"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Last week, I was cycling from Maidenhead to Bristol with my brother over three days. On the first day, my brother got slightly tired of my constant requests to stop and rest, or to stay at the cafes or pubs en route a bit longer. But when we rolled in to Newbury that first day, where we were to stop for the evening, I felt a flood of relief and accomplishment.
The next two days, neither of us wanted to stop for rest as much, even though we were as tired as on that first day. We persevered, ploughing on despite it being hard. We were much more focussed on getting to our destination, to finish what we had set out to do that day. We knew the relief and rest that would await there!
In 2 Timothy, Paul is writing, perhaps for the final time, to Timothy, his protege. In this last chapter, Paul describes the Christian life as a race to be run and a fight to be fought: it is - as many of us may know well - often hard and tiring. We may face ridicule, persecution, or simply frustration and exhaustion.
But as he comes to the end of his life, Paul delights in persevering, even though it is hard. Why? Because of what awaits, the crown of Righteousness which will be given to him by Christ Jesus on the final day (verse 8).
It's when we know what awaits that we can persevere in spite of the journey being hard. As we understand more of the rich inheritance that is in store for us in new creation, the joy of seeing Our God face to face, we are spurred on. Though the race is hard, we endure pain and discomfort, knowing what awaits at the finish.