She was just fifteen and naive, not very pretty even. He was almost twenty, and considered a ladies’ man. Is it any wonder she was smitten from the first “Where have you been all my life?” to the final breath? He didn’t have any faults that her parents really objected to: he came from a family of good reputation; his dad had been the County Treasurer and his brothers and sisters were respected in their careers–teaching school, home-making, farming, military. He had a good job and could make people laugh. All she could see was the handsome man making her feel like a queen.
Shortly after she turned sixteen, and he almost twenty-one, they married. Within four months she was pregnant–and sick night and day for the entire nine months. The little girl they had would probably be an only child, for who would want to be sick like that again?
Years passed. He had a good work ethic and brought home the paycheck. The only vice she could see was that he smoked, and in those days there was no stigma attached to it. He did not drink or curse, but what else he may have done, she was ignorant of. Gradually, however, she learned he had a temper although he never physically abused her, but she learned to walk on egg-shells to keep it to a minimum. He had been severely abused as a child (he said), and she laid his lack of affection and temper to that.
The years passed by quickly. There were many things she learned about him: he had a few mannerisms that concerned her. He performed a series of the same actions when he met someone that seldom varied (“Watch how I can make one arm longer than the other,” “Can you touch your toes without bending your knees?” and a few more.) But it began to sink in that he always called her “the Little Woman” to others, and the daughter was “the Kid.” When (accidentally) they had another child seven years later, she was “the Baby.” He never spoke their names, never hugged them, never showed affection. They went to church and she began to grow in her faith and her relationship with Jesus Christ. He went with her, read his Bible, but always prayed the same word-for-word prayer at every breakfast and did not seem to grow. She always prayed the supper prayer. Eventually, somehow, he was chosen as a Deacon in the church.
More years passed. Many situations occurred that caused her to be confused. He was active in their marital role, but flirted with others. Meanwhile, she kept leaning on her heavenly Father for support. She seldom moved anything in the house that he left lying around, or he would get angry. Sixty years passed. By now her faith had led her to serving the Lord in her church and community, making friends, being hospitable to others, but never crossing him.
When he died, she didn’t grieve. I believe she finally felt free to be herself. She served her Lord with her life–what was left of it–and with a pure heart. She had never outgrown her naiveté, and was happy for the first time since those long ago days.
When she died, she saw angels coming for her and was, in her face and voice, completely changed in appearance as she glowed and talked with them before dying. It was one of those miraculous happenings that takes away the fear of death for those in her bedroom. She had been able to cross that Great Divide saying, “I have kept the faith, I have run the race, I have finished what I had to do.” Her story is probably replicated in marriages all over the world, time and time again, and the sad part is, it is almost the total of her biography.
Finishing your race well. Are you doing that? Do you have a job, a situation, a calling that you didn’t choose but one that may have fallen into your lap (perhaps being a caregiver?), and you are trying to do the best you can to “keep on keeping on”? The sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday, October 23, 2016, was preached by Pastor Jonathan Falwell to encourage believers to run the race with endurance, knowing that even through the trials of life–difficult as they may be–it is the finish that will tell how faithful we were. Click on the link http://www.trbc.org/service-archive, and select the last sermon. Grab a notebook and settle in by yourself, with a friend or family, or even a group, and watch the sermon. If you have time, worship with the praise team! Then use the study notes below as a guide to do an in-depth study, learning what Paul had to endure as he finished his race. You can do all the questions in one session, or take your time and make them last throughout the week!
Completing a task—especially if it’s difficult—can often be a tremendous challenge, but the satisfaction of having had the discipline to do so is very rewarding. Do you have an example you can think of? Write it down, or discuss it if you are in a group!
We are concluding the series, “Unfinished” this week. We have studied Paul’s final words of encouragement to Timothy, as well as to future believers. He gives detailed instructions on faithfully continuing the work he had begun, knowing his death would come at any moment. Let’s examine our own discipline in enduring challenges that may come into our lives as we call ourselves Christians, and do God’s work.
Focal Passage: 2 Timothy 4:6-22
Think About or Discuss:
- Put into your own words what Paul was saying in verse 7. When did his call to be an apostle begin? Is that when his “race” began?
- Read Philippians 3:13,14. How was Paul able to ignore the life he had lived before Jesus met him on the road to Damascus? What should that teach you?
- Considering his coming execution, where was his focus, referred to in verse 8?
- Paul not only kept his own mind always on pleasing Jesus Christ, but says others who love Him will also be rewarded on “that Day.” Whom did he refer to?
- Why is it so easy for the culture to drag a believer down? Where must you constantly have your heart centered?
Stand Strong, Even If You Must Stand Alone
- Why did Paul mention the individuals in verses 10 and 11? List all the reasons you can think of, realizing it was not retaliation he was after. What warning is this to you about your circle of friends?
- What type of spirit did Paul show in verse 16b? Who does this remind you of?
- Who suffers the most from a spirit of unforgiveness? Can you think of an example? Even more difficult, is there someone you need to forgive?
- In verse 17-18a, Paul stated how he was capable of finishing strong. How?
- As he pens his last words, where again was his focus? How was he able to overlook the events that were almost upon him? Could you?
Paul’s execution was at hand. He wanted to be certain Timothy understood the only thing that really mattered was keeping on with the task God had given, until the call came to go to his heavenly home. Paul was in effect saying, “I’ve done the best I could since Jesus saved me, and have constantly looked to Him to give me strength through trials. Now I trust Him to get me through this last suffering so that I may receive the crown of righteousness.” That is the goal for all of us. No matter what sins we have committed before today, we can make a new pledge to make “today the first day of the rest of our lives,” and we can strive to say, as Paul did, that we have kept the faith, and finished the race. Pray fervently that you would keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:1-3)!
Memory Verse: 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
Focal Passage: 2 Timothy, Chapter 4:6-22; 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 12:1-3