The Cross Roads of Eternity
As we enter another year, we should carefully ponder this devotional article by John Bramhall, Charlotte, North Carolina. We have reached another important “cross road.”
One of the greatest crossroads of Christian experience is the last one in the normal course of events. The apostle Paul describes it when writing his own farewell to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6). His faithful devotion to his blessed Master had brought him through many crucial experiences safely, but now the final one was “at hand” — his departure into eternity. The word “departure” is of a special significance in the Greek text and is the word “analuo.” It means “to unloose, or release; a metaphor that either is nautical, from loosing moorings preparatory to setting sail, or military, from breaking up an encampment.”
For the apostle it was launching into a new spiritual adventure, leaving the moorings of this life and setting sail toward the discoveries of eternal glories in another world far away from this present evil scene. He had previously expressed a longing to set out upon this journey to his beloved Philippian believers when torn between two desires, one to go and be with Christ, which was “far better”; and the other “to abide in the flesh” which seemed more necessary then for the saints (Phil. 1:23, 24). However, now the moment was at hand and he joyfully writes, “The time of my release is come.”
The occasion produces from his heart a concise and complete testimony of his Christian pilgrimage through the years past, together with a perfect assurance of what was before him as he sets sail into eternity. His brief statement concerning it is stated in few words: “I have combated the good combat, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will render me in that day; but not only to me, but also to all who love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7, 8). It was a satisfying retrospection of his life for Christ and a joyous anticipation of his future compensation, revealed to him right at the Crossroads of Eternity! Will it be ours? Meditate upon his words:
The Retrospection of the Past (2 Tim. 4:7): The substance of his words reveal a life of victory through all his Christian testimony:
(a) A Victorious Combat — “I have combated the good combat.” The Christian warfare for all of us reveals a three-fold enemy: the world, the flesh and the devil (see 1 John 2:14-17; Romans 7:18 and Eph. 6:10-12). The world never conquered Paul, for he lived a life of victory over it (Gal. 6:14; John 16:33). The inward enemy of the flesh, so powerful in us, Paul crucified and conquered it! What a victory! (Rom. 7:24, 25; Gal. 2:20). The Devil, the great enemy of God and man, mighty but not almighty, became a defeated foe before Paul through the use of God given weapons for warfare! (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:1018). The battle raged daily but Paul was a victor! Are we?
“Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.”
(b) A Victorious Race (I have finished my race”). He was about to cross the “tape line” at the end of his last stretch toward home and his Master Who awaited him in glory! Others may have dropped out along the race in the Christian testimony but Paul ran right to the end of the alloted course. Will we? The secret of his victory is discovered in two facts (1) His spiritual condition. He kept himself “in the pink of condition,” spiritually, all the time. Physically, he often suffered weakness and infirmities, yet though the physical muscles and frame kept “perishing,” daily his spiritual strength increased: “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). Note his carelessness in this connection as stated in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. Let us not be more concerned about our physical man than the spiritual! (2) His spiritual objective. There is always a goal, a prize, at the end of the race and Paul knew the great prize for him at the end of life was a Christ in glory! (Phil 3:13, 14). No one running a race will run well if pre-occupied with what is on the side lines or what may be at the rear! We must keep our eyes upon the goal at the end, which for us is the Lord Himself —to see Him! Then “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking Unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith” (Heb. 12:1, 2).
“Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.”
(c) A Victorious Obedience — “I have kept the faith.” We must not fail to realize the comprehensiveness of these five words. They reveal obedience to all the truth and the counsels of God as revealed in His Word! To the Elders at Ephesus Paul had said, “I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) — and this statement is made by one who himself obeyed the truth that he preached to others. He sought all divine revelation in order to know what God required of him as an obedient servant, obeying the truth in each department of his life, publicly and privately. As the Lord said to Philadelphia, “Thou has kept My Word,” so He could say to Paul the same commendation. This was victorious obedience, something greatly lacking today in the corporate testimony of the Church. How many of us are concerned to know All the will of God for us and do it, in corporate and individual responsibility?
“Faint not nor fear, His arm is near;
He changeth not and thou art dear.
Only believe, and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.”
The Anticipation of the Future (2 Tim. 4:8): The one who lives a life of victory, as Paul, will be confident of being acclaimed victor in eternity! Note this assurance:
(a) Paul’s Confidence: “Henceforth the crown of righteousness is laid up for me.” The eternal reward would but confirm that he had been right with God and had lived right for God. What a crown to covet! No greater honor can one receive “in that day” than to be publicly approved as to one’s testimony in life and that before all!
(b) Paul’s Confessor: It will be “the Lord, the righteous JUDGE” who will render the vindication and the apostle patiently and confidently waited for it to be done in the future day of glory (see 1 Cor. 4:3-5 and 2 Tim. 1:12).
(c) Paul’s Concern: “And not to me only but unto them also that love His appearing.” His unselfish desire for others constrains him to encourage them to win the same triumph and glory as would be his. This is our opportunity; shall we seize it now?
“Cast care aside, lean on thy Guide;
His boundless mercy will provide.
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove,
Christ is its life, and Christ its love.”