Readings for the Day
Amos 1-3, Psalm 80, 2 Timothy 4
Verses for the Day
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
Thoughts for the Day
These are Paul's last words to Timothy. He gives him a charge as he bids him goodbye. His charge is to preach God's Word in season and out of season. Meaning preach when it is going well and people are responding to the Word. And, also preach when it is not going so well. His job was to preach the Word and not worry as much about the results as preaching the pure gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
He also tells him to correct, rebuke and encourage. This is another role for pastors and teachers as they build up and lead the flock God has entrusted to them. Correcting and rebuking are similar words, but the latter has more force. Whereas correction is part of the everyday relationship between a teacher and student, rebuking is more reserved for obstinancy and disobedience. Paul needed to exercise both gifts to build up the body to maturity in Christ. Notice today sometimes this is seen as being judgmental, but not in the sense Paul means it in the body of Christ. We all need correction and rebuking at times as we seek to move out of old behaviors into our new life in Christ.
Finally, Paul tells Timothy he needs to encourage them as well. If all he did was correct and rebuke them, it would lead to resentment and discouragement. We all need encouragement, especially when we have fallen. Encouragement keeps us going when we feel like quitting, and reminds us that he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. Encouragers always see what good God is doing in someone's life and lift them up. We all need encouragement often.
Why is Paul so adamant about Timothy preaching the word, and keeping a close relationship with the flock through correcting, rebuking and encouragement? Because a time was soon coming when people would look for a pastor that just told them what they wanted to hear. Instead of correcting them when they were wrong, they would let each person do as they wanted for fear of offending them. If the pastor preached calling them to repentance or turning from sin, they would leave and look for a place where they could rationalize and justify their behavior and be comfortable.
This was happening in Paul's time, and we see it surely happening today. The political correctness movement has rendered any correction and rebuking by anyone, especially those in the church, as judgmental. Remember we are not to judge someone's relationship with God, or their standing with him. But we are called to speak the truth in love to a brother or sister in Christ. When someone is clearly acting in a manner contrary to what Jesus taught, we should correct one another. Not out of judgment but out of love. Not to lord it over someone, but loving them as we would love ourselves if we were honest about what we really needed. As a side note some of the most valuable growth periods in my life have been when someone cared enough about me to correct or rebuke a behavior I was exhibiting that was clearly wrong.
I think Paul's charge to Timothy is relevant for us in the church today. We are often guilty of trying to make people feel good about themselves, or preaching what they want to hear. Paul saw the day when people would be turning to this behavior, and he urges Timothy to be patient and diligent in carrying out his role to shepherd those who God had placed under his authority.
Say a prayer for Christian leaders around the country that we might listen to Paul's charge to Timothy and lead honestly and courageously. I think the church really needs this kind of leadership in today's post-Christian culture with secular relativism as the prevailing worldview. One last thing. Pastors need correcting and rebuking and encouragement too.