For 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.  Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8)
I encourage mission teams in Appalachia to use this sentence to introduce the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod: “Lutheran Christianity is more about what God does for us than what we do for God.”
This statement is designed to spark conversation about the Christian faith. It is common for Appalachian Christians to come from fundamentalist churches which are deeply steeped in works righteousness. The foundation of Lutheran Christianity is summarized as: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone. Each of these is a gift of God.
While this is most certainly true, I’m concerned that sometimes it leads us to downplay our response to God’s grace. In this passage the Apostle Paul reminds us that our response matters to God:
- We know we can’t do any good works apart from Christ. Yet we physically do the good works.
- Jesus taught us how to pray. Yet we offer petitions.
- God convicts us of sin and brings us to repentance. Yet we respond by demonstrating contrition.
- Our Lord works through His Word in our hearts and mind. Yet we still have to read or hear that Word.
While we likely would never make the claims Paul makes in this passage, the fact is we are fighting the good fight, running in the race, and keeping the faith.
For us, the most important verse of this passage is the last verse. We do have, as Paul states, “crowns of righteousness” laid up for us. They serve as a reminder that God not only started us in this race but will sustain us to its end.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)