“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 to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6–8

Priorities change over the course of a lifetime. We have kept some of our family Christmas lists which used to adorn our refrigerator each December. Looking at them brings back memories of Christmases past, the wants and wishes of children now grown, and the joy of sharing the meaning of the season. The only meaning left in those lists today is how fast life has moved on from those days of childish desires.

The blessing of living life for more than a couple of decades, for the thinking Christian, is the discovery that the issues, priorities, and missions of life come into clearer focus with each passing year. While there will always be room for healthy regret of past sin and failure, there is a biblical way to spiritually live your life without regret. From the point of your salvation, you have been set free from the tyranny of sin and, for the first time, you have the opportunity to choose godliness in all your words and deeds. Humble obedience to Christ is the way to assure living a life free from spiritual regret.

Paul’s instruction for Timothy about a regret-free life is made available to us all in 2 Timothy 4. There is a ring of triumph in Paul’s words even though his words signal the stroke of midnight for his life on this earth.

Verse 6 really sets the stage for us. Paul says, “I am ready.” The Greek term is reminiscent of a ship, provisioned and with its full complement of sailors, about to set sail and leave port. He also says, “Being poured out as a drink offering.” Paul is seeing the offering up of his life as a free-will, peace offering of thanksgiving (Numbers 15). Then, Paul declares, “The time of my departure is at hand.” He employs a word that is used to describe the unyoking of oxen at the end of the day. In these three phrases we learn that his death is imminent and yet he enjoys triumph in that he is willingly and joyfully ready to be unhitched from his earthly labors and to set sail for glory!

Paul had no spiritual regrets as he faced the conclusion of his life. Would you not like to have the same joy of heart at the end of your pilgrimage to glory? The longer we live, the more we become painfully aware of how evil our “old nature” really is. Confession of sin is our constant responsibility and walking in the presence of God is our ever-present need. What once seemed important in our distracted earlier days gets filtered out through the years of life. Just like panning for gold, Paul reached into the murky stream of human life, sloshed out the silty sand, and he shows us his hard-won golden wisdom.

Using illustrations of contests of strength and endurance, he tells us how he approached his life and ministry. At every turn there has been a contest for him (1 Corinthians 11:23ff). He likens his Christian task to that of a wrestler in the agonies of his craft requiring all his explosive might, the long distance runner requiring all his patient and lonely endurance, and the victorious soldier requiring all his strategic planning and execution in order to prevail. There is little doubt that the conflicts of his life had brought the issues, priorities and meaning of his life into ever-sharpening focus.

Issues of life come upon the saint as he serves, and often take the form of a great wrestling match. Here, he says, “I have fought the good fight.” In each of the three verbs (fought, finished, and kept) Paul uses the perfect tense, signifying a completed act with a result that continues on into the present. By using this illustration, Paul is revealing to us the fact that he has agonized, in a desperate contest, striving to prevail, and has completed his match. His performance has been in the arena of the “good fight.” There is something of the warrior’s grasp of a “just war” in his comments. It is good to strive for the Gospel, for the souls of men, for the discipleship of the saints. It is good in the way he contested, performing skillfully in the eye of the Beholder, the Lord of All.

Priorities of life are to be discovered by the saint and he must own them—own them for the long haul of his pilgrimage until God calls him home. Paul says, “I have finished the race.” He fulfilled his course, taking a page from his Savior’s book (Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:26f). Every saint must identify and simplify his priorities from which he will allow no distraction if he is to prevail.

Missions of life become clearer with the years of service. Paul says, “I have kept the faith.” Paul realized the joy of being a victorious guardian of truth, defending the citadel of faith against the changing stratagems of the enemy, and pressing forward with the truth as light shining into darkness.

Are you focused on spiritual things? On eternal things? On the Crown of Righteousness? Trust and obey.