Ending Well

2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.

Paul never spends excess time just talking about himself, but here in this passage that we are looking at today, he does talk about himself. Now remember, this letter is about encouraging a man, Timothy, to be faithful to his calling no matter what difficult circumstances may arise. For Timothy, a major difficulty was that of confronting and dealing with very persuasive false teachers. He was a pastor, and part of his calling was to lead the church in truth. Leading the church in truth, for him, included difficult confrontation with those who opposed truth. And so Paul’s message is this: “Timothy, remain faithful.”

Each of us are also called to faithfulness. Faithfulness is not a part-time job for any of us. Being faithful is a lifelong calling. We all pass through times when faithfulness is hard. And in fact, it is in those hard times when we are able to prove our faithfulness.

So, this is the context of the book, and now Paul turns the conversation to himself, talking about himself. I think the purpose for his doing so is to encourage Timothy to consider Paul’s life of faithfulness, and in seeing that to give Timothy hope that he too can remain faithful. It is like, “See, Timothy, it can be done! Christians can be faithful, in Christ. Look at my life and be encouraged!”

I think we need to hear this today. As I scan across our congregation, I know that many of you, really all of you are dealing with hard things. We may not announce those hard things to each other, we may hide them well or just keep them mostly private. We can be around others and all seems well in how we project ourselves, but the truth is, we are all dealing with something or many things that are hard. Don’t fall into the temptation to look around you this morning and believe that the people here don’t have troubles, that others have an idealistic life and you are the only one struggling. Others are probably looking at you and thinking that, and you would think that is laughable. It is true with them as well. No one is immune from troubles.

When troubles come, we may be tempted to put aside faithfulness to God and act or respond sinfully with sinful worry, or fear, or lashing out at others, or sinful anger, or gossip, or turning to alcohol or drugs, or other means of pleasure to mask the pain. We are tempted to turn from faithfulness in many ways, maybe to simply ignore a problem that should be dealt with biblically, or to ignore a Christian brother or sister, to avoid them. In life we will have troubles, we read that in the Bible, and all I am saying is when those troubles come, we may be tempted to turn from truth, to turn from God’s commands to us and live sinfully in some way.

Since this is true, it is good for us to hear of those who have remained faithful, we need to see the hope that it can be done, we need to be encouraged in the truth as Paul encourages Timothy here.

Paul starts out with an unusual statement that we may read and think, “Well, how exactly is this encouraging?” Well, let’s see:

2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come

What is happening here? Well, the obvious truth is that Paul was well aware that his time on earth was now very short. That is what he means when he says the time of his departure has come. That may not sound very uplifting, right? But for Paul, and for any of us who are thinking rightly as Christians, this is not bad news. Remember what Paul had said in Philippians 1?

Philippians 1
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

When Paul said this in Philippians, when he said, “to die is gain” and “My desire is to depart and be with Christ,” he meant these things. He meant it when he thought death was way far in the distance, and he meant it when he knew death was near.

And so if Paul were in our presence, if he were a personal friend here with us and he said, “My departure has come,” then we could be happy for him, we could rejoice with him, we could know that what he strongly desired was about to happen for him. He was not wailing, anxious, or out of his head with fear. No, he longed to be with Christ, he had said that in the past, and it was true even as he wrote these words. His faith did not hinge on circumstances. No, his faith dictated how he interpreted his circumstances.

Now, what did Paul mean when he said: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering”? This phrase would be a reference to the Old Testament sacrificial system. In the book of Numbers there was instruction for the people of Israel to give a burnt offering, that is an animal sacrifice, next they were to give a grain offering, and then a drink offering. The drink offering was at the end, it marked the end. The drink offering was poured out completely until it was gone. Death would be his final sacrifice. The sacrifice of his life. You may remember in Philippians 2 that he also spoke of being a drink offering. There he said:

Philippians 2
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Again, you cannot help but notice his excitement about being such a sacrifice, even unto death. He said, “You should be glad and rejoice with me!” Paul had offered himself as a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1, and now as his life nears its end he embraces the thought of also dying as a sacrifice to the Lord.

If we could only embrace this: in life we are the Lord’s, in death we are the Lord’s. We are His to live for Him, for His pleasure, no matter what. Can we take our fixated hearts off our troubles and simply strive to honor Him in all things? Even in our troubles? Perhaps if we do as Paul did, we will speak his language from Philippians where he cannot seem to stop talking about the joy of the Christian life.

Why does joy elude us? Why is happiness a distant thought? Maybe because we have not yet learned to live sacrificially for our Lord. Jesus said as He served His disciples by washing their feet:

John 13
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them

Blessed means “happy.” Happy are you if you live sacrificially as a servant for the Lord. This is what Jesus was saying and this is what Paul lived. He was a sacrifice in life and he would be one as well in death. And all this from the man who spoke more about joyful living than any other had. There is a connection. There is a connection between true happiness and being a faithful servant of the Lord. Paul had found it – I hope we all get that as well!

