Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4)
There are few things more valuable in this life than water. It’s commonly said that, if we were to have a third world war, it would be over water resources which are rapidly dwindling in our world – both physically and spiritually. Jesus Himself recognised the relevance of the imagery of water as something without which mankind could not survive, using the analogy of streams of living water that bring life and health to all who partake. Nothing has changed. His living water is still critical in bringing His life to a dying world, and part of the command to be ready is to be willing – and able – to dispense this invaluable spiritual resource to those who desperately need it.
The command to ‘be ready’ is to every believer, not only the leadership in our churches.
To understand this, another verse is important: With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). Pure living water that cleanses, heals, delivers, and purifies, is only available through Christ. It is the gift of salvation to those who drink it. This doesn’t contradict the New Testament concept of the Holy Spirit as the ‘living waters.’ Jesus Himself said that He must return so the Holy Spirit could come. The real significance lies in the truth that it comes from the ‘wells of salvation.’ But what does the command to ‘be ready’ have to do with this?
The answer lies in the great commission, a command that was never retracted, cancelled, or nullified. It is a command that still relates to every single believer in Christ. We are all, if we call ourselves disciples, commanded to go out and preach the Gospel – preach the Word, as today’s verse says – and to make disciples. It’s a common misconception that making disciples is the sole responsibility of the pastor. Not even the evangelist is expected to make disciples. This separation of the vital role of every believer creates confusion. Even an evangelist, though his primary calling may be to speak the Gospel, must make disciples, even if it is only those who labour with them in their ministry, or raising up the next generation of evangelists. The command to be ready, to preach the Word and make disciples, is a universal instruction to every single Christian, no matter whether they are in ministry or not.
But today’s verses provide an additional perspective. We are commanded to be ready in season and out of season. The seasons can be regarded as the natural cycle – a cycle which creates certain expectations, and in which we can reasonably limit ourselves to certain actions depending on which season we are in. The human assumption is that there are times when sowing is required, and there are times when reaping is required, and there are times of rest and growth in between. But today’s verse effectively tells us to throw the almanac out the window. It sweeps aside our expectations and routines and habits, and tells us that preaching the Word is ongoing. It’s something we must be ready to do, whether it seems like the ‘right time’ or not.
It’s a reality that our lives have ‘seasons.’ Like the universe, we have times of growth, sorrow, rejoicing, learning, and all cycles of human development. But the command to be ready supersedes all of these. It is ongoing, continuous, and never ceasing. Preaching the Gospel – distributing the pure, living water of salvation – is for every season, no matter where we may be in our own personal spiritual walk. ‘In season’ may also relate to those moments when we feel prepared, and ‘out of season’ to those when we are not. As ordinary human beings who desire to ‘do well,’ preparation is important to us. We want to feel that we have ‘done our best’ or ‘given our all.’
The sense here is that we prepare for a specific moment or event. We may set aside time in the Word and to pray for that particular purpose, but here, we find the universal command: be ready in season an out. When it comes to the Gospel, we are to remain prepared. We are to be, like the battery, ‘eveready’ whether we feel like it or not. This requires that we walk in close fellowship with God, that we immerse ourselves in the Word, that we listen for His voice and the leading and teaching of the Spirit, and that we willingly obey and step out in faith, trusting Him to accomplish His purposes through us.
The reason for this follows in the other verses which vividly describe the condition of the world today. The pure living water of salvation has become muddied and diluted. Mankind prefers the ‘flavoured’ water dispensed by those who seek to please and pamper. The Gospel is a tool to make mankind comfortable rather than to warn us of God’s judgement and reveal God’s mercy. Wherever we look, ‘alternative’ gospels are preached – prosperity, kingdom now, blessings and unconditional love. It is in this context that we need to be ready to preach the Word.
Now, more than ever, we need to seek God for the courage to speak the truth. This is not a season where Christianity or the Word of God is welcomed, but it is a season when its desperately needed. Being a Christian will become more and more difficult. We will face persecution and discrimination. We will face rejection and hardship. We may even lose friends and family. Through all this, we will see many whom we love and want to protect being swept away on the tide of apostasy and false doctrines. It will be difficult enough to simply carry the name of Christ without still remaining obedient to the command to be ready and speak the Word.
Those who have shared in the living water, who know the great blessing of salvation, need to encourage, exhort, and teach one another. We need to raise up disciples wherever we can, strengthening them in Word and Spirit, supporting them and strengthening them to not only withstand but also to fulfill their calling – to be ready and to preach the Gospel. We have the assurance that all who come to drink will be satisfied from the wellspring of live, and empowered to endure, in season and out of season.
The real truth is that outside of the living water, outside of the Gospel, there is no life. The battle belongs to the Lord, but we must be ready to speak. The Holy Spirit will convict and convert, but we must be ready to speak. Jesus will release His resurrection life to all who come, but we must be ready to speak. If, through it all, God uses us to bring a single soul to salvation, or to turn just one person back from apostasy, we will have fulfilled our purpose in Him.
What we have been given is a glorious gift of grace. Just as Jesus gave His life, so we must give ours – we must be ready, in season and out of season, to preach the Word.
Lord, draw us close to You and transform our thinking and expectations in line with Your purposes. Stir our hearts today, and release in us a passion to preach Your Gospel of grace to a dying world. Help us to step out in faith and obedience, sure in the knowledge that as we obey Your command to be ready in season and out, You will accomplish Your purposes, for Your glory.