Life is a struggle. That’s essentially what Paul meant when he wrote:
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” (2 Timothy 4:5-6)
If you don’t know, the primary way I understand God to speak to me is via situational irony—you know, when the timing is just too perfect. This week, God sent a sermon by Tim Keller called “Finishing Well” to my Spotify account this weekend, just before our final week of classes.
To sum it up quickly, Keller, drawing from Acts 28 and 2 Timothy 4, says that to finish well is to hold steadfast to the following perspectives:
1. Life is a struggle.
2. Death is an adventure.
3. History is a masterpiece.
4. The Gospel can’t be stopped.
5. You only need one thing: Christ.
The first, of course, resonates most with me at the moment. Life is a struggle—toward growth, and against entropy. The obvious academic parallel is that we learn by struggling through the difficult, abstract, and tedious work laid before us (or, at least, we should.) And every moment we aren’t moving toward some learning goal—whether it be maintenance or advancement of knowledge and skill—we are losing to entropy, and it becomes easier to forget that which we already know and are able to do. The spiritual understanding, as Keller laid it out, is this: yes, life is a struggle if you are a Christian, because you are always fighting human nature’s tendency toward sin. But, instead of that truth being cause for disheartened spirits, Keller urges us to take joy in this struggle, insofar as it signals that we are moving toward growth, knowledge, beautification, Christ-likeness.
I have taken some comfort in knowing what Paul paid the most attention to in times of exceptional struggle. He looked toward the people who stayed by his side, and also toward the “crown of righteousness, which the Lord...will award...to all those who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) In these final weeks of the semester, and of Yale for many of you, I hope that you can look at the friends who were steadfast in their commitment to you in good and bad times, and most of all that you might be able to smile and remark on how God has refined you through the struggle.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
(2 Timothy 4:7)