Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8
1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)
We are getting near the end of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He is giving Timothy a final charge. And we see that Paul is trying to show the importance of this charge. He prefaces it by saying he is giving this charge in the presence of God and Jesus Christ who will judge us at the end of times. All too often we to remember that God is watching us in our day to day activities. This is a strange phenomenon we see in life. When cameras are placed in a room where people work daily, they soon forget the cameras are there, recording everything they do. We do this with God too, we forget that he is watching us. We need to remember that God is watching us, not to punish us, but to encourage us. But we will have to account for our failures at some point, even if they are forgiven.
Timothy’s charge is to preach the Word, to correct, rebuke and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction. This is the role of the pastor. But there is a temptation as a pastor to stop preaching what we read as God’s truth and begin to preach what people want to hear. This is the warning Paul is telling Timothy. Paul says a time is coming when people will not put up with God’s truths and seek people who will tell them what they want to hear.
This is a warning to churches as well as pastors. Does the church preach and live out God’s truth? We will never do it perfectly, but we will have a trajectory in our witness that points to God and his ways. That is what is important. Just as one sermon will not typically make a great difference in one’s live, the sum total of the teaching should. That is true of our acts of mercy. One act will be good, but a life of living merciful will make such a larger impact.
For us to know whether a church is living out the Word, we must be in the Word ourselves. For me personally, I think that when we are comfortable with the whole of the Gospel message, we have watered it down. It should still move us as well as still making us uncomfortable at times. There should still be that call on our lives that push us out of our comfort zone. After all, to love God with all we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves is something that should still make us think about it. As we grow with Christ, we find more peace, but I think it takes a lifetime to understand God’s love completely. If we ever think we do, then we are probably deceiving ourselves in some area of life.
Paul then reminds Timothy to endure hardships. He then points to his own faithfulness and endurance and reminds Timothy of the reward of that perseverance in completing the race, in fighting the good fight of faith. Paul has a vision of Christ presenting him a crown of righteousness himself. What a wonderful vision of entering the kingdom of God – receiving a reward from Jesus himself.
The question is are we still seeking God’s love and understanding what God wants us to do? Are we enduring the hardships that come from a faith journey in this life? Are we helping the Church to be the church to all people?
We need to ask ourselves tough questions in order that we aren’t just following something we want to hear. We should want to hear God and that takes effort every day.
Blessings and Peace