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Keeping the Faith (Julius Hovan)

by

Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

      Greetings to you today in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ though this Words of Life broadcast that attempts to bring to you encouragement and blessing. We are so glad you have tuned in and we pray the Lord will provide for you a great blessing by tuning in. We hope you will stay with us. Call a friend. Ask them to join you as you learn something from the Word of God. Let’s pray a short prayer together as we come before the Lord.

     Lord, we ask you to touch the hearts of every listener today, to open them up to hear the Word of God and to be blessed and drawn closer to you and to be encouraged and helped as they go through this life which may, for some, be very difficult and hard even this very day. Hear us and bless now your spoken Word in Jesus’ name and amen.

I would like to use for our text this morning 2 Timothy chapter 4.  We are going to use two lessons from this passage of Scripture – this morning as well as next Sunday. You will see when we read it why we need to spend more than one lesson on it.

Let me talk to you today about keeping the faith.  Now that would be a message for Christians, to be sure. But you will find that if you are not a Christian there is a way for you to gain and have the faith. You will then have that something we are going to be talking about that you can keep. For we will follow keeping the faith with a message entitled “Loving the Appearing.” And we will see both of those in the passage we are going to read.

In the first part of 2 Timothy chapter four, in the first five verses, Paul, who is writing to a young evangelist named Timothy, charges him to preach faithfully and boldly the Word of God. And he gives him some imperatives, some things he must do in preaching that Word.  Notice this as we begin reading there in verse five and reading down through verse eight.

“But be sober in all things. Suffer hardship. Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill thy ministry.” Now Paul gives a personal note. He is near the end of his life.  He is in a Roman prison. He knows he has been condemned to die. Listen to what he says.  “For I am already being offered. The time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. Hence forth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day. Oh, but not to me only, but also to all them who have loved his appearing.”   So for Paul there were these many years of keeping the faith. The necessity of walking faithfully with the Lord. And he could say that, indeed, he was ready to depart because he had walked faithfully with the Lord.

The apostle Peter, a similar apostle with the great apostle Paul says this in the 14th verse of the first chapter of 2 Peter as he thought of the end of his life.  He says, “Knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus told me.” Peter understood the end of his life was fast approaching. The apostle Paul was sure, as well, about himself. But notice his readiness to depart.  He says, “First of all, I am being poured out as a drink offering.”

Paul knew that every Roman meal, those that worshipped those idols of that day and those false gods, the meal ended with pouring out an offering to those gods.  Paul rather offered the living sacrifice in Romans chapter 12 and verse one. ”I beseech you, therefore, brethren, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Paul had done that. But now that body would soon be dead. His life would soon end and Paul did not think of himself as being executed, but he was a sacrifice for God. He was willing to pour out his life. His life was not simply being taken, but he was freely giving it for the Lord Jesus and for the gospel’s sake. He had already given his all so it was easy now, as he came to the end of life, to turn loose of that life and to know that he would go and be with God.

Nero’s apparent verdict did not matter to Paul. A life that had been dedicated to the service of Jesus Christ is indifferent to the verdict of men.  They may take my life, but oh, I have already given it to the Lord Jesus. What a difference that made.

 

Paul knew he would hear the master’s voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He was ready to be poured out as a drink offering.  And then he refers to the time of his departure.  He talks about the same thing in the book of Philippians chapter one and verse 23 when he said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ.”

This word “depart” in the Greek language indicated the unyoking of an animal from a cart or a plow, a releasing, a turning loose. Or it referred to the loosening of bonds or fetter, when you tied somebody up and you released them from that. Paul was going to be released from this Roman prison and he was looking forward to that, of course.    Or if you loosened the ropes of your tent. Certainly Paul had made many journeys and now his last journey and the tent rope of his life is going to be turned loose. He is setting forth on his greatest journey ever.

Maybe it is the mooring of the ropes of a ship when it is turned loose from the dock. Paul had seen that many times. He had felt that ship as it was set free in the harbor and entered into deep water and the wind grabbed the sails and set it out into the deep.  Now Paul could say, “I am going to launch out into the great deep of death and I know here the haven is, my eternal rest.”  For the Christian death is laying down burdens. It is laying aside shackles. It is changing the place of our resting. It is casting off all of that which binds us and hinders us and gaining the greatest freedom of all. Paul’s exiting from his progressively spiritual life is the best way to live, the noblest way of suffering and, oh, yes, the most comfortable way of dying. Death was just an easy curve in the highway of life for this great apostle Paul.

And notice back in that 2 Timothy four passage what he says in verse seven. Not only is he ready to depart, not only has he been ready to be poured out as a drink offering, he is ready for that departure. But notice. He has fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith.  This is the call to every Christian today, and  understand we are in a fight with the devil, with his demons, with temptation, with our own nature, which is to go against the will of God.

We are in a fight, but it is a good fight. That is, it is a fight that God has allowed us to enter into.  It implies that we are going to gain the victory as we walk with the Lord, trust in him and live by the power of the Spirit.

Paul had been in and he has seen the contests that went on in the arena of that day. He now can say, “I have done my best.  My last ounce of energy has been extended. I have a deep satisfaction of heart. And when he exclaimed in that 20th chapter of the book of Acts in verse 24, as he was talking there to those whom he would never see again, he let them know that he had fought the good fight and he was confident of what his future was.

