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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Convenience should not be our guide

Convenient vs. inconvenient.  We are all faced with the challenges each and everyday which make us choose between what is convenient vs. what is a "little bit" to a "whole lot" inconvenient for us.  When a friend asks for a ride home from work, if it is on the way home, it is convenient, so you probably don't balk.  When they ask for a ride way out of your way, you might just be thinking up the excuses right now for why you could not do it today!  We often look for excuses when something is a little bit harder than what we expected, or what we think to be "convenient" for the moment.  If conversation comes hard for you, when another wants to sit with you and begin to explore your day, including your "feelings" of the day, you might just see this as a threat and come up with those excuses for why "now" is not the right time!  If it is "easy", we seldom resist - but add any element of difficulty to a situation and we will scatter like ants in the rain!  This can be especially true when we know what needs to be said in a particular situation, but find the "gospel message" we know to be truth which could bring light into the moment a little too "hard" to speak.  Truth is hard to speak - especially if it may place us at opposition to those with a more "popular" opinion.

Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 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. They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths.   (2 Timothy 4:2-4 CEB)

Popular opinion is okay up to a point.  When it applies to whether we think a particular sports team will win the big game, popular opinion, complete with everyone's "statistical analysis" of the players, is probably enough and okay for the predictions.  When it comes to determining who we should marry, we don't want to rely upon "popular opinion" for that one!  The truth needs to be considered, and "popular opinion" can sometimes be "short" on truth and "long" on pre-conceived ideas.  When Paul instructs Timothy to "preach the word" by being "ready" whether it is convenient or not, he is really telling him the "popular opinion" vote may get cast, but we are not to get caught up in it.  

Why is "popular opinion" so dangerous for us?  Simply put, it is because "popular opinion" often be what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear.  As Paul puts it, we look for teachers who will "tickle our fancy" - their message is "convenient" and doesn't challenge us too much.  This is why most of the "mixed messages" of today's culture are kind of appealing to the masses.  For example, the message we can call ourselves "Christians" at census time just because we go to church on Sundays is not exactly truth.  Nowhere in scripture does it ever imply a "Christian" is a "church-goer".  In fact, most of the time Christ's followers are simply called "followers" or "disciples" because there is way more to this "business" of being a "Christian" than warming a pew!

The warning Paul gives is almost the state we see around us today - people seeking out those who will tickle their fancies because they are "self-centered" and "self-centered" people have a hard time with "sound teaching".  They want watered-down instruction - make the gospel easy and they want it; challenge them with it and they find a new church or move to fire the pastor!  Be the lone voice in a crowd and see how comfortable it is!  It is doggone uncomfortable - the term "inconvenient" is exactly correct.  The message doesn't "suit" the needs or purposes of those hearing it, so it is "inconvenient".  To this Paul's instruction is simple:  "Preach on anyway"!  

When I first took on this daily sharing of my time with the Lord, one of the things which intimidated me a little was others knowing what God was dealing with me about in my own life.  You see, a good teacher will do more than tickle the ears of the hearer (or reader).  They will be willing to share bits and pieces of their lives.  As truth becomes real to me, I share it with you - in turn, you get to know a little about me.  This makes me a little vulnerable.  In essence, Paul is saying we all need to be a little vulnerable at times - not clamming up just because the message might be hard, or border on the "inconvenient" side of the discussion. Truth is only going to do the work it is capable of doing when it is shared - it doesn't always need to be immediately embraced, for truth will linger and erode away at untruth in the process.  Speak it and let it do the work it was designed to do - you aren't responsible for the hearer embracing it - just the sharing of it, the living by it, and the trusting in it!  Just sayin!