After living a life filled with the joys and sufferings of serving Christ, Paul wrote at least two letters to a man named Timothy. This young man was among those whom Paul trusted to carry forward the work of faith to which Paul had devoted his life.
Sensing that the end of his life was approaching, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6-7 (ESV):
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.
Keeping or defending the faith was a major theme for those who served Christ in the early days of the Church. Another example of this can be found in the New Testament book of Jude. In verse 14, Jude writes:
Although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Other examples of early Christ followers being encouraged to keep the faith appear in Philippians 1:27, 2 Peter 2:1, and in numerous other passages. This was necessary because from the earliest days, Satan and those who serve him, knowingly or unknowingly, have sought to change or pervert the message of biblical faith.
The book of Revelation addresses this same issue. When Jesus appeared to John as recorded at the end of Revelation chapter one, Jesus instructed John to write messages to seven churches. The messages from Jesus to the churches begin in Revelation 2:1 and continue until 3:22.
Each of these seven messages describe challenges faced by the churches. Most involve false teachings that have crept into the churches or other ways in which those within them struggled to keep the message of biblical faith. Jesus ends each of these messages with the words, “To the one who conquers” or very similar wording. The Greek word used for “conquer” in these passages is nikaō. This is a variant of the Greek word nikē which is generally translated as conquest or victory.
A careful reading of the messages Jesus sent to the churches seems to indicate that what He was instructing them to do was to hold on to genuine biblical faith. This theme continues later in Revelation 14:12 where we read the words:
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
The fact that we’re instructed so many times in Scripture to keep the faith, and that this takes endurance, highlights the reality that it’s not easy to do. That’s likely why Paul celebrated toward the end of his life that with God’s help he was able to do so.
Keeping genuine biblical faith was difficult for the early church, and it’s just as difficult for Christ followers today. And yet, doing so is the most important thing that any of us can do because it has eternal consequences. Living life based on the message of biblical faith has many benefits. By doing so we learn to trust God and to love others in sacrificial ways while on earth. Yet far more importantly, it’s only through genuine faith in Jesus that we will be able to enjoy eternity in God’s presence. Jesus made this clear as shown in John 14:6 when He said:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In Revelation 21:1-8 God allowed John a glimpse of the eternity that Christ followers will enjoy with God in heaven. This includes the promises in verse four that God will:
Wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Verses 7-8 make clear the difference between those who will spend eternity with God and those who will not. Those who conquer and keep the faith will enjoy such an eternity, while those who are faithless will spend eternity outside of God’s presence.
Paul spent his life encouraging and teaching individuals to trust in Christ. He also stood firm in biblical faith to the end. What a great example for us. No matter what our profession, gifts, talents, or experiences, keeping genuine biblical faith, standing firm against false teachings, and gently encouraging others to do the same is the best investment we can ever make.
I hope that each of us and those we love will, like Paul, one day be able to look back on our lives and say that by God’s grace we were able to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Amen!