Tim Johnson, editor
September 21, 2003
This article was printed in the bulletin of the Corinth church of Christ in Athens before the recent vote in which the city of Athens obtained the right to sell alcoholic beverages. The author is unknown.
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days" (2 Timothy 3:1) Terrible times. The Greek word translated "terrible" is chalepos. It is also translated perilous, grievous, difficult, and fierce. Vines simply says that it alludes to times which are hard to handle.
When Paul wrote to Timothy he was speaking of the near future, a time that Timothy would have to endure and possibly die enduring. He characterizes these "terrible times" with some awful things - a time when people will love themselves, their money, and pleasure rather than love God. They will be without love, arrogant, treacherous, unholy, ungrateful, haters of the good, and without self-control. And that describes those who were supposed to be in the body of Christ. Paul is describing those who would hold to a form of religion (godliness), but deny its power. They would claim to be Christians, they would assemble with Christians, and they would play the part while deceiving and being deceived. And Paul tops it all off by saying it is going to go from bad to worse. As if to say, "Timothy, just when you think it can't get any worse, it will - count on it."
Some might suggest that Paul was a pessimist, always painting the scene from a disapproving view, always preaching the negative lesson. Personally, I think Paul was a realist who saw the view as God saw it, and prophesied as the omnipotent Spirit informed him. He wasn't an alarmist practicing junk theology, nor a doomsday crier, but he spoke the message of a holy God grieved by the effects of sin on His people and His creation.
As I watched some events unfold over the past couple of weeks my thoughts turned to this passage (2 Timothy 3:1-17). As our nation, government, and court system embrace immoral lifestyles and are controlled by the dollar, times of the Christian are becoming more difficult - going from bad to worse.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no state was allowed to have a law forbidding homosexuals from practicing their sexuality - this directly affected Alabama since we have such a law. The decree was a victory for the homosexual community, one which they celebrated nation wide, and one which put this nation one step closer to legalizing homosexual marriages. The government has only a limited amount of power to control the morality of its citizens, especially in the private sector, and you can't rely solely upon the government to regulate morality.
A few days ago a court ruled that a monument of the Ten Commandments was to be removed from a courthouse because of an alleged violation of church and state. The presence of such a monument does not insure that the courts would operate by those principles, but its removal once again manifests the justice system's desire to remove divine concrete principles intended to guide the hearts of men.
Finally, over the last few days I have read about a strong push by two organizations, a group of attorneys and our own Chamber of Commerce, to legalize the sell of alcohol across Limestone county. Of course the drive of this movement is the mighty dollar and the fallacious suggestion that the tax dollars from those sales would help our education system.
Perilous times? Difficult to live in? Maybe not, but things are certainly not getting better. I believe the most frustrating aspect of these events is that they are driven by the minority. Only 3%-4% of this nation claims to be homosexual. Most polls suggest that most people have no problem with the location of the Ten Commandments monument. And the possibility of Limestone County going wet? Well, the jury is still out on that one.
So what do we do? What is the Christian to do? We could just lay down and give up, or wring our hands in worry. But that is not what Paul tells Timothy to do.
"But realize this&ldots;" (2 Tim. 3:1). Be aware of what is going on. I read recently that the ostrich is a very large bird with very little brain. It is prone to hiding its head in the face of danger, but leaving its heart exposed. To avoid the responsibility of parenthood, it buries its egg in the sand, leaving it to be crushed by a large animal or eaten by a predator. It is easy to turn our eyes from our environment and choose to be ignorant. Paul warns us to walk "circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" - that is walk carefully, looking around, being aware of the spiritual dangers that lurk near by. If we are going to protect the younger generation we cannot bury them in the sand and hope that their ignorance of the temptations will save them. Informed young people armed for battle will be able to protect themselves when we cannot. Ignorance is satisfied to do nothing, but knowledge demands that we take action to eradicate sin from our own lives and persuade others to do the same.
"All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). Realize that being a Christian will not always be easy. We can become disillusioned by thinking that the conservative values prevalent in this county will protect us from having to stand up for the Lord in the face of immoral tolerance. The Roaring Lion that seeks someone to devour is not prejudiced toward the location of his prey. I will guarantee you that if you stand against sin and stand up for Christ that you will face mockery and belittlement at some time. So be prepared to do battle.
"Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of&ldots;" (2 Tim. 3:14). Keep going back to what you know to be true. In an age when the tolerance and acceptance of immoral behavior grows greater by the day it can be easy to begin to think that those things we always thought were wrong may not be so bad. God's standard doesn't change. No matter how society's viewpoint has changed on an issue or a lifestyle, God's viewpoint remains the same (Heb. 13:8). Keep going back to what you know to be true, to those things that have been proven to be right and good over and over in God's revealed word and stand up for them, speak out about them.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable&ldots;that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16,17). God has given His people everything they need to be prepared for these difficult and terrible times. We lack for nothing when it comes to know the way to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We have every piece of armor needed to do battle (Eph. 6:10-17). Write God's Word upon your heart daily so you may fight the good fight with power and not with timidity (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:7).
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul goes on to say that there will come a time when people will surround themselves with those who will only speak what they want to hear. Therefore, we have to keep giving people the Truth in love, knowing that true love may sometimes offend. Letting people go to eternal destruction because we don't want to temporarily upset them is not love. We must tell people not only of God's love, but also of God's law.
We have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in our striving against sin (Heb. 12:4), but we are in the last days, like Timothy. Times are becoming more difficult in this country and even this county to live godly lives and protect our children from sin's allurement. What that means is that we cannot give up. But as Paul we must continue to fight the good fight and stay the course.