“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6–8

As Paul was in the final period of his life, he penned the above words to his young disciple Timothy. There is an undeniable triumphalism in Paul’s words. He was fast approaching the culmination of his ministry and his earthly pilgrimage. His work had been a struggle, a long haul, and a test of all God had placed within him; and yet he went on record to say that he was ready!

The opening words of the passage can only be spoken by someone who has been full of resolution from the very beginning of his spiritual life, his new birth in Christ. His resolve was the same in intensity at the start that it now was at his impending death. He would be the first to say that his intensity of resolve was from the Lord and, undeniably, it was. God had chosen him for the task of being the missionary to the Gentiles and therefore to usher in the Church Age. He traveled around the Mediterranean preaching the Gospel, planting churches, and strengthening the saints through many long years of trial. Though your mission in life is not the same as Paul’s, there is no less need for you to approach your Christian life from the same context of strength in resolution and intensity.

Paul shares his thoughts using the terms of a serious athlete. He picks the focused mindsets of a first century wrestler fighting the good fight, a runner finishing the race, and a soldier keeping the faith. The stewardship of life is a sobering obligation because your life is borrowed from the Almighty. In Paul’s case, he was coming to the end of his stewardship. His opening words found in verse 6 display thoughtfulness, thanksgiving, and anticipation.

His thoughtful analysis and review of his life enabled him to declare that he was ready. Paul uses a nautical term for a ship about to sail. All the preparations have been made, the gear has been stored, the crew has been secured, and the ship is ship-shape! Thankfulness is brimming in his heart for he reaches back in Old Testament familiarity with the offerings. He chose the drink offering of thanksgiving to describe the ending scenes of his life. The drink offering symbolizes that all is right between his soul and his Maker. And there was nothing Pollyanna in his anticipation of departure, for he uses a term that means to loosen (as in unmooring a ship, or striking a tent), to dissolve, to break up. Yet there is no doubt that he displays the yearning of the athlete for the conclusion of the contest, for that is what the next verse bears out.

The first sport he chose for illustration was wrestling. He said “I have fought the good fight.” The Greek word he uses to describe the contest is agonidzo, meaning desperate straining, strive, fight, and agonizing. He has “agonized the good agony.” As all wrestlers know, those minutes in the contest require everything you have. Every muscle is required and the technique must be mastered. In fact, Paul calls it “the good fight,” a contest waged that is visibly good to the beholder, a battle well fought. There must be no cheating on the one hand and elegant execution of maneuvers on the other. The contest has been waged fair and square. Wrestling is a contest of endurance, athleticism, and intelligence of prosecution. There is an inner quality about wrestling that Paul engages as he declared that he has endured well.

The second sport he chose for illustration was running. He again used a verb in the perfect tense, indicating that the action has been completed. The Greek word is teleo, meaning completed out to the end. The runner prosecutes his race to the completion. His is a personal course and often a lonely pursuit. There is an inner performance about running that Paul engages as he declared that he has finished well.

The final “sport” he chose for illustration was soldiering. There is no doubt that the soldier’s life is very physical, but it is also very code driven. He said, “I have kept the faith.” The Greek word is tereo, to keep by guarding. The faith is the deposit of truth. As all soldiers know, one must remain true to his commission by being ready to perform his responsibilities at a moment’s notice. He must be true to his oath, to his orders, be brave, able to identify danger, and resolute regardless of the opposition. There is an inner fidelity about soldiering that Paul engaged as he declared that he has treasured well.

After reviewing his life as a sacrifice (verse 6), a struggle, a sprint , and a stewardship (verse 7), Paul finally looks to his anticipated success (verse 8). He speaks of the awaiting laurel wreath of victory! This crown is the crown of righteousness from the hand of the Lord of righteousness, Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge. In fact, you too can look forward to the very same crown if you love His appearing with the same long term resolve as Paul! Trust and obey.