2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

He goes on to describe his earthly journey:

2 Timothy 4
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

After the Lord Jesus saved Paul on that road to Damascus, God put Paul on this path of Christian living, the same one we are to follow. He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith.

Did you ever think that if you were living right, life would be easy? Have you ever thought that if you were just a stronger Christian, your troubles would be few? If you have, then go ahead and erase those thoughts from your mind. The fact that Paul had to fight indicates that he was in a a constant battle. Starting a race is easy, but finishing a well-run race, that is hard. If you give your all in a race, whether a sprint or a marathon, it is taxing on the body, and if you run well it should take all your strength. Both fighting and finishing a race speak of great expenditures of energy. In fact, in the Christian life, it is so much energy that we cannot do it on our own. It is God in us who gives us this strength. We can do all things through Christ who does what? Who strengthens us!

He fought, he finished the race, and he kept the faith. Paul endured to the end. His faith was real and it did not run out. Paul’s mind was so fixed on Christ. He was obsessed with Christ. He could not seem to take his mind off of Christ. Even when suffering in prison, because of his love for Christ, he worshiped Christ and rejoiced in Christ. What is the result for a person who lives and thinks this way? Faithfulness. Paul kept the faith.

Are you having trouble living out God’s stated desires for you in His Word? Are you struggling with obedience in a particular area of your life? Do you wonder why you have such strong desires that you know are not pleasing to Christ? If so, do as Paul did: fix your mind on Christ, be obsessed with knowing Him in His Word, be obsessed with Him. Ask Him to help you in this.

Now, what is the result of these two verses? What is the next thing for Paul? Paul has described his past and present life like this:

2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

So what is next for him? Look at verse 8:

2 Timothy 4
8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.

There was a day coming soon for Paul that would eclipse all others. A great day, a much anticipated day. Shadows would become clear. He had lived his life with the reality of, “There is something much greater ahead.” And that something greater was almost here. He spent his life for this. He gave his all in service to Christ and now, now the day was almost here. Notice how he describes his future which was coming quickly. And we can grasp this, we can see why Paul lived with joy and longed for Christ.

2 Timothy 4
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness

‘Henceforth’ is a reference to the future, of a future coming event. Paul had a sure confidence in what his future would hold. ‘Laid up’ is the idea of something that is being stored up safely in a guarded way. So something was being stored up with Paul’s name on it, and it was being carefully guarded by Christ Himself. It was safe, waiting specifically for Paul.

Some things are being stored for us in heaven that have to do with our works. Some of what is waiting for us has to do with what we do here. For instance, we read:

Matthew 6
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

1 Timothy 6
18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

So there are rewards for the believer that will be primarily based on our motives. God is always interested in the heart.

Proverbs 24
12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

So there are rewards in heaven for our good deeds done not out of selfishness or selfish gain but done with a heart motive of glorifying our Lord. But in our passage today, what is being laid up that Paul speaks of is the crown of righteousness. This crown is that which every believer will receive – every believer. James speaks of it as a crown of life, and Peter speaks of it as the unfading crown of glory. This righteousness, the crown of righteousness, this is the perfection of righteousness, the righteousness of Christ that will be given to us. This will be the completion of our righteousness when we will be like Christ.

Today, for those of us who are living, we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness, however we still sin. In and of ourselves we are sinners, but in our sinfulness we are counted as righteous. But in heaven, we will be righteous, this will be the culmination of our salvation, our sinful flesh will be shed, the old man gone, and the glory of sinlessness will be who we are.

1 Corinthians 15
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

This will be given by Christ Himself: “which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” This gift, this prize is not just for Paul, but for everyone who will believe.

What is heaven? One thing it will be is a place where we are free from sin. In the presence of Christ we will be free from sin. If you are battling against sin in your life right now, you know the struggle with sin, you hate it, but in your flesh you struggle with it. If you feel the pain of this war of the flesh, then what can be more glorious than to be rid of that? Paul knew the struggle and he longed to be free from it. He was ready. Are you ready?

Do you long to be with Christ? Do you long to be free from sin? If not, I urge you to trust in our Savior today. I urge you to repent of your sins and turn to Christ by faith. He is your only hope. If this is new to you and you want to know more about what it means to follow Christ, to be a Christian, then ask someone around you this morning. There are people all around you who would like to talk with you more about being a follower of Christ, and that includes me. Because there is a day coming for every believer when the crown of righteousness will be given. It will be given by the Lord Himself. And we will finally be rid of the struggle of our sinful flesh.

2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.