Some of us feel comfortable in our Christian walk. It is right to enjoy the love of God and think on all his blessings. But, starting with Jesus’ ministry and extending throughout the New Testament, God exhorts Christians to be poured out in service of their neighbours. We aren’t meant to be mere containers of God’s kindness and generosity but conduits. We are to surrender our lives to selfless love and gladly be spent in the process. There are few better examples of this kind of life than the apostle Paul.
We aren’t meant to be mere containers of God’s generosity but conduits.
Paul writes: “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). While Christians often refer to the language of being “poured out,” we rarely appreciate let alone apply its meaning. In this article I will unpack Paul’s next three phrases, explaining what it might look like to pour our lives out.
1. “Fight The Good Fight”
First of all, approaching his death Paul could say he “fought the good fight,” describing his faith as an intense struggle, even warfare. This depicts the Christian life as contending for the gospel, struggling against the dangers that hold us back from living in total submission and obedience to Christ. Although the victory has already been won at the cross, our fighting continues. We must strive to hold onto Christ, both in doctrine and practice. We must resist Satan (James 4:7), as he seeks to discourage and divide us. As Ephesians 6 reminds us, the Christian life is one of spiritual warfare.
We must strive to hold onto Christ, both in doctrine and practice.
Like any honest Christian, I’ve struggled with various sins. Some wonder if this is wrong, asking if we should battle so much. Others question someone’s profession of faith and salvation when their life is marked by ongoing wrestling with and struggling against sin. But this is part of the “good fight.” It isn’t evil. In fact, the absence of this sort of conflict indicates lack of grace, according to Paul in Romans 6. Thus, saints, let us wage this war. Let’s fight the good fight, fully dependent on him who provides the grace needed to do so (Philippians 2:12-13).
2. “Run The Race”
Second, Paul had finished his race, while each of us still has one to run. Perhaps the best picture of this in the New Testament comes in Hebrews 11-12. Though Paul isn’t the true “forerunner” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is. And as we run, we’re cheered on by the faithful who’ve gone before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Running this race is a matter of identity. It isn’t something we drift in and out of.
Following Christ should set the course for our lives, as we point and submit to him, allowing ourselves to be poured out. Our faith isn’t made in a moment or at conversion but through perseverance. This is why Paul describes it as a race to be run. Christianity instead is a lifetime of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Running this race is a matter of identity. It isn’t something we drift in and out of. It isn’t only what we do while praying and singing on Sundays, or during our devotional reading. So Christian, keep running the race, by depending on and looking to the one who went before.
3. “Keep The faith”
Saving faith results both in perseverance and personal transformation.
Finally, Paul kept the faith. He firmly held fast to the end. Saints, if faith is a profession only, what then is the meaning or use of keeping the faith? We can always profess. However, saving faith is active and evident in all of life. This is why Jesus’ brother asks: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). The answer is that there is no use. Such faith cannot save him (James 2:17-18). For even Satan believes in God, yet Satan’s life doesn’t demonstrate that belief (James 2:19).
Saving faith produces good fruit. It results both in perseverance and personal transformation.
Be Poured Out Now; Reign Then
Paul finishes off this section by saying: “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 4:8). Using the image of ancient Greek athletic contests, Paul anticipates being crowned as a victor. Having poured out his life now he knows he will be honoured in the end, and forever more. Such was the pattern of Jesus’ life (Philippians 2:9).
Paul says that those who persevere will reign with God.
As it was for Paul, pouring ourselves out, fighting the good fight, running the race, and keeping the faith leads to a crown. Recognition from our God. In fact, Paul says that those who persevere will reign with God (2 Timothy 2:12). God hasn’t promised us that we will reign now. Victory and conquest comes in glory, to those who pour themselves out and persevere to the end.