Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. – 2 Timothy 4:2
Never in my life has it felt more out of season than this year. A global pandemic that has altered every aspect of life, including church life, ever-deepening partisan divides that amount to fundamentalism on both sides of the aisle, explosive responses to new examples of long-standing racial injustice, economic recession, anxiety and fatigue due to the ongoing uncertainty of what life will look like in the near and long term, and murder hornets. Don’t forget the murder hornets.
Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy in one of his final letters, and left him this final charge. In the context of the letter, the Apostle warns Timothy about the last days with a description that fits this year as much as it did the year it was written. It’s helpful to us today.
There are times in ministry that everything seems to click. People are eager to hear what God’s Word has to say, unfiltered and pure, in all it confronts and comforts. The Holy Spirit moves by convicting people of sin, waking people out of spiritual slumber, and saving the lost. These are fruitful times that are in season.
At other times, people “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:4), looking for teachers and sources to tickle their itching ears. The noise in the marketplace of ideas is deafening right now. People are discipled by social media echo chambers. For too many, a favorite news source can become a church and a favorite personality their pastor.
Christians need to have the discernment and insight to know what season we are in. It is exhilarating to proclaim God’s Word in season, when if feels like it makes a difference. But make no mistake – when it is out of season, out of fashion, against the current of cultural preferences and proclamations, it is just as essential to fulfill this great calling.
How can we hope to keep up with the warp speed of a news cycle that seems to change on the hour?
1. CLING TO GOD’S WORD
Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy in the face of challenge and opposition starts with a personal admonishment to stay in the Word (2 Tim. 4:10-17). Each one of us must work to understand the fullness of the gospel, apply it to real life around us, and to live in light of our identity as children of God and citizens in Christ’s Kingdom.
2. PROCLAIM GOD’S WORD TO OTHERS
Every Christian is called to be an evangelist, just as Timothy is charged as well (2 Tim. 4:5). We have good news to tell! Jesus died in our place for our sin, he raised from death to life, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is coming again to renew and restore all things. Our hope is not in princes, chariots, horses, or politicians. Do your interactions with people focus more on the newest article or conspiracy theory, or on proclaiming the hope of the gospel?
3. TEACH WITH PATIENCE
Being ready in season and out of season means that we respond to others with complete patience (2 Tim. 4:2). This one is hard. It echoes Peter’s encouragement that we always be ready to give an answer for our hope, but with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). Especially when out of season, it is essential to respond to people with kindness and humility, giving grace as we patiently trust that the Spirit of God alone can change hearts.
4. ENDURE SUFFERING
It always feels surprising that there is personal cost to follow Jesus because our spiritual amnesia loses that He calls us to take up our cross daily to follow Him. Be faithful. We look ahead with hope to a Kingdom that will last forever, knowing that the greatest glory of humanity is fading like the grass of the field.
It’s fun and exhilarating to tell people about Jesus and throw ourselves into the work of church ministry when we are in season. And it should be! We can savor and enjoy those times as long as we don’t get too caught in our own nostalgia. The truth is that when things are out of season we just might be doing the hard work of tilling and cultivating soil, spreading the seeds of the gospel, and faithfully watering as we patiently wait to see a harvest. The seeds of the gospel grow best in the darkest soil. So, keep the faith and keep running the race. Preach the Word in season and out of season.