“3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered.” 2 Timothy 4:3 CEB
Have you ever been a part of something very special? Something that once you have experienced it you know it was unique. Something that as the years pass you realize more and more how different, unique and special it really was. This week I was able to realize anew something like this in my own life. I was able to participate in a reunion of sorts for a ministry of which I was a part. I served as a volunteer, and then paid staff person, in this ministry for 10 years. This was a special time in my life and the lives of those involved in the ministry. So many very special people and so many incredible memories of serving God together. Have you ever been a part of something so special? I have to say that the most important part of the ministry, as I reflect on it, is the amount of humility displayed. The leader of the ministry was extremely humble and always looked for other leaders who were humble. Those who were a part of the ministry were very humble. It was not about the individuals, but was always about the group.
The opposite of humility is pride. It is a basic human condition, or temptation, to become prideful. We want people to think highly of us and when we experience success we want to receive credit. We want to think that we know the best way to do things, especially when it comes to us. Yet, this is what Paul is warning Timothy about in his second letter to Timothy. Paul is sure to warn Timothy that “There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered.” (2 Timothy 4:3 CEB) Paul knows that people will listen to what they want to hear and will ignore the things they don’t want to hear. This is human nature. Paul also knew that Timothy would need to help people overcome this human nature in order to reach their full potential in Jesus Christ. Paul knows there will come a time when this will happen.
I believe that time came in Timothy’s lifetime and is still a problem we face today. There has come a time where we can download any book, read any blog, watch any message, and research any fact or information with just a few clicks. We can ignore the things we don’t want to hear and only click on the things we want to hear. In a matter of seconds we can choose from some of the best communicators in the world. Of course, the danger in all of this is that we can choose to listen only to people with whom we agree. We can collect teachers who say what we want to hear because we are self-centered. This is a temptation from which we should run. As thoughtful followers of Jesus Christ, we should always seek to understand the source of the information we are choosing. We should always check to see how accurate what we are reading is to Scripture, our Christian tradition, contemporary thought on the topic, and our experience of the issue itself. In other words, Paul urges us to make sure whatever we are reading, hearing, seeing, or experiencing is sound teaching.
As followers of Jesus Christ we should always refer back to the teachings of Jesus. Is what we are paying attention to lining up with the teachings of Jesus? Jesus taught on a variety of issues and more importantly taught on the values necessary for being a fully devoted follower of his. Jesus himself listened to the words of God, the Father, as recorded in Scripture. Jesus quoted Scripture more than anything else when tempted. When we are tempted to become self-centered we need to turn back to the words of Jesus. When we are tempted to collect only people with whom we agree we need to turn back to the words of the Gospel. I believe that when we do this we will always come back to humility. When we seek to serve others we cannot seek to serve ourselves. There will come a time when we will have to choose between humility and pride, it is my prayer we will always choose humility.
This Sunday we will look at finishing strong. The message will help us consider what it means to run the rest of the race God has marked out for us. I hope you will join us at the 8:15, 9:45, or 11:15 service this Sunday. It is a great time to be at St. Andrew’s. God is at work. I can’t wait to see you in church!