Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart…God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people
In 67 AD Nero, the Roman Caesar at the time, entered into the Greek Olympiad. Out of shape and out of place he took his place next to Grecian athletes and mounted his chariot. After 2 years of delaying the games to practice, which composed of binging, purging and fast crash diets, he took his spot on the line; a pale comparison to the trained and disciplined athletes of his time. This was his dream come true. The race began and not soon after Nero was thrown off this chariot. Spectators helped him back onto his chariot and he began again. Once again, with the help of others, he set off but he failed to control his 10-horse chariot and fell. Frustrated and unable to complete the race Nero quit and through an act of bribery to the Greek government he was still declared the victor. And although everyone saw what had just taken place, they kept their mouths shut paralyzed by the fear of what would come if they spoke up.
So, Nero traveled back to Rome and demanded praise for his “victory” throughout his whole trip. The only people who would even acknowledge what Nero had done were the Christians. So as an example to all but mostly for fun, Nero executed Jews who were suspected to spread rumors of his defeat from Greece to Rome. Paul, a roman citizen on a path for God’s justice, was in prison when he heard the news of Nero’s treachery and in his last episitle to Timothy wrote, “”I, unlike Nero, have finished the race, in completing the course I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness rather than a cheater’s crown, which the Lord, the righteous and incorruptible judge, will award to me …” A few weeks later Paul was dead, martyrd by Nero.
I often wonder why Paul would do such a thing to provoke Nero, especially when he knew he had a special hatred for the Christians. The only thing I can come up with is that Paul didn’t need to survive. He didnt need to live his days to save his life because he already died years before. He settled the Lordship issue in his life long ago on the Road to Damascus. He completely surrendered his life to God and his will and was able to say what he wanted to say; he was already a dead man. Paul had true freedom. He had the freedom God intened for us to have in this life. He knew it and embraced it.
Paul finished well. As you all go into this new year I challenge you to lose your life. Consecrate everything you have to getting to your spiritual potential. “If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet!” (phil 3:15 Msg) Live. Dont survive. Understand, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the last chapter of 2 Timothy. “You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.” (2 tim 4:6-8)