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I wanted to share some thoughts from last Friday’s reading, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, because it seems so relevant to us today.
“Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course, be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, taken from The Jerusalem Bible, copyright 1966.)
In chapter three, Paul tells Timothy what the last days are going to look like: People will be selfish and greedy, think they are the only ones who know the answers, they will be disrespectful to their elders, and will not care about religion or being thankful to God. They will make up stories and will turn away from truth and everything that is good. Doesn’t this sound like the world today? Doesn’t this sound like what we see on social media? He also instructs Timothy to watch out for false teachers who will worm their way into families and prey on emotions. And he tells him to be strong under persecution and to read and learn the scripture so that he will be equipped and ready for any opportunity that comes along to spread the Word.
Then we come to the beginning of Chapter 4. Again, Paul warns Timothy that his duty is to proclaim a message of Truth and stick only to the Truth. He says to do away with lies, correct misinformation about the gospel and call people to obey the Word of God.
How does this apply to you and me today, especially if we are not preachers or Bible teachers, as Timothy was? Hopefully, each of us is doing the thing God has called us to do. For Anna and me, He has called us to take care of our families, to be keepers of our homes. Maybe He has called you to a certain job outside the home or maybe you do not have a family to take care of. Wherever He has us, He wants us to read the Word and learn it. That’s the only way we can fulfill the rest of the exhortation to proclaim the message of Truth, correct misinformation about the gospel and call people to obey the Word of God.
First, we must know it ourselves. The only way to know it is to get in the Bible and read it! He also says to tell people about it with patience: line upon line, precept upon precept. This is not “stand on the street corner and loudly preach the Word”. This is living and speaking about the precepts of the Bible as we live our daily lives, with the people we meet or the people in our home or our friends and neighbors. This is quietly and persistently putting in a word when we hear myths and fables and teaching that has been crafted for “itchy ears” – modern advice or Biblical truths twisted to appeal to our greed and selfishness. All this takes time. But God graciously gives us time and opportunities if we ask Him: time to have coffee with a friend, time to address an issue with our child, time to talk to someone we love who is going through challenging circumstances.
He sums it up in this passage with 3 important things to do in these perilous and confusing times:
1. Choose the right course yourself. Make sure you stay in the Word so you know the difference between truth and falsehood.
2. Be brave. In the face of opposition and persecution, remember that God is taking care of us.
3. Live the Gospel and keep on teaching it as an ongoing service to Him. Don’t become discouraged if you only see bad things happening — keep reading the Word and talking about it to the people who cross your path.
This Lenten discipline is a good opportunity to read the Word if that is not something you normally do. Be encouraged that this is something God wants you to do and He will give you opportunity to spread His Word as you are obedient to Him.