Christians across America are frustrated. Some are discouraged. Some are fearful. Some are hopeless.
Our culture is shifting before our very eyes, and there seems to be little to nothing we can do to stop it. We see the decaying morals and we sense the intolerance toward Christians growing around us.
Pastors, too, become discouraged with it all. Those serving in ministry wonder if there is hope for our nation or for revival.
But lest we bemoan the difficult times in our country today, could I remind you that the gospel has prospered in even more difficult times in years past.
In fact, the Apostle Paul is believed to have written the book of 2 Timothy from the Mamertine Prison in Rome. He wrote at an incredibly difficult time both in world history and in his life. Christians everywhere were persecuted, and he knew he was only a short time from his own martyrdom.
What was his instruction at this critical period?
He told Timothy to continue.
Paul didn’t sugarcoat his message. He straight up told Timothy that the godly will suffer, and the weak will be deceived (2 Timothy 3:12–13). But he followed those observations with a direct command:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;—2 Timothy 3:14
It is the same message I preached last week to our West Coast Baptist College class of 2016: Continue.
As our newest graduating class enters ministry, they face sizeable challenges. They are going into ministry in a culture that, by and large, is resistant toward truth and intolerant of those who preach it.
So what do we do in the midst of such a culture shift? Do we look for a new philosophy of ministry? More palatable doctrine? Culturally-acceptable preaching?
No, as I challenged our new graduates this week, we continue.
1. Continue to Believe
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.—1 Timothy 4:16
What you believe matters. That is why Paul told Timothy to continue in the things he had “learned and been assured of.” Paul knew that he had taught Timothy the doctrines of the Word of God.
When you know the truth regarding the doctrine of the Scriptures, of the deity of Christ, of His atoning work on the cross, of His resurrection, and of the local church, don’t give those truths up—for anything.
It is only the gospel that has power to free a sin-bound soul. It is only the Word of God that can mend a broken life. It is only the local church that is the called out, purchased possession of Jesus. Continue to believe these truths.
I’m afraid that cultural pressure combined with our natural tendency to drift has left many preachers who were once strong in what they believed more concerned with relevance than with truth. Unfortunately, it is the world, who cannot see the difference between themselves and the church, who suffers.
Others, with a desire to grow their ministry have been willing to compromise doctrinally. But the primary barometer of success has never been numerical; it is continuance in the truth.
Remember, the men and women who have moved the world have been the men and women the world could not move. Continue in the truth.
2. Continue to Remember
Even as Paul told Timothy to continue in the truth, he reminded him, “knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”
Most people in ministry have lived long enough to be disappointed by men. But lest you allow those disappointments to turn your steps in another direction, could I remind you that you’ve also lived long enough to receive the investments of men?
The fact is, God has ordained our growth and learning to oftentimes come through men and women who invest in our lives. Don’t sever ties with all who have invested in you because someone else has failed you.
It is a tendency of immaturity that disregards or devalues teachers, instructors, and mentors. Thankfully, Timothy did not do this. Rather, he remembered Paul and followed his faith.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.—Hebrews 13:7
I challenge you, as I challenged our graduates last week, keep those strong mentoring relationships with pastors and teachers intact. Allow those who have loved and invested in you continued entrance into your life.
3. Continue to Proclaim
Yes, our society is rejecting truth. But that is all the more reason it needs gospel preachers who will proclaim the truth.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.—2 Timothy 4:1–2
I love what Spurgeon said: “A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”
We do have something worth preaching—the gospel of Christ and the love of God. We have the gospel that radically changes lives—even radically sinful lives. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9–11.)
Keep proclaiming it. Keep witnessing. Keep preaching. Keep intersecting God’s Word with needy hearts. Keep bringing the gospel message to lost souls.
Hope in the Battle
I know that some days we feel beleaguered. We wonder how much further our culture will shift, who will be elected next, what kind of legislation is going to sneak up on us this week, when and how our freedoms may be taken.
But God does not only command us to continue in the truth—He urges us to continue with hope!
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;—Titus 2:13
Christ is returning…and we know it!
Yes, there are challenges, and there will be more ahead. But the gospel is as powerful today as it was in the first century. And the hope of Christ’s return is as real today as it was when Jesus ascended to Heaven.
If you’re struggling today with the shifts in culture or uncertainty in your positions, could I challenge you? Rededicate yourself to continue.
Continue to believe true doctrine, to remember those who have taught you, and to proclaim the very gospel of Jesus Christ.
And if you think you would be helped by three days of encouragement to continue, I invite you to join us for Spiritual Leadership Conference in Lancaster next month. Our theme this year is both simple and practical: Continue.