The apostle Paul is our best example of staying the course. He endured beatings, imprisonment, false accusation, and difficulties most of us can only imagine. Yet at life’s end, he passed the torch to Timothy and spurred him on. Finishing strong requires courage; Paul’s bravery was intentional and God-supplied. It’s in those moments that require courage where God wonderfully strips everything out from us that we might have been holding onto, we’re forced to deal with the fact that above all things, Christ is enough. No matter life’s circumstances, we already have the source of true comfort, and that’s God himself. It’s knowing this that directs my pursuits and informs my prayers.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. - 2 Corinthians 11:25-31
I think the most challenging time for me to find active hope (not just to see something that I didn’t already know in Scripture but to find that hope), is when I’m overwhelmed by fatigue. Not only physical fatigue but those times caused by navigating obstacles. It has potential to confuse the context of daily living. But I also know something way, way more valuable. I know that God has always been faithful in my life and I have seen his faithfulness in the lives of other believers. I believe He is faithful right now and that He’ll always be faithful. That basically trumps any other concerns that any of us have if we really allow, as a worship goal, these moments to deepen our love and trust in Jesus. He has called us to worship Him. He desires that we spend time in His Word, pray to Him, walk in the Spirit, love others, and grow in our sanctification. Our purpose has not changed, even if our circumstances have.
We can stand on, and we should, the many promises of Scripture. But we only really do that well if we trust and love the God who made those promises to us. Who God is by far is the most important dynamic and truth to cling to. Specifically, because of who God is, I know I can rejoice because he is offering me something infinitely better than any human ideas of fairness. He is offering me grace. He is offering me peace.
It’s a privilege to use my life to point others to Christ. No matter life’s hardships and circumstances, we become our best selves when we align direction with God, resting in his grace, delighting in his mercy, and keeping hope for life eternal. Much like in the life of Paul, at times life can seem like an obstacle course. Yet, as believers, we are called to stay the course. That’s really the big challenge, not to find joy after the trial so much. It is to find joy in the trial and be able to say that everything God does, He does right and He does well. We find comfort in Scripture and today, I find comfort in the life of Paul. It’s how we finish that is of most value. Our aim is to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8