Greetings! It is my joy to begin writing a monthly column for the Franklin News-Post. My wife, Helen, and I just celebrated our third anniversary in Rocky Mount serving the folks at Rocky Mount Baptist Church. I appreciate this opportunity to contribute to the community. Hopefully you will find these columns an encouragement.

Needless to say these are difficult days. They have caught us all by surprise. It is easy to become consumed in just trying to endure. But the Lord has far more for us than to just endure. He wills that we thrive. But how do we do that? At the conclusion of His life the Apostle Paul looked back on his journey and felt it had been a life well worth living. This was through many seasons of difficulty. Many of which were not anticipated. His words are found in II Timothy 4: 7-8.

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the 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.”

The word “fight” is taken from the Greek athletic games. It is the word from which we get our English word agonize. It speaks of wrestling a good wrestling match. Life is often like this.

These past few months have often felt like a wrestling match. Paul says he fights the “good” fight. There is a lot of fighting that takes place in our society but most of it is not good. Paul speaks of “the good fight.” The word “good” in the original Greek carries several ideas. It is the concept of being well-adapted to its circumstances or end like a fish adapts to water. It is the idea of that which is noble, right and honorable. This is a struggle that at times can be agonizing but is for a good cause and enables one to be adapted to whatever we are experiencing. With the Lord’s help and guidance, we become better people for the experience. We find a way to help make a better community and “atmosphere” around us in the midst of a harsh experience.

What can we learn from this tough season that can make us better people making a better community?

The Lord will teach us. Learning to appreciate people and home is a great place to start. The small things in life have taken on greater importance and meaning. Learning to slow down and enjoy life more and the people in our lives.

My grandparents lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919-20, as well as two world wars and the Great Depression. They developed through these experiences a great value for community connection and involvement.

Next, Paul says he has finished the race. As someone has observed, “Life is a marathon not a sprint.” We are in a marathon with COVID-19. We all hoped this would end quickly.

This is a race we did not plan on running. But it is a race we are compelled to run. It is possible to run well and to finish well. If we run well we will finish well. How do we run well especially when the race becomes difficult? The answer given in verse eight is all about focus.

If I focus primarily on the present obstacles I will not finish well, if I finish at all. Paul says to focus on the Lord Jesus. He speaks of this as, “Loving His appearing.” When my focus is the Lord, He will shape my attitude and provide joy. He is the goal at the end of the race. Whatever the struggle, it is worth it for Him! In these days may we keep our focus on Jesus and we will run and finish the race well. Let’s fight the “good” fight! It will be worth it. May the Lord Bless!

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