2 Timothy 4:3-4 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
The first part of 2 Timothy 4 deals with the art of preaching and how valuable it is to grow the faith of church people. As a preacher, I am biased about this, but I believe Paul’s cautionary advice to Timothy is as relevant now as it was way back then. Preaching is not a form of vocal entertainment or a religious TED talk presentation. Preaching is about expressing the hard stuff about our faith and how much it actually influences or interferes with our lives.
Some people think that preaching is easy; indeed, if anyone was given the opportunity to preach a one-off sermon, they would make a wonderful presentation. However, preaching to the same people week by week, month after month, year over year, is never easy because the longer you preach in one place, a deeper insight is given which can be very challenging and really uncomfortable at times. In fact, some people hop from one church to another because the sermons begin to seriously impact their lives and meddle with their nominal commitment to a local congregation.
Paul’s advice to Timothy was given to make the young preacher aware that church people are sometimes fickle and only embrace what they want to hear. They even go to great lengths to find preachers and teachers who will reflect their personal opinions and values, which is potentially dangerous because they can be easily led astray by a charismatic speaker or a religious charmer, who will separate them from God’s Truth and turn them away from the Gospel. Any authentic preacher knows this and so he or she will work hard to present God’s Word in Kingdom terms, not popular trends.
Questions for personal reflection
How often do I pray for the preacher at my church? When the preacher preaches something I find hard to accept, where do I look for the Truth?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have called some people to be preachers in Your Kingdom here on Earth. This calling is never easy and has become more difficult during these post-modern, secular, and affluent times. Sustain those whose difficult duty is to maintain our faith connections through the words You give them. Bless them as they prepare their sermons for this coming Sunday. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about this devotional, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is an old drawing of John’s called ‘Emmaus Bread.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Emmaus.