For a period of time, my youth pastor would take our youth group on an annual retreat called Fallout. I was only in seventh grade when I went to my first one (and continued to do so until freshman year of high school). But, to be upfront, I do not remember a whole lot from the spiritual teachings nor if I could even call myself a Christian yet. Fortunately, God still worked in me that weekend. Though that year brought its special moments, what I recall most at Fallout isn’t the conversations had nor the meals ate, but rather a verse that would stick with me for a lifetime — 2 Timothy 4:7.
For the longest time, I didn’t quite pinpoint the power behind this verse. In all honesty, it was just kind of there. As the years went by, on the other hand, I started seeing myself transform. I soon began going to church regularly. Before I knew it, I have been on multiple mission trips and applying for a position at camp.
Throughout the years, these times with these people became a part of who I am, and, perhaps, would be the beginning of a whole new journey — a spiritual one I wasn’t even aware of... until this past year.
At college is where I noticed a direct shift. Emmaus is the type of place that you will dig deep into the Word, which is exactly what I needed. Because honestly, although we can never comprehend an omniscient God with our limited minds, my knowledge on the subject was pretty small. By the first few weeks, thankfully, I started to see the big picture — HIS story. As the year progressed, my faith would be stretched as I entered into a new environment for the summer in Rives Junction, Michigan.
In Rives, I worked at a camp called Youth Haven. Here, by God’s power, disadvantaged kids were taught the Gospel and shown love (for possibly the first time in awhile). Though the camp was for the children, God moved in mighty ways through the staff as well. It definitely had it’s rough spots, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Some may wonder why this snippet of my life is so significant, as did I for awhile. However, as you will see, I follow a powerful God that connects everything together. That being the case, it has been about seven years since I first learned 2 Timothy 4:7. Yet, especially at Youth Haven, this part of Scripture came through my head over and over again. But why this verse? Why now?
Quite frankly, during those years, I did not run the race [the Christian life] very strong. I slacked off, simple as that. Unfortunately, I can not “redo” that part of the run. Thankfully, I can continue to abide in Him and finish the race set before me.
Since I have started the race, I have had this verse as a boost in my mind. The only difference is that now, God is revealing to me what Paul, author of 2 Timothy, actually meant.
As we dig into the context, we will discover that before his transformation, through the blood of Christ, Paul was a persecutor of the church. His heart was hardened. Conversely, God still “chose him to be an instrument” for his kingdom work (Acts 9:15). God, therefore, approached him and asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”, blinded him for three days, and “filled him with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:1-19). Eventually, many churches, because of God’s grace, were planted by Paul. Consequently, for doing God’s ministry, Paul goes to prison twice. During the end of his second imprisonment is when 2 Timothy takes place. Here, Paul is sending TImothy a message to “not be ashamed to tell others about our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). When suffering comes, Paul states to Timothy that “there will be persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake” (2 Timothy 3:12, 4:5). And, as his death is near, he has “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). And because of that, “there is a prize awaiting for him, as for those who have done the same, when the Messiah returns” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Just as Paul declared that his fight was a success, we shall strive to live a similar attitude. Now, does that mean that we should try to mimic his life? Not exactly... unfortunately, like Paul, because we are naturally enslaved to sin, every single one of us has abandoned God’s way for our own; we have turned from God to find glory in something and/or someone other than the one who deserves the glory. Yet, he sent his son, Jesus Christ, the ultimate savior, to deliver the ones who betrayed him in the first place from the punishment we deserve. Due to his suffering on the cross and resurrection, we can be declared righteous if we follow him.
This gift of God, which can’t be earned by our “good” deeds or merits, does not make our life on earth problem free. As humans, we will still struggle with sin. Temptations will draw our attention. Satan will try to direct us elsewhere than his arms. But, because of what Christ did for us, we shall respond in a way pleasing to God. He is worthy of the glory, therefore, deserving of our obedience. And, with the help of Christ and the Holy Spirit within us, it becomes easier to overcome. But, we must humble ourselves and remain in him.
As I’ve been learning the past year, God is working. In fact, even through trials, he can do amazing things. But, as Scripture reveals, this war won't be easy. Reality is that will be many days when you'll wonder if the fight is worth fighting. When that thought slides into your mind, ignore it. Instead, take Paul’s advice to “fight the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).
So, what does it exactly mean to fight the good fight? Well, it means to truly run the race. In fact, endure and stay strong. Pursue holiness. Put on the armor of God. Seek godly guidance. Walk in humility. Be the light. Make his name known. Love others. And, most importantly, “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).