“I give you a command in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, the One who will judge the living and the dead, and by his coming and his kingdom: Preach the Good News. Be ready at all times, and tell people what they need to do. Tell them when they are wrong. Encourage them with great patience and careful teaching, because the time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching but will find many more teachers who please them by saying the things they want to hear. They will stop listening to the truth and will begin to follow false stories. But you should control yourself at all times, accept troubles, do the work of telling the Good News, and complete all the duties of a servant of God.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 NCV)
Is it getting more difficult to reach those around us with the good news of Jesus? Perhaps this is a sentiment that you have expressed as those around us seem to be less and less interested in God’s word and more intent on doing what they want. In my experience it is more difficult now to find those who want to study the Bible, both those who are not Christians and even those who are Christians.
Although I can see more difficulty now than forty years ago, I also realise that these thoughts and experiences are not unique to those living now. In historical writings I can see the same sentiment being expressed as Christians looked around them at the chaos in the world.
What do we do when it is difficult to find those who are interested in God’s word? We do what Christians should always do: we still preach the good news! We do it whether it is convenient or not, whether people seem to be listening or not. The phrase translated “be ready” can also be rendered “be persistent”. I think that well expresses what we must do – no matter what the circumstances are in which we find ourselves we must continue to proclaim the truths of Jesus.
We can’t change the message and we can’t back off when it isn’t popular. We always need to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction” (NET). That may be difficult. It definitely won’t be popular when we are giving a message that goes against the way people live and what they believe. We will need patience when people reject the good news we are trying to tell them.
This was the Roman world of the first century when the apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy and it is still the case today. People like to hear words that soothe them, not challenge them. People like to be told they are all right, that they don’t need to change. They like to hear something that emphasises that they do not need to do anything but can continue living the way they like.
But this is not the message of Jesus. Jesus calls us to be different. He calls us to declare a message that calls people back to living for him. He calls us to be his disciples. He calls us to take up our cross daily and follow him.
Will it be easy? No, we will have to endure hardship and troubles. But we keep doing it! As servants of Jesus we have been given the work of telling others the good news. May we continue to reach out to others so we can echo Paul’s words at the end of our lives:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now, a crown is being held for me—a crown for being right with God. The Lord, the judge who judges rightly, will give the crown to me on that day—not only to me but to all those who have waited with love for him to come again.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Photo by Jon Galloway.
Readings for next week: 2 Timothy 1-4; Titus 1-3