"Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things."
First, Paul is telling Timothy to be like a soldier. Through this, God is telling me that I should not allow myself to be overcome by the things of this world. I can't please God if I let myself get caught up in the things of the world (read: materialism). It's okay for me to own things and like things, but I can't let them rule my life. I need to remember that the things of the earth are temporary, but my life with God is eternal.
God is also telling me that I can't "win the prize" unless I follow the rules. In order to follow the rules, I need to know what the rules are. The only way for me to learn the rules is to read God's Word (the bible). Once I find out what the rules are, I need to put them into practice and try my best to follow them.
Last but not least, God is telling me that I will be rewarded for my hard work for the Lord. I may not always see those rewards in this life, but I know that God will reward me in my next life. I don't know exactly how it will happen, but He has promised that there will be rewards.
"So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen." (Italics are my own for emphasis)
Wow. Anything? Talk about a serious love for God and His will!
"...If we deny him, he will deny us."
If we deny Christ in this life, He will deny us in the next. This is a really sad thought for me, because I know so many people who have chosen to deny Him up to this point. I can only hope and pray that their hearts will be softened and they will turn to Him instead of away from Him.
"If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is."
This verse provides me with hope. It is really good to know that even if I am unfaithful to God (which is bound to happen at times), He won't turn His back on me. He still wants me to return to Him, and He will accept me with open arms. God is so wonderful!!!
"Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants."
These verses tell me a lot. First, they are reminding me that when I try to spread God's truth to nonbelievers, I need to do it gently. I'm not supposed to be condemning or harsh or argumentative. I'm supposed to be gentle. It's so easy to get into heated arguments involving religion and beliefs, but this doesn't accomplish anything. If I want to reach nonbelievers, I need to speak gently to them about God. Also, I don't need to do the convincing. God simply wants me to bring it up and share Him with these people. God is the one who will do the convincing, but I need to provide an opening by sharing Him.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
-I could invite a nonbeliever to church. Sure, they may turn me down... again and again and again. But I should always keep the option open to them. I never know what God is doing in someone's heart, they may change their mind one of those times.
-If I help someone out, I should be open about the fact that my actions are a result of what Jesus has done for me. I should offer to share His news with them. I can share my personal experiences and my point of view without coming off as pushy. Like I said, I don't need to convince them, I just need to open it up to them.
I just came to another realization when reading these verses. Nonbelievers often think that they are "free" because of their choice not to believe. They don't have to answer to God, and they can do whatever they want. These verses tell me that they are not free at all! They are being held captive by Satan, and they don't even realize it! They think that they are free to do whatever they want, but they are really trapped into doing what the devil wants them to do. Freedom only comes through Christ; only He has the power to break through the sins that hold us captive!