In memory of Venda Falkenberg: “She kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

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. 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

If you had to describe your live and how it is going what words would you use? What if you had to describe Venda’s life? We just heard how Paul from Tarsus, a chosen messenger of Jesus Christ described his life. His life was truly full of action and the list of his accomplishments is impressive indeed.

At the end of his life he wrote these words to his dear friend and co-worker in Christ’s mission – Timothy. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”

Isn’t that a fitting description of our lives? Sure, it seems different when you are younger. We have all those expectations about what we will do and what we will achieve. And the society keeps telling us that you can be anyone, you can do anything.

We have our dreams, our hopes. Some of them may even be high and noble, how we will change the world and will make it a better place, but most of them are rather ordinary. What we will do, accomplish, marry, buy, travel and see…

But as time goes on… we need to learn that many of our dreams will remain just that, our dreams. And if we are lucky we learn something else. That behind all these dreams and hopes are deep longings, universal longings shared by all people.

What are they? We long to be good. Good enough. We long to be considered worthy and appreciated. We want to be accepted and to belong. We want our lives to have at least some meaning. So much of what we do in our lives is driven by these longings.

But regardless of what we do and how much we do, we all come to the moment when we need to join with Paul, and now with Venda saying: “I am already being poured out…” What happens with all our dreams?

Sooner or later we all need to re-evaluate what is truly important and what is not. Paul was very realistic. Even if he had done so much more that any of us will ever will, at the end he looks back and zooms in his focus on one thing. On one thing only.

Because this one thing is what really matters. This one thing is what makes the whole difference between being eternally with God or being eternally separated from Him. This one thing is what determines your destiny not only here in this age, but also in the age to come.

What is this one thing? Paul writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I have kept the faith. That’s it. I have kept the faith. What does he mean by this? And why is this so important?

Because this is what our race is about, this is what our life is about. Most people say that they have their own faith. Sure, we all do. We all have some sort of ideas that we believe and that explain for us what this life is about.

This is not what Paul had in mind. What he had in mind was one true faith. What is it? It is knowing your Creator and your Redeemer, the One who shaped you in your Mom’s womb, who breathed in you the breath of life, the One who keeps caring for you, sustaining your life every day and every minute.

It is about knowing who you are, that in His eyes you are good. Good enough. True faith is to be assured that you are accepted by God your Creator and your Saviour. That you are loved by him, unconditionally loved by the Supreme Being, who wants you to know Him as your loving Father in heaven.

True faith is to know that thanks to what Jesus Christ did, and thanks to the God’s gift that we receive in our baptism, now you belong to God the Father, you belong to His family. This faith is what makes our lives worth living, fills our days with joy and hope, and leads us into the life to come.

This faith is what helps us to remain at peace whatever this world throws at us, and it makes us long for the day when we depart from this world and will finally see our Creator and Redeemer face to face.

When everything will be revealed. This faith is like a hand that receives forgiveness for everything that you have ever done wrong. If you have this faith, on that day you will hear your Father in heaven saying to you:

“You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased. Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the foundation of the world.” Come and receive! This faith is a big deal. The one that really matters.

How could you have and keep such faith? The truth is, on our own … we can’t. We can’t choose it. We can only receive it as God’s gifts. But how, and to whom is it given? To everyone who admits that they need it.

To everyone who is ready to confess to God: “I am not worthy of your grace and love, I have failed you, ignored you and disobeyed you in my thought, and words and actions, I have lived as if you didn’t exist, I deserve that you are angry with me… please, forgive me for the sake of Jesus, your Son!”

Did Paul the apostle deserve to have this faith and forgiveness? By no means. He used to persecute the Church, to capture and to imprison Christians. He received this faith and this forgiveness as an underserved gift.

What about Venda? Did she deserve that gift? No. But she too was ready to confess: “I have sinned against you… and I want to receive your forgiveness.” And she heard the life-changing words of God: “I forgive you.” Your faith has saved you.

Do we deserve to receive the gift of this faith? No. Our Creator doesn’t care how we evaluate ourselves. For He sees our hearts, our thoughts, our emotions… our anger and envy, our lust and greed, and all the ugly things that live inside us.

This is what will be revealed on the last day. This is what we all will be hold accountable for. This is, why we all ultimately need just one thing. Paul the apostle had it. Venda had it. Not because they deserved it, but because gracious God bestows it to everyone who desires to receive it.

I pray today that when our day comes we could say the words that change everything. “I have run the race, and by God’s grace, I have kept the faith.” Then your Creator and Redeemer will welcome you, to rejoice with Him forever. Amen.

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