In today’s passage, Apostle Paul confesses that he knows his life will come to an end soon. And he summarises his ministry giving glory and thanks to God. The year’s end is always a busy time but as believers, we must remember to settle accounts with God before the year ends. Being ready is not just for when we become sick or when we know our lives are ending. If we were to go to the Lord today, are we ready? Will we be like apostle Paul, able to say, I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith?
This is the last week of the year 2021, the last Lord’s Day. Next Lord’s Day will be in the new year of 2022. As we finish this year, let us learn from Apostle Paul how to end 2021 well. For when we end this year correctly, we can begin 2022 with confidence. How did Apostle Paul do it?
1. Apostle Paul came to an end with his old self
Apostle Paul was not afraid to reveal himself as a former blasphemer, persecutor, violent aggressor who sought to destroy the church of God. That was until he met Jesus. He put his old self behind & became a new person (1 Timothy 1:13; Galatians 1:13-17). Philippians 3:5-8 records Apostle Paul’s impressive credentials – top education, best family background, impeccable upbringing. Yet he put them all behind, considering them as rubbish, as poop. He could do that because he knew what was in front of him – JESUS, who was far greater than all his past achievements put together. Apostle Paul was able to put an end to his old self at the cross. When he met Jesus, he was able to leave his old self behind. He considers it as being crucified in Christ and was perfectly willing to give up all he was to become the new person Jesus wants him to be (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Romans 6:6).
Before 2021 ends, let us also put an end to our old selves! As 2021 draws to a close, let us challenge ourselves to put at least 1 thing behind us that we will not take into 2022 – whether it’s our depression, sadness, hatred, anger, bad habits, or temper. Whatever it is, let us say goodbye to it when 2021 ends. May we experience the love of Jesus at the cross so that we can let go!
2. Apostle Paul came to a good end with his ministry
Apostle Paul fulfilled whatever God had given him to do. He never held back, in spite of imprisonment & afflictions that awaited him (Acts 20:22-24). Let us not hold back or calculate whether God’s work is worth doing. We may not have as great a faith as apostle Paul, but God has given each of us a task and a mission field – whether it is our home, our work, or just our lives. Let us be mindful to fulfill our God-given tasks. To apostle Paul, keeping his life was second to doing God’s work & finishing what he was entrusted with.
3. Apostle Paul came to the end of his life in faith
He kept the faith & finished the course (2 Timothy 4:7). Apostle Paul ran his race with focus, with a goal to win (1 Corinthians 9:24,26). What does it mean to have kept the faith?
In winter, rivers and lakes freeze up. If 2 people were to walk over a frozen lake, one with great faith & the other without, will the ice break for 1 person and not the other? What decides whether a person falls in or not? It is the thickness of the ice. If it is thick enough, a tank can roll over and the ice will never crack. But if the ice is thin, we will definitely fall into the water.
Faith is about how thick the ice is. Faith is about the God we believe in. When apostle Paul says: I kept my faith, it means God has proven Himself to Apostle Paul over & over through the course of his life of faith that he cannot but trust Him completely. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the assurance of things hoped for. In Greek, assurance is “hupostasis”, the unseen support of what is standing in clear view. Knowing that God is supporting us, that is faith. Faith is the conviction of things not seen; seeing what is invisible. In Greek, it is elanko, which means to bring to light, to expose, to set forth, to convince. Faith is about being sure of who we believe in, who He is & what He can do. Faith is looking to God who made the promises and can fulfil them.
When we look back on 2021, has God proven Himself to us? May we be able to see we have not fallen through thin ice because God has been underneath supporting us. Hupostasis! God is the very essence and foundation beneath our feet, hence we have not fallen in. It was because God had allowed us to keep faith.
4. In conclusion, let us look at 2 people without good endings and 2 with good endings.
2 people who had bad endings:
He had an awesome start but a bad end. Why? He took out the very essence and foundation of what supported him, which is the Word of God. Let us not be like Adam, but as we obey the Word of God, it will remain the strong foundation under us.
(ii) Judas Iscariot
He had a good beginning. He was chosen as one of the 12 disciples and was given charge over the finances. But in the end, he betrayed Jesus. Why? He followed Jesus for his own greed & ended up judging Jesus.
2 people whose ends were good:
(iii) Enoch and Methuselah – father & son
Enoch is known for transfiguration, going to heaven without seeing death. He is like our role model. But Methuselah is known for death. His name means “at his death, judgment will come.” From his birth, everyone was looking to his death. Enoch is about life while Methuselah is about death. It is natural for us to prefer Enoch’s ending because we do not want to die. But let’s think about this: Enoch’s life & transfiguration was made possible because of Methuselah. Enoch was able to put a good end to each day because he did not know when the end will be. He repented when he sinned & tried daily to live according to God’s will. As a result, God was so pleased with him, that He took him up without seeing death.
For Methuselah, God’s task for him was to die. His death foreshadows Jesus’ death on the cross. Because of him, Noah his grandson was able to find hope, his father Enoch was able to transfigure. His death meant the flood judgment was at hand & the ark of salvation was ready. I am sure we still prefer the path of Enoch’s transfiguration rather than Methuselah’s death. But whichever way is our end, may our ends always fulfil God’s will!
In the end, how do we want to be remembered & by whom? More than being remembered as a good person who loved their families, let us desire to be remembered by God. And may God testify that we have been very pleasing to Him & that we had fulfilled His will!
Therefore, it is too late to finish 2021 well. Let us think about what we want to leave behind in 2021. Let us also think about the tasks God is giving us for 2022 & how we will be able to accomplish them.