In the middle of his second and final letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes a sober and startling statement: “But realize this, that in the last times difficult times will come” (3:1).
That sentence jars the reader into wakefulness. That is not the kind of sentence that we like to read. Our presupposition is that while there may be difficulties in life, the overall trend is to be towards increasing goodness, ease, and profitability. Life should get better, not worse. Political elections should result in improvements. Technological developments should make life easier and simpler. Mankind should “evolve” into increasingly better kinds of people.
But that’s not what is happening and that is not what will happen. It’s not going to get better. It will get worse. And in case we aren’t convinced by that one statement, Paul articulates just how bad it’s going to get (vv. 2-5).
For men will be:
- lovers of self
- lovers of money
- disobedient to parents
- malicious gossips
- without self-control
- haters of good
- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
- holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power
That’s a hard list to read.
According to Paul, we don’t need to place confidence that politicians, a new iPad, improved dish soap, or another psychological counseling method are going to make life and people better. They can’t and they won’t.
In fact, Paul gives several illustrations in this chapter about how this was true in his own day and how it would progress in the future. He summarizes just how bad it would be with two further sentences:
- Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (v. 12).
- But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (v. 13).
Reading these verses might tempt one to run and hide (though if we read them carefully, we will find that there is no place to run and hide, because this chapter indicates what life will be like around the world, not in one locale).
So is there any hope at all?
Yes, there is.
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (v. 14)
Things may go from bad to worse and people may become increasingly evil and persecution may come. But the believer is to remain steadfast. Just keep on believing God and doing the work of the ministry to which he has called you. Keep evangelizing. Keep discipling. Keep walking with Christ and cultivating your faith in Him and your faithfulness to Him.
Why keep doing these things? Because that is what the Word of God teaches us to do and the Word of God is completely sufficient for our needs — even in a world that is falling apart.
The Scriptures are God’s breathed-out Word. They are His declaration. They give life to the soul as His breath gave life to Adam. And they are:
- profitable for teaching
- profitable for reproof
- profitable for correction
- profitable for training in righteousness (v. 16)
What we need everyday — and in these days that seemingly look increasingly like verses 2-5 — is adherence to and confidence in and commitment to the Word of God.
Life is not going to get better. But there is an answer.