We may appear to be the ones being conquered, but the fact is we are conquerors because Jesus finished the faith and the course for us and he is going to grant us that victory.  The Scripture says, “These all died in faith. They received the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.”  Paul had fought the good fight. But in addition, he had finished the course. He was that close to death. He could say, “It is finished.”

It is easy to begin the Christian walk, relatively speaking, but for so many it is hard to continue.  We must learn to follow the admonition of Hebrews 12 and verse one, to run with patience this great course that is set out before us. So many lack the quality of staying power.

A famous man we are told was asked, “Are you going to write your biography while you are alive? And he answered, “No.  I have seen so many fall out on the last lap.”  He did not have confidence that is own life would be one that would stand and be well worth writing about. And so we are told in that same Hebrew passage, we must be “looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.”  It is with him that the journey of faith begins, a looking to, a coming to Jesus in simple faith and repentance and acceptance and understanding of what he has done at Calvary. He has paid the price for sin, my sins and yours.  We must put our trust in him, coming to him to become a Christian as the New Testament Christians of that age did, answering the question: What must I do to be saved?

The apostle Peter could say, “You must come to the Lord Jesus, having repented of your sins, trusting in him, confessing him as your Savior and wanting him to be the Lord of your life.  You must follow his command to be baptized into Christ for the remission of sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised. And then you must have faith to walk.”

 

You can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight. I have been a conqueror. As I approach the end of my life, I have, indeed, finished the course.”  But then he adds, finally, I have kept the faith.   Oh, my friends, how important it is once we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus that we keep that faith, that we let nothing deter it and weaken it and water it down as we live. There is no other way that we can be saved, no other way we can please God, no other way we can deal with the terrible sin that comes into our lives. Yes, we must keep the faith of the New Testament Scriptures, as we believe it and understand it, even though we may have difficulty understanding, but yet it is that simple faith by which we become children of God.

You see, Paul wrote this on the background of the games, what we think of today as the Olympic games. The world’s greatest athletes came together and the day before the games began each one of them had to swear, “I have had not less than 10 months of training. I have not resorted to any trickery, and will not resort to any trickery, to win the contest.”  Paul could say the same about his Christian walk. He had kept the rules. He was one who had lived a life of honor and honesty. Paul was like that.

But not only does he write this against the background of the Olympic type games of that day, but the phrase he uses here is sort of a business phrase. He means, I have kept the conditions of a contract.  I made a contract with God. I signed my name on the dotted line and I have kept what I promised to keep.   God has been faithful to keep his promise. He has been faithful to walk with me. He has been there all along the way and it has been possible for me to fight that good fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith because he has been faithful. But I want to say to you today what Paul could say, “I have, in my own life, been faithful. I have kept the conditions by which I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The commitment he made years before he had kept.  He had not let his master down.  Think of what Paul had gone through, the beatings, the imprisonments, the shipwrecks, the abuse. Now in the face of death, the great apostle Paul could say this. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course.  I have kept the faith.

Paul then, as we see in this lesson, is being ready to depart. He tells us that in a specific time of the past he had made steps to get ready for this departure. Even though he was at the top of his class as a Jew, even though he was a serious law keeper, he had come face to face with the fact of his own sinfulness, his own imperfection and he had learned of the ability of Jesus Christ to forgive him of every sin.

Paul had made the turn around. He had changed direction. He had repented. He had received those instructions regarding Jesus Christ. He had confessed him to be the Son of God and he was told, “Arise and be washed in water. Be baptized.” And he was.  And he became a servant of God. And then as he was instructed, he in turn, throughout the rest of his life, instructed many others. He, himself, had been filled with the Holy Spirit.  Preparation had been made. He could say he was ready.

My friends, let’s personalize this this morning. How about you? I can say with Paul, “I am ready.” I have made the same decision that Paul made. I have put my trust in the same Lord that Paul had put his trust.

Have you done that?  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. We will have the same hope that the apostle Paul had as we have read in this passage. To we who are Christian, Paul sets the example as a fighter, as a finisher, as one who keeps the faith. Each one of us should check our individual lives if we are Christians. What is my heart set upon today? What is my attitude about living and entering into the fight? Am I willing to be a finisher to keep the faith to which I have pledged myself? That should be our attitude. That should be our desire. We should want to be like Paul describes himself here. We should, by God’s grace and power, strive to be the same way.

I am confident that there is somebody listening to me today that has never made the step of faith. You don’t have the faith to keep.  You don’t have the hope to live. You are not able to fight the fight. The devil is getting the upper hand with you regularly, consistently, over and over. You are bearing the load and guilt of this thing we call sin. You have broken the law of God and you have not brought that sin to Jesus to be washed away and forgiven. You are not ready to depart. But you can do that. You can write us at Words of Life.  We will be glad to send you some printed material to help you. You can call. You can find a good New Testament Bible believing church close to where you are and they will help guide you to make this great profession of faith.

And so our hope for you today is, my friends, that you are ready to depart. That you have made that profession of faith,  that you have, as Paul, lived faithfully, fighting the good fight. You are ready to finish the course, however long that might be, knowing you have kept the faith and there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness.

Next week, as we enter into this passage again, we are going to deal with the issue of loving his appearing. We hope you will tune in next time this broadcast comes to your area and you will be able to share further in this beautiful passage from the book of 2 Timothy chapter four.

God bless you today as you listen and may the peace of God rule in your heart is our prayer.

 

Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ in Kentucky.




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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13