God in heaven and in the new heaven and new earth. Did she ever love being told that God rewards faithful service. She clung to those promises. I could not read them to her enough times.
Let me end by asking you: when you leave this life is that crown reserved for you? Will God someday say to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Here is your crown of righteousness"? Your answer depends on something. It depends on your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Your fighting, your running, your keeping all has to do with your relationship to and with Jesus. You fight for Jesus. You run for Jesus. You keep for Jesus. It is Jesus you must know. It is Jesus to whom you must be committed.
Remember, death is not the end. So what will happen to you when you leave this life? My hope and prayer is that in union with Christ you -- like Christine -- will receive the crown of righteousness.
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