“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)
We are living now in the time Paul speaks about above. That time has come. We continue to see the escalation and acceleration of human depravity and crisis. There seems to be an increasing disregard for the love of truth. In fact, the Apostle Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 that some would be given to an unrighteous deception because they did not receive the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Paul also addresses this with Timothy after giving him a very strong charge and challenge to his ministry.
Paul was deeply concerned that even amongst those who professed to know the truth, many no longer had a love for the truth. In 2 Timothy 4:5, he encourages us to make sure we are not disheartened or discouraged from keeping our focus:
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Be watchful in all things
In other words, be morally alert, be sober, and have self control.
We must persevere through whatever challenges or hardships may come our way. We need to keep our vision of hope and our eyes on the destination of the Lord. Circumstances should not dictate who we are, because we know who we are in Christ.
Do the work of an evangelist
For the sacred to influence the secular, we must have the heart of our Savior for the souls of men. We may not all have the office of an evangelist or be called like a Billy Graham, but we are all called to do the work of an evangelist. We are all called to let the Lord’s light shine in our lives in such a way that it directs others to Him. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I love this quote from the late Leonard Ravenhill: “Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle and let men burn and give no hand? Could you sit at ease in Zion (as a Christian) with the world around you damned?”
There is such need in the world around us today. Shall we sit back on the beach of ease and comfort, when so many are still shipwrecked in a sea of despair and destruction?
A.W. Tozer said, “The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
We need to wake up from our slumber, quit pushing our snooze buttons, and awaken to the call to be good messengers in a world of bad news.
Fulfill Your Ministry
The Amplified Bible says, “Fully perform all the duties of your ministry.” We are all called to steward the ministry God has entrusted to us. At Somebody Cares, one of our core missions is reconciliation across racial, ethnic, and denominational lines. We have been reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, and now all of us have the ministry of reconciliation. This is so important during these times in which we live, to be ambassadors and bridge-builders in the natural as a beautiful picture of what God has done in the spiritual.
2 Corinthians 4:1-2 is a reminder not to lose heart lest we have a tendency to mishandle the Word of God through deceitfulness. We should rather manifest the truth to others.
We can only manifest the Truth if we ourselves have the love of the Truth. Too often we turn our ears away from the truth because we raise up our own “golden calf,” so to speak. We set up our personal preferences based on our own perceptions, thus disregarding the truth where our sacred cows are concerned. As I’ve said often, “Perception is not necessarily the truth, but it is the truth to the one who perceives it.” If we are not careful and discerning, we can filter our worldview through our personal preferences or experiences, rather than through the Word, character, nature, and Spirit of God; whereby, we create our own world and personal kingdoms based on our own perceptions. May our eyes be opened with discernment, and our hearts return
The Apostle Paul begins his challenge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1 with this: “I CHARGE you…before God and the Lord Jesus Christ…” The inference is, “as if in the very Presence of God Himself.”
Verse 2 says: Preach the word! Be instant in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
Here we see some key exhortations:
Preach the Word:.
The writer of the song Amazing Grace was John Newton (1792-1875). He was a former slave ship captain who had an encounter with the Lord and later became an Anglican clergyman. I love this quote of his that really does give us a picture of what our preaching of the Word should do. “My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one.” Powerful!
I also love this quote from another popular English preacher, Rowland Hill (1744-1833):“I don’t like those mighty fine preachers who round off their sentences so beautifully that they are sure to roll off the sinner’s conscience.”
Or, how about this quote from the late A.W. Tozer from his teaching on “The Gift of Prophetic Insight,” which he wrote about religious leaders who lack understanding of present conditions:
“Religious leaders who continue to
mechanically expound the scriptures without regard to the current religious situation are no better than the scribes and lawyers of Jesus’ day who faithfully parroted the law without the remotest notion of what was going on around them spiritually…
“The Prophets never made that mistake nor wasted their efforts in that manner. They invariably spoke to the condition of the people of their times. Today we need prophetic preachers; not preachers of prophecy merely, but preachers with a gift of prophecy… We need the gift of discernment again in our pulpits. It is not the ability to predict that we need, but the anointed eye, the power of spiritual penetration and interpretation, the ability to appraise the religious scene as viewed from God’s position, and to tell us what is actually going on.”
Today, we have some of the most gifted orators and well trained communicators and pontificators, but what we need are those who have also been in the Presence of the Lord, who can hear from Him and communicate His heart to a desperate world. We need to be those who love God and the people He has called us to serve more than we love ourselves.
As 1 Corinthians 9:16-18 says, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me: yes, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”
Be instant in season and out of season:
The Amplified Bible says it this way: “Keep your sense of urgency… be at hand and ready, whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it be welcome or unwelcome.”
In other words, to “be instant” means to be at hand, to stand by, i.e., to be prepared, ready, keeping your sense of urgency. Notice that to be instant in and out of season may not always be favorable, convenient, or welcomed!
The Greek word elenxon also means to convince or correct.
This word also means “to censure.” Censure is an expression of strong disapproval or denouncement, an official reprimand.
Wikipedia says, “Censure is a process by which a formal reprimand is issued to an individual by an authoritative body.” We have seen this at times over the years with leaders who have misused their office or position.
Both “reprove” and “rebuke” infer to challenge, correct, and discipline. The Lord corrects to guide and instruct those He loves. Likewise, our love for others moves us with deep compassion to do the same.
The Greek word parakaleson can be translated either exhort or encourage, depending on the context in which it is used. It also means to bring edification and comfort.
Yes, the time has come for us to be lovers of truth and sound doctrine, and to be sensitive and discerning of the times. May we recognize the hour in which we are living and heed the call of the Lord as His Church. As in the days of Noah, we are seeing many disturbing and atrocious things, yet by divine warning Noah built an ark that served as a vehicle of salvation and preservation in the midst of judgment. Likewise, may we become a spiritual ark for others to find refuge, salvation, preservation, and deliverance.
Together, may we be able to say like the apostle Paul:
“I have fought the good fight… I have finished the race… I have kept (persevered) the faith!”
Revised versions of this and other articles by Doug Stringer can be found in various printed and online magazines, as well as www.DougStringer.com.