It promised to be a beautiful Monday morning in a small, rural area of Kansas. The opening services of the revival on Sunday were productive, and I was thankful to be at this church for a few days. At the crack of dawn, I mounted my bicycle, intending to get some good exercise. Having never been in the area before and not knowing what route might be best, I chose a small, narrow road behind the church. The fragrance of newly mown hay greeted me as I made my way past a number of dairy farms and open fields. This was going to be awesome!
About eight miles into the ride, I saw a sign in the distance that troubled me. It was large and orange with flashing lights declaring the road ahead to be under construction. Arriving at the sign a few moments later, I was delighted to note a smaller sign beneath it that read: “Open to local traffic only.” Since it wasn’t yet 5:00 a.m., I blew past those signs, thinking the construction crews would not yet be on the job and for the next couple of hours I could have that portion of the road all to myself.
Within a mile or so, however, my speed was reduced by pebbles, twigs, and other debris commonly found on roads not used by cars. Thinking this would only be a temporary difficulty, I kept navigating through the rough spots and avoiding anything that looked like a threat to my thin bicycle tires.
The pavement soon ended, and my bike now shook and bounced across hard-packed Kansas dirt. But I could see in the distance the end of this construction, or so it appeared. I’m not sure why, but soon that hard-packed dirt turned to a cake-like mud. My legs were throbbing now as I was pumping those pedals, trying to make my way through this quagmire. Soon, I was covered in mud and my bike ground to a complete stop.
When my feet slipped off of the pedals, I found myself standing in five inches of the thickest, gooiest, and worst-smelling mud I had ever encountered. The wheels would no longer turn, so hoisting the bike up on my shoulder, I slipped and slid toward that construction sign warning traffic from the opposite direction. I definitely got my exercise that morning. After borrowing a farmer’s garden hose and some advice, I eventually made my way back to the church another way.
For some time now, as Christians, we have noticed the road we are on seems to be getting more difficult to navigate. Post-modern America is now tolerant of all views except those expressing belief in Jesus Christ. “Folly is set in great dignity” (Ecclesiastes 10:6) while “truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).
While difficult, this change in the road conditions was predicted:
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.—2 Timothy 3:13
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and be turned unto fables.—2 Timothy 4:3–4
Jesus Himself declared in John 3:19–20, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
For a while it seemed that this road was merely under construction. Christians somehow survived the debris of the 1960s and ’70s as a questioning of authority and rebellion accompanied the arrival of rock music and free sex in our culture. During the 1980s the road smoothed a bit as conservative politics seemed to make a comeback, but that dirt turned to mud by the turn of the century.
Instead of driving our nation back to God, the economic fears and threats of terrorism drove us away from Divine power to an antinomian mindset that now has redefined truth to exclude God altogether. That peaceful road our grandparents traveled in American history has now been destroyed, and we find ourselves in a quagmire of satanic mud.
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”—Romans 3:11–18
So what do we do? Stop? Stand in the muck and mire and hold whatever we count as valuable on our shoulder hoping that we don’t get too contaminated in the process? Perhaps some are content to just stand ankle deep in the contamination and wait for the Lord to rescue us at the rapture. The Word of God, however, gives us no such instruction!
After the Apostle Paul reminded us that things would get worse and worse, he charged us to, “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). This isn’t the time to abandon the path or adapt to the mud. We must stay in the race and go back to what God commanded and we have been faithfully taught.
Some are looking for a different mode of transportation through this difficult course. Ministries are re-inventing themselves to somehow be mud-tolerant. But the Lord Jesus Christ determined over two thousand years ago that there would be one vehicle that would weather these conditions: “...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The local New Testament church is still the pillar and ground of the truth and has God’s promise of power and protection from whatever lies in the road ahead.
As the aged Apostle Paul neared his martyrdom, he knew that Timothy was going to face a difficult road. His Godbreathed advice is no less important today and concludes with a wonderful promise that should keep all of us in the race.
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. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.—2 Timothy 4:1–8