17 June 2011

He Fought the Good Fight

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.-Psalm 116:15

I had the pleasure of attending my uncle Paul's funeral today. I know that pleasure is an odd word choice, but it was truly a pleasure. I suppose before I go any further, I should clarify that Paul died much too early. He faced a recent battle with stage 4 cancer. He fought well, though on Tuesday of this week he had an unexpected heart attack.  I will miss him deeply.  In fact, I already do.

Yet his funeral was a pleasure because the death of one of God's saints always is.  For my uncle, being a Christian meant something.  It was not merely a consequential title of having been born in rural America during the 20th century. He believed deeply that Christ was his only hope in life and death.  His faith was a faith lived out. 

As I have reflected on his death this week, I have been reminded of the apostle who shares the same name.  Though separated by 2000 years, my uncle shares similarities with the apostle Paul.  At one point in both of their lives, they were moving away from God when He got their attention and they charged hard after Him from that time forward. 

The apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament, but I have been thinking mostly about 2 Timothy this week.  2 Timothy was the last letter Paul wrote.  He was in prison, likely facing imminent death. In fact, the brief letter is often called his last will and testament.  He was instructing his younger charge Timothy to continue to strive for the Gospel, but in chapter 4, he wrote, "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 a 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." 

One of the great hopes of we who hope in Christ is that we will persevere to the end.  The apostle Paul made it, holding fast to the Lord through many trials.  So too did my uncle.  He fought the good fight and finished the race.  Though we who are left behind mourn because we miss him, he is face to face with the Lord, having exchanged his tired body for a crown of righteousness and a promise of eternal joy.