Derek Prince - Finishing The Race Is Fighting The Fight
This is an excerpt from: Why Should We Be Longing for Jesus' Appearing?
A theme which has become very important to me. It’s one which God impressed upon me, sometime in the latter part of last year. And it’s kind of lingered in my mind. It’s been the subject of meditation. A subject of study from the Scripture. And it has caused me much self examination. So I want to share this with you tonight and I hope this theme will do as much for you, as it’s done for me. The title of the theme is the same title on one of those newsletters that I showed you: Longing For His Appearing. And I’d like to turn to the initial Scripture in 2 Timothy 4:6–8. These are some of the last words that Paul wrote. He was in prison at the time. He probably had already undergone trial by the emperor Nero and been sentenced to death. Or he might not have already undergone trial, but he was anticipating being tried and being sentenced to death.
You need to know that the emperor Nero was probably one of the most wicked rulers that ever ruled in the human race; a totally ungodly, unrighteous man. We can better understand Paul’s words in the light of that situation. So he says: For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I was reading the Greek text this evening. And it struck me that a better word than departure would be release. Departure doesn’t carry much sense of what you think about it. It might be a good departure, it might be a bad departure. But the word release suggests that Paul, in a sense, was longing for this release from the body that he’d served the Lord so faithfully in, for so many years. I like the phrase, I’m already being poured out as a drink offering. If you go back into the offerings of the Levitical priesthood, mainly described in the book of Leviticus. You’ll find that the primary offerings were animals or birds that were slain. Or such things as grain or baked flour. But with nearly all offerings, God ordained that there should also be a drink offering. A certain quantity of wine poured out together with the offering.
So that’s what Paul is referring to. And he’s speaking of himself as his life, even his life blood, being poured out to seal the offering that he was bringing to God of the fruits of his ministry. I want to suggest to you, that there really are very few offerings that mean anything or that are acceptable to God. Unless they’re accompanied by the drink offering of a life poured out. I think if you analyze the ministries that have really changed the world and blessed the people, you'll find that with every one of them, somebody had to pour his life out. Not necessarily as a martyr, but in selfless giving of himself. To the point where it’s like this drink offering poured out. Then he comes to this triumphant statement in verse 7. Bear in mind he was getting on in years. He was somewhat infirm. It was pretty cold in the prison, he didn’t have sufficient covering and he sent an urgent message to Timothy to bring a cloak with him when he came. But there’s not one single hint of defeat or regret anywhere in this epistle.
And I think the words that I’m going to read to you are some of the most triumphant words ever penned by a human being. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Each one of them is in the perfect tense, meaning it’s done, it’s complete. I’d like to suggest to you that if you want to finish your race and if you want to keep the faith, you’re going to have to fight the fight. One major aspect of the Christian life is that it’s a conflict. I’ve said many times to people, I think you can get to heaven without theology. I’m not sure you’ll get there without courage. It’s more a test of your character than your intellect. And then we come to this eighth verse, which contains the text that I want to speak about.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness. The word crown there is not a royal diadem. There are two words translated crown in the New Testament. One is the Greek word diadem, which is a royal mark of kingship. It says in Revelation that when Jesus appears, on His head are many crowns, many diadems. Because He's the King of all kings. He has a right to wear every crown. But this is the other kind of crown, which refers to the Olympic games of those days. It was a laurel wreath, just a sprig of laurel that was placed upon the brow of the one who had won any contests. Exactly corresponding to the gold medal of our Olympics today. So, in a way, if you want to modernize it, Paul was saying: From now on I’m expecting my gold medal, because I’ve won. But then he comes to the phrase which really impressed me. He said: Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day.
Notice he emphasizes the Lord is the righteous judge. He was appearing before Nero, a very unjust judge who gave him an unjust sentence. But he said that’s not the last word. There’s one more judgment. And that judgment will be for a totally righteous judge. And His sentence will be totally righteous and just. So he says, the righteous judge will give to me on that day. And then he adds the phrase which is what gripped me: And not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing. Now, that’s the New King James, which I think is also the old King James. It is a very good translation. I chose the title Longing For His Appearing from the NIV, the New International Version, because I thought it perhaps was a little more up to date in what it conveyed. But this phrase, who have loved His appearance, is very important. The word used for love there is agapao, which is the strong word for intense love. And it’s in the perfect tense. So it describes a settled attitude. You’re in love with, I think that’s the best way to say it. You’re in love with the appearing of the Lord in His glory.
Now as I studied that verse, I saw that God, within the body of Christ, recognizes a special group of believers. They’re marked out by the fact that they are in love with the appearing of Jesus. And for those special believers, God has a special honor. Which is the crown of righteousness. It’s not going to be given to all believers. It’s going to be given to those believers who in this life have passionately loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus. Or who are longing for His appearing.
And as I meditated on those words I asked myself a question. And I’m going to ask you the same question. I’m not going to answer the question for you, you have to answer it for yourself. The question is: Do you qualify for that special honor? Are you one of those who have loved His appearing? Who are in love with His appearing? Who are longing for His appearing? That’s your business to answer, not mine. This evening and tomorrow evening, I’m going to try to present that thing to you in such a way that by the end of tomorrow evening, you’ll know the answer. I asked myself. I wasn’t examining other people. I was saying to myself, do I fulfill the requirements for that crown?