As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me--the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. -- 2Timothy 4: 6-8 (NLT)
Today we continue in this short series about living a life
without regrets. In yesterday's devotional we reviewed the top five regrets
people expressed when they knew their time was coming to an end on this earth.
We contrasted this with what the Bible teaches us to show that a life lived for
Christ leads to a life without regret. That is a powerful advantage for those
of us who believe. The devil loves to use regrets to tie us to our past so that
we can never move into the future God has called us to. Too many Christians
lead completely bound lives. In bondage over the very things Christ went to the
cross to free us from.
Now we come to the exposition of the key verses. We find the Apostle Paul fully aware that his death was imminent. As he sits in a Roman prison and pens his second letter to his prote'ge', Timothy, he knows these are probably his last words. Within the key verses we find wisdom from God for us today about how to live our lives so that at the end we too can have no regrets. The first lesson is we need to pour out our lives as an offering to God. In poker parlance we need to be "all in." There are far too many casual Christians these days. An hour and a half on Sunday, maybe a prayer meeting here or there, serve in a ministry, and that's it. What else is there? How about the totality of our lives? Do we want a part time God in our lives? Is God in the decision making business in our lives or is He just an advisor? Is God with us at the business meeting? What about in the supermarket or on the highway when we get cut off?
What does the imagery of a life being poured out say to us today? When something is poured out there is nothing left remaining. There was nothing held back. Everything was given. When you pour your life out for God there will be nothing left for you to possibly be regretful of. That is the point. What is it poured out as? An offering unto the Lord. A sacrifice to God. The Old Testament tells the story of Saul, the first King of Israel. Saul started out as a humble servant of God but somewhere along the way he began to believe his own press. He began to think more of himself and thus, less of God. He is given orders by God to completely wipe out the wicked Amalekites but instead he keeps the choicest animals and spares their king. This exchange follows between Saul and the Prophet of God, Samuel:
"But I did obey the Lord ," Saul insisted. "I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the Lord : your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. -- 1Samuel 15: 20-22 (NLT)
Not only is obedience better than sacrifice but it is sacrifice to God! It is a sacrifice of our self to obey God rather than our own desires. What is worse here is that Saul uses religiosity to excuse his disobedience! It is fairly obvious that he was not really thinking about God when he spared the best. If he was, why then did he also spare the king? No, Saul was thinking about Saul and he got caught. When caught he did what so many of us do reflexively -- he lied. Compounding this though is he uses God as his lie! Before we go and get all outraged we need to realize how often we do the exact same thing. We use our religion to defend rude behavior, unloving behavior, sinful behavior, and everything in between. God is not interested in our religion or our excuses -- He cares about our obedience. When He says we are to turn the other cheek to people who hate us -- He actually means it. When He says we are to love one another -- He actually means it. When He says we are to be salt and light -- He actually means it. That is how you pour out your life for the Lord as an offering. It is only fair actually since He first poured out His life on Calvary for us.
Secondly, Paul states that he has fought the good fight. There are many causes we can put our lives behind in this world. We see people devote their entire lives to missions work, saving the whales, ending world hunger and so many more crusades. In a world that has deteriorated so badly, it is no wonder there are so many causes. I must be honest though; I sometimes do not get the pro-animal causes. It is not that I do not like animals but can we first deal with the humans? I would be all for saving the whales after the humans are saved. I guess I wouldn't mind seeing a poodle in a sweater if I didn't have to watch it walk by a homeless man. Do you ever wonder sometimes if God is just shaking His head in disbelief at us?
What Paul is saying here is that there is a fight that is worth having. When David was criticized by his brothers about his inquiry into the Goliath matter he asked is there not a cause? Yes beloved there is a cause and that fight that is good and worth having is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ without alteration or compromise to a lost and dying world. Remember, how much Paul had suffered in his fight:
Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. -- 2Corinthians 11: 23-27 (NLT)