Life as a Christian may sometimes appear to be futile. That is to say, it may seem pointless to continue on. And it isn’t always because we’re some colossal failure either, as sometimes it is simply due to the fact that the world around us is so quickly degrading. If this last election season in the United States has proven anything, it’s that trust in a political system is no stronger than trust in an individual person, making all the more clear that we are living in a time when God’s Judgment is looming. And I do not mean some temporal judgment, where he removes one world leader, or has a nation invaded and conquered. I am referring more specifically to the Judgment, in which God will judge the world through Jesus Christ. This judgment will be concise, clear and final, as the world is completely destroyed with all of the original creation, clearing the way for the New Heaven and Earth to take their places. But we must note that before this Judgment can occur, other things must happen first. And the Bible makes very clear that things in the world are not going to get better, but worse. And the description of that degrading society is only half as bad as the description of the world’s degrading view of God’s Word.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4
This is what strikes me as incredible here. Not the fact that people will turn on God, but the method through which they accomplish this. They turn on His Word, and rebel against His commandments. More specifically, they will not “endure” it in its most accurate form. If it is proclaimed accurately (in its context and proper application), it will be rejected. Not only will it be rejected, it will not be tolerated. It will be fought against. People will run away to people who tell them what they want to hear, and do so passionately. They then turn on those who actually tell the truth, and viciously pursue them with the goal of completely removing them. What is so pertinent to this issue is the fact they war against the Truth, and all that they do is pitted against anything associated with the Word. Whereas non-Christians simply avoid the Bible and those who teach it, these actively seek to destroy the true church of God, and do so in the name of God and His Word, no matter how far from the Scripture it may be.
And it is here that we find Timothy, finding himself more excluded from the church that has been built by the apostles, all because of people who claim to be believers in Christ. So often, if it is these who are the greatest threat to the church. Paul tells Timothy beforehand that he must endure, and that through the sound doctrine given to him.
“For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement, ‘For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.’” – 2 Timothy 2:10-13
Because the unbelieving professors will need to find this “sound doctrine” before they can run away from it. In other words, these enemies of the faith are a direct result of the truth being preached. If the truth is not preached, you will not find these, because there is nothing for them to deny. They are getting what their ears listen for, and find no need to persecute those who tell them what they want to hear. If a church claims to have no enemies, it is no doubt inevitable that they have avoided Scriptural substance, and pursued that which is meaningless in the Bible. Endless genealogies, worthless applications of vague texts and purposeless programs of self-indulgence. They want nothing more than to maintain their empty ministries, so as to maintain peace with everyone, and only fight for causes endorsed by everyone they seek to please. They will happily fight to get prayer in schools, but perish the thought that they would lose their Mormon or Catholic allies by preaching the truth of God’s Word. They would happily forsake any consistent interpretation of the Bible for the sake of gaining another ally, regardless of whether or not they are a cult and deny the most fundamental attributes of the Scripture. Is the murder of millions of unborn children a heinous crime that ought to be fought against? Absolutely. Is it worth sacrificing the deity of Christ? Absolutely not. But you would not think so with evangelicalism today. On the contrary, “doctrine” is a bad word that dare not be uttered if it has proven to be divisive among certain partners in any “important” ministry. But it is this very thing, sound doctrine, that drives people and ministries to become the worst enemies of the cross of Christ. If we, as a church, become the ticklers of their ears, we have not only become accessories to their damnation, we have become one with them in that future, being children of hell ourselves. But if we endure with sound doctrine, following and worshipping God in spirit (sincerity and genuineness) and truth (not in ignorance or false profession), then we will find ourselves as Paul, fighting the good fight and keeping the faith, not caving to the broad path leading to destruction.
Endurance is therefore not merely a generic, passive attribute or some ideal thought that is beyond ability. On the contrary, if we hold fast to the Word of Life, we will have no choice but to endure, both in a sinful body and a sinful world, ever being conformed to the God who saved us. If we think we can no longer endure, God will be faithful when we are faithless, and will drag us on further. And endurance is not ignorance, but is the result of the truth God has given to us, which is not given to us in vain, but for the purpose of going further, and to be used for both self-edification and that of others. We need to be concerned with whether or not we know God’s Word, because only then can we live it out.
“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:13-17