Each week at The River where I preach, I give our people a “Monday Morning Cup of Coffee”. It is intended to be a follow-up to the sermon they can read on their own to help them further process and grow in the principles that were taught on Sunday. This past weekend I taught from 1st Peter 4:7-11 which spoke of living in the last days. As a follow up to that I asked us all to read 2nd Timothy 3 and make note of what Paul said about living in such times.
Monday Morning Cup of Coffee (2nd Timothy 3)
1) Difficult times will come.
I am continually amazed at how surprised I get when times and seasons in my life get “tough”. Paul couldn’t have made it more clear. The word translated “difficult” means “hard to do” or “hard to bear”. As we live in the last days, that is a perfect descriptor of life. Living for Christ can be hard to do and hard to bear. Many times the life of faith is counter-intuitive and is heavy beyond our strength and ability. It certainly is not for the faint of heart.
2) The difficulty will come from religious yet unconverted people.
As Paul continues on, he states the primary reason for the weightiness of life. Life is hard to bear and do because of people. We must note the total absence of circumstantial frustrations, disappointments, and grief. Paul completely skips over what normally “ruins” our day and our attitudes. He says nothing about flat tires, computer crashes, or financial woes. He pinpoints the greatest difficulty and burden of all: People, specifically, religious people who reject God. Paul says they hold to a “form of godliness” yet they have denied its power. Their denial of the power of God is clear in that they are completely untransformed. Their lives are characterized by all manner of the flesh, all manner of rebellion, and all manner of worldliness. Spirituality flows from their lips but the fruit of their lives is nothing but rottenness. These are the most dangerous and challenging people of all. These are people we find in our churches, coming to our Bible studies, talking about God, and seeking to influence others. They claim God, speak “God-speak”, and look good in their religiosity but have nothing but deadness in their hearts.
3) God will reveal their folly to all.
Rather than encouraging burdened believers in their walk, they entice them towards worldliness and away from God. Paul tells us, again quite clearly, to stay away from such people. One of the great encouragements (as well as one of the most sobering) is the promise of revelation. The true nature of people will always be revealed. The hand of God works in time and context to show the true nature of people. Those who are not of God will only spiral down away from Him while those who are His will grow and become more like Him. The list of despicable attributes in verses 2-5 need to be scrutinized and internalized by all least we find ourselves revealed as religious yet unconverted and people who need to be shunned because of the ungodly influence of our dead hearts.
4) God calls us to simply continue.
How do we respond and live in such desperate times? Do we start by looking for more innovative ways to do ministry? Are we to come up with systems for accountability to administrate our lives? Those have a place but Paul states clearly, “…continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of…”. Where we begin, where we stay, where we abide is in God’s word. Everything must flow out of our study, our commitment, our faith, and our obedience to God through Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. That is what transforms us. That is what sustains us. Everything else must be secondary to our commitment to God’s word.