“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
These are some of the final words Paul writes to Timothy. Paul feels the end is near, and writes to his young protégé in order to encourage him to press on in the fight of faith. At this point in his journey, Paul can look back at his Christian life with a clear conscience. By the grace of God, Paul has kept the faith and finished his course. In other words, Paul has run his race with Spirit-enabled courage, conviction, and constancy. And Paul is eager to see Timothy run faithfully until Christ returns or calls the young man home.
Coming to the end of life with a clear conscience is my great hope, too. In the strength the Lord supplies, I hope to endure to the end. I do not want to shrink back. As long as God fills my lungs and causes my heart to beat, may the Lord be pleased to preserve me. Then, when the end draws near, with the help of God and to his everlasting praise, I’ll say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
These thoughts come to my mind as I sit in my home office and my thoughts are carried away to the students, faculty, and staff of Bethlehem College & Seminary. From where I sit, here in Northfield, Minnesota, those men and women are around 40-miles north. But right now, they feel much closer. I have them in my heart. I feel affection for them and want all of them to finish their days clinging to and hoping in Jesus.
Those seminary and college days are often hard. They are challenging for a myriad of reasons. Intellectually, their courses of study stretch the mind to the brink. Wrestling with Greek and Hebrew paradigms, struggling to make sense of how the old and new covenants relate, and fighting to grasp the lofty thoughts of Augustine or Edwards is taxing indeed. Then, students must apply their minds to discern how such endeavors build up the soul, edify the blood-bought Bride of Christ, and help them accomplish the task of being a witness to the world. It is exhausting work!
However, the college and seminary days are not merely challenging when it comes to the intellect. No, these days present other challenges as well. I’m thinking now of the temptations they’ll face. There are the temptations towards envy, wishing you had the gifts of the next guy or gal. Jealousy and strife erupt when one student is praised and another student is not. Or, bitterness sets in when one faculty member is chosen for a role and another professor is passed over. And let’s not forget the staff. Administrative staff are often behind the scenes, working in relative obscurity. Therein lies a potential pitfall. The students are praised, the faculty are publishing and being lauded, and the staff person is quietly and consistently plugging along with few, if any, pats on the back. Bitterness, jealousy, envy, and discontentment can raise their ugly (and it is ugly) heads in such a place.
My mind goes here because I’m prompted by the Spirit to pray for my friends at Bethlehem College & Seminary. Specifically, I’m praying against the schemes of the Devil and his demons. I am praying against the sinful flesh that each of my brothers and sisters continue to fight (oh, yes. The power of sin is broken, but the presence of sin remains!). With the help of God, may they press on in their faith. May the Lord protect them, uphold them, and cause them to persevere. Please Father, guard their hearts in Christ Jesus. Guard them from thinking too highly of themselves, from envying one another, from becoming bitter, or jealous, or spiteful. Would you, Father, guard their minds, even as you guard their hearts, and keep them satisfied in all that you are for them.
In all this, what I’m asking, and what I hope you’ll join me in asking, is simply this: Just as Paul came to the end of his life having run faithfully, may the faculty, staff, and students at Bethlehem College & Seminary run their race(s) with conviction, courage, and constancy. By the power of the Spirit who lives within them, would they be found clinging to and hoping in Jesus until he returns or calls them home.
To my friends up the road, by the grace of God, press on.
Surrendered to Him,
Jonathon D. Woodyard, MDiv ’16
Lead Pastor, Northfield Community Church
Adjunct Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary
- Pray that we would all run our races with conviction, courage, and constancy.
- Pray for the upcoming Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders that many would be encouraged and that all would run smoothly.
- Pray that the Lord would continue to provide the finances needed to cover all Serious Joy Scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Pray for the work of the Presidential Succession Commission and the Board of Trustees as they steward the selection of the next president of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
- Pray for Professor Tom Steller as he soon launches into a new assignment focused on our seminary extension site in Yaoundé, Cameroon.