I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Tm 4:7
I can see young Pastor Timothy weeping as he reads these words from his dear mentor and friend, Paul the Apostle. He’s receiving the baton, ready to run the next lap in the race. And what a fight he was facing! Timothy faced enemies from the pagan world of Ephesus, where he pastored the church, and from false teachers.
Ephesus was home to the goddess, Artemis who the Romans later identified as their goddess, Diana. In 250 B.C., Alexander the Great rebuilt the temple for Artemis, or Diana, and it became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The city reached the pinnacle of its greatness while under Roman control in the first and second centuries of the Christian era and was the fourth largest city in the world with an estimated population of 250,000. It was the Roman capital of the province of Asia, and had amazing wealth. Paul warned Timothy that there would be terrible times when people loved only themselves and money. The people of the city were arrogant, abusive, unforgiving, ungrateful, and slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Tm 3:1-5) What an atmosphere in which to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
But the pagan world of Ephesus was not the only challenge Timothy faced. Paul encouraged his young disciple to preach the truth, as false teachers had infiltrated the church with false doctrines. It is in this second letter that Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tm. 3:16)
Along with all these challenges, Timothy was evidently timid. Paul begins this letter reminding the young pastor of his calling and gifting, and telling him that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” (2 Tm. 1:7) Another translation uses the phase, “of a sound mind,” a mind at peace.
We face many of the same challenges that the early Christians faced. We too are surrounded by a pagan, idol-worshiping world. Our churches are constantly attacked with false doctrine like cheap grace without repentance. How can we possibly maintain peace in this turbulent ocean of discord? How do we fight the good fight, as Paul did and stay in peace? How did Timothy do it? I could offer a long complicated answer, but scripture allows me to spare you.
The solution is found in a part of this second letter to Timothy that we Bible readers usually just quickly pass over. We can’t wait to get to the good stuff, the meat of Paul’s teaching, so we just casually whisk by chapter one, verses one and two. ”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear son (could say daughter): GRACE, MERCY, and PEACE from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Pause for a few seconds and just think about these words. … You are a son or a daughter of God! You are in His will, and you are living a new life in Jesus! You are abiding in His promises! We are constant recipients of God’s grace, mercy, and peace. And, yes, it is beyond understanding! And yes, it’s a peace that the world cannot take away. Paul says it best in his letter to the church in Ephesus, written six to eight years before this second letter to Timothy: “For He Himself is our peace …” (Eph 2:14).
Are you not a constant receiver of God’s grace and mercy? Of course you are! You are a perpetual recipient of His peace too! Believe the facts of Scripture, not your feelings. Our emotions can deceive us, but 2 + 2 is always 4. How do we fight the good fight and stay at peace? We simply remind ourselves of the facts! Jesus IS ALWAYS our peace! Go ahead, take the baton! Win and Grow a disciple! You’re going to want to pass the baton on!
Dave Kachele is the founder of Win and Grow Ministries and author of
“THE RELUCTANT EVANGELIST: Embrace YOUR Gifts and Fulfill God’s Purpose.”
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A Postscript: Today, as I was coming away from a very precious time alone with the Lord, I got word that two precious saints passed away this morning. One has been a dear friend and mentor since we moved to Southern California in 2003. The other is my wife’s great aunt, who was a prayer warrior for as long as Dona can remember and before that. ”Lord, please tell Hank and Aunt Marge that we humbly receive the baton. Thank You Jesus for trusting us with it.”