There is no doubt that we are living in the last days. Many of the faithful have lived in difficult times, but these times in which we live grow ever more evil. The age is materialistic and centered around self and self seeking. The solid foundations of the Truth are questioned in some quarters and zeal is something considered somewhat archaic. The words of Paul to Timothy come to mind:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2Timothy 3:1-5
Now if we stayed with verses 1-4 the description is very apt for the world in general but verse 4 applies it to those nominally disciples of Christ who have a ‘form of godliness’. In other words having the outward appearance of godliness, but not having a true desire in the heart to seek the Truth. Of this ilk are those who will say:
“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
Under these circumstances what can those who seek to be righteous do?
The answer to this question applies equally as much to those from any age who sincerely desire to love the Lord their God. We must hold fast to the solid foundation of scripture neither adding to it, nor taking from it, rightly dividing the word of Truth and being very clear in ones mind about what is believed and what is to be rejected. This is exactly what the faithful of old did and it is exactly what we must do in our day and age.
There is a need to be definite and uncompromising in ones stand for the Truth and sound doctrine. Do not follow the crowd, but be willing to stand up for what is right just as did Daniel in his day.
But how should we speak of the true gospel message and the sound teaching of scripture? Well, by speaking the words of scripture, not embellishing scripture overly with personal feelings and experiences, but speaking the Truth in its purity and simplicity. Proverbs says:
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Prov 10:19
“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” Eccl 6:11
These thoughts apply to all that we do, be it proclaiming the Truth, giving an exhortation or giving a sermon. The whole objective must be to speak the words of God, not propound our own ‘crotchets and quavers.’
How can we then prepare ourselves for speaking the sound words of scripture? Well only by knowing the word of God! Do not be content with the elementary things of the Truth but rather try to understand some of the deeper things. Bible study is essential, but not all are for example inclined towards wanting to study the meanings of Hebrew and Greek words, understanding the ‘signs of the times’, working out the relationships between scriptural characters, knowing the history of the nations and kings or gaining a deep understanding of the furnishings and ritual of the Tabernacle or Temple. These things undoubtedly have their place, but we each have different interests and abilities. Equally of interest and of great importance is to study the life of Christ, comprehend his teachings, understand and develop the fruits of the spirit that Paul speaks of, learn the proverbs and how to apply them in our lives or study the profound subject of prayer. What ever our level of knowledge, interest, or ability every single one of us will benefit from reading the scriptures daily by following the Bible Companion or other method that ensures we read the totality of the Bible regularly. There is no substitute for regular reading, yet not just merely reading, but also thinking about what we read and then putting it into practice. These two aspects cannot be emphasized enough, think and put into practice.
Who would go to college from work to learn more about their job and not then use what they had learned? Nobody would go to that effort and not make use of knowledge gained. How then can the Truth be any different? No, we should the more so act upon it.
Finally we must always remember that we need a balance in all that we do, think and say. Do not discourage by thinking only upon the hardships of the way but consider also to the joys that lie ahead.
The hardships are there, the need for warning always present because of our human nature, but we also very much need the encouragement to persevere and there is indeed great joy ahead. There are promises from God so wondrous in their scope, that they are beyond our full comprehension and appreciation. Paul writes that we shall be made to be like the Lord Jesus Christ:
“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Rom 6:5
”…who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil 3:21
Finally by way of encouragement we can think of these words penned by John:
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1John 3:2
What manner of love indeed Yahweh has shown to us that we who are but dust are called to be His children. Should we be discouraged by the need for separation and hardship along the way? Should we be discouraged when we fail and come short? No, not at all! These things that befall the faithful are cause for perseverance, joy and encouragement. The trials confirm that we are called of God, that He treats us as His children and that He is merciful. This is the response of faith:
“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. “ 1John 3:3