2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NRSV)
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
Lately, when I hear this passage quoted, the focus seems to be on the people who will not put up with sound doctrine, the ones who seek out teachers who simply confirm what is comfortable.
Certainly, that’s a problem today. But it’s also pretty easy to argue that itching ears and wandering hearts have been around since the earliest days of the church. We cannot bring people to Jesus Christ simply by pointing out what stands against the Christian message.
Instead, let’s focus on what Paul told the young pastor Timothy to do. Be persistent in following God’s call, which is placed upon all Christians.
This passage reminds me of an encounter with a church member I had several years ago, when President Barack Obama was running for a second term. The parishioner revealed his political stance when he grabbed my sleeve and asked me, “Pastor Chuck! What are we going to do if Obama is re-elected?”
“Well,” I responded, “I guess we should do exactly what we should do if he loses. We will preach Jesus.”
Times may be favorable or unfavorable, and people may have a lot of trouble agreeing on our current status. But for Christians, our work remains simple.
First, we unhesitatingly declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, using the Holy Bible to expand upon that core truth. We present that beautiful message of love and grace to nonbelievers as attractively as we can without compromising the call to holiness that goes with it.
And within the church, the body of believers, we live in mutual accountability, ensuring we are growing in our faith and love.
Paul described a simple mandate, one that should be easy to remember.
Lord, help us today to consider when we last went to work for you, what fruits we bore, and what opportunities might lie before us. Amen.