At the end of his letter, Paul deals with some personal matters. He opens his heart to reveal how he feels about his approaching martyrdom, his personal needs, and his unshakeable faith in God.
Paul observes that ‘’the time has come for [his] departure” (v.6). The Greek expression refers to the unmooring of a ship. Paul’s busy and eventful earthly journey was about to end. He was not going to die in a cosy bed surrounded by gentle people and music. Instead, Paul was beheaded as a criminal. His death was a “drink offering” (v.6). Despite the painful, violent, and humiliating circumstances, the resilient apostle could rejoice that he was privileged to be “sharing in [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
It was time to review his life for one last time. Paul was thankful to the Lord for His grace and power. He declares three great statements with much joy and satisfaction (v.7). The three statements resemble the three metaphors he used in 2 Timothy 2:3–6.
“I have fought the good fight”. The Greek word for “fight” is related to the word “agony”. Paul knew that the Christian life is a bruising battle against the devil, flesh, and world. He did not spare any effort in fighting with all his strength. The good fight involves faithfully and firmly standing our ground. It is fought not with the weapons of the world (human strategy and might, wealth and power) but with the armour and sword of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–4; Ephesians 6:10–18). After many years of ministry, Paul was still standing in battle as Christ’s loyal and valiant soldier, bearing the “marks of Jesus” on his body (Galatians 6:17).
“I have finished the race”. Some people start well but fail to finish the race. Paul ran every lap and was now running the home stretch. It must have been an exhilarating feeling. He had always wanted to “finish the race and complete the task” (Acts 20:24).
“I have kept the faith”. Paul had not dropped the baton (the gospel) but successfully passed it on to successors like Timothy and Titus. It must have been with a sense of elation that he realised that while his life was ending, the gospel mission would continue to grow from strength to strength. The messenger may die, but the message lives on.
Review your life in terms of the fight, the race, and the faith. How would you describe each of them? What challenges are you facing? How is God helping you?
How would you urge others to “finish the race and complete the task” (Acts 20:24)? How can pain and suffering detract someone from pursuing this noble goal?