In memory of Darren Falkenberg: “Have you kept the faith?”

Darren Falkenberg“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 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. (2. Tim 4:6-8)

We just heard the words of the apostle Paul. He shared his thoughts and hopes with one of his closest friends and co-workers while he was waiting in prison, ready to be executed. These words were his reflections. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”

How fitting these words are for the situation, in which Darren was still week ago. After several years of struggling he felt like being poured out, realizing that the time of his departure had come.

Darren had survived two of his good friends. They were three men in the same boat, so to speak. Fighting the same fight. Running the same race. Supporting one another. You can say that Darren overrun them. He was the last man standing.

Or you can say that those man had already finished the race while Darren still kept running. Those two already were with their Creator, in peace, forgiven, renewed, rejoicing in God’s presence, they had already received the crone of righteousness.

When we know what to expect, we have this privilege to think about life’s big questions – about life and death, about standing before our Creator. It is such a shame that usually we think about these question only when our future is not certain. For we are too busy, and we have more important things to worry about.

The apostle Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.” So often we assume that we’ll keep fighting and running our races for years and years… and years. Will you? Really? How do you know? Why do you think so? Let’s just be real and admit -we are not in control. Not at all. God is.

He is our next stop, therefore we need to ask this question. How well did I fight my good fight? How well did I run my race? Paul was referring to his life. We need to ask this question about our lives.

Have I done what I was expected? According whose criteria? Even if we evaluate ourselves according human criteria…reflect on your life! How often have you failed your loved ones? How often have you neglected to do what you could have done?

What about Darren? Was he perfect? Did he run a perfect race? Of course not. He did the same mistakes that so many of us do. He often failed to do what he had to do, and he didn’t do what he could have done. If we need to evaluate anyone’s life… there will be so many failures. And these are only human criteria.

What about our Creator? What does He expect from you? He has told it. Here it is. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. … and … You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Not less… not less.

Do we even understand the gravity of this command? This is not about being a kind of a nice person who hasn’t done anything terrible. Your Creator has given you life and everything else to use it according to His will. You belong to Him, as does this world. Everything will be required back. Have you matched His expectations?

Be aware, He sees not only our deeds, but also our hearts, our thoughts. All of them, and all the time. And what He sees is not a most pleasant picture. What is He going to say? Have you run a good race?

You know the answer. Apostle Paul knew the answer. Darren knew the answer. And the answer was ‘No, Lord, I haven’t. I have sinned against you is thoughts, words and deeds, and I deserve your wrath…”

That’s why these few words are so important. ‘I have kept the faith.’ Sure Paul had failed in so many ways, as we all do. Sure Darren had failed in so many ways. And when we realize it, the only question that remains is – have you kept your faith?

What faith? That there is someone higher? No, Paul speaks about different faith. Faith as trust into God’s promises, and here we come to something that is not suitable for our minds.

We come to God’s love and His grace. He knows us. Each of you. All the depth of your heart. And … it is difficult to believe, but He wants to be with you. And He does everything to make it happen. So that only He could be with you.

But why? We don’t deserve it. Sure. But this is not about you. This is about the Holy God. He comes to us in His Son Jesus. He says that He wants to take upon Himself the responsibility of our failures, and to restore what has been damaged. He knows what a beautiful being He can make of you.

If you admit that you have sinned, if you agree to lay your sins upon Him, in exchange He offers – His forgiveness and eternal life in His presence. This is His deal. Your sins and death in exchange to His holiness and live. It’s not a fair deal. It’s God’s deal.

There is only one condition, though. Only one. You need to desire it. You need to desire to exchange your old life, to a new life with Christ. If you desire it, it’s yours. Already here and in eternity. This is what Paul meant by faith. Darren had kept his faith. This is the only thing that matters at the end.

Even if we have failed, even if everything is taken from us, if only you do not reject God’s deal and trust His promises, you will have everything you may need. You will have eternal life with your Creator.

That’s why Paul could say with such assurance: “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.”

This is the only thing that matters. Keep your faith! Darren and his friends had kept it. But we still need to finish our race. We need to pray to God the Father, that He would keep us close to Himself.

That He would send the Holy Spirit to assure you, that He will never give up on you, even if you do. So that one day you all could stand in the presence of your Lord, and to receive the crown of righteousness, prepared for you.

Amen.

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