You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!
For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured!
Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is* useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy is the last of the Pastorals and in many respects should be read as Paul’s last ‘Will and Testament’. Paul is probably imprisoned in Rome, abandoned by all but a few friends and facing imminent death. However in the third chapter of 2 Timothy, there are stark warnings, and some of it makes uneasy reading. It’s not so much a finger wagging exercise from Paul, listing all the things that could happen to disciples if they fail to take seriously the seriousness of following Christ, but a deep plea to everyone he knows, to hold onto the faith of Jesus Christ, which he has brought them, especially in the midst of temptations.
There is no doubt that Paul is speaking earnestly to Timothy, to bolster him up as he faces the challenges of discipleship, but people’s behaviours and attitudes seems to be in the forefront of Paul’s mind, and even Paul is open about the persecutions he had encountered along the way in following Christ, and is saying to Timothy to expect them.
How we behave as disciples indicates the legacy we pass on to others. We just need to look at the media to see how easy it seems to bully, abuse, persecute, slander, and arrogantly disrespect people whether in groups or individuals. The seeds we sow as Disciples of Christ will untimely be our legacy within the Kingdom of God.
I have no idea when ‘the last days, distressing times will come’, but this I do know; we must always be faithful to our God, keep faithful to the Good News of Jesus Christ, and be aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. For it is only when we hold our faithfulness before God, that we can be assured that our legacy of sharing the Good News will be passed on to the next generation.
God who breaks the boundary of space, who is within us and around us, who is within life and death, who is in the minute and the majesty, who is in the very fabric of humanity and creation, who is in the dust and starlight, who is in the encounter and the seeker. Bless my faithfulness this day and in the coming days. Amen.
The Revd Ruth Dillon is minister of Fleet URC and Beacon Hill URC, Hindhead in the Wessex Synod.