Far too many churches today are more concerned about filling seats than transforming lives. Listening to their watered-down Gospel messages confirms this sad fact. But as the wise Teacher of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the son.” Nearly two millennia ago, Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy:
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
To be sure, we all develop “itching ears” from time to time. We want to hear what we want to hear! We know the truths of the Gospel and the demands of being a disciple of Christ, but there are times when we are tempted seek a “second opinion” from a secondary source that will tell us something our itching ears want to hear. Without the whole truth of God’s Word, however, those who have been satisfied with hearing what their itching ears wanted to hear will find it difficult to weather the tests and trials that will inevitably come their way.
But this is not for you! The preaching and teaching of the whole counsel of God prepares us for the troubles that have been promised to us (John 16:33) and also teaches us how to rightly respond during times of great joy and prosperity. When we know what is coming we can better prepare for its arrival. As a pastor, I meet far too many who have been surprised by storms and shipwrecked by suffering. I’ve also met those who have become so self-infatuated because of their personal or professional successes that their lives have gone completely off the rails. In either case, because these men and women did not hear the whole of God’s truth, they were ill-equipped to endure the times of testing that came their way.
Sadly, I long ago lost count of how many times these miserable souls have told me that some well-meaning counselor had told them that they just needed to have more faith . . . when what we all really need is more pure preaching of the Word of God! Only the truths of Scripture prepare us for the challenge of daily living. Sacred Scripture—the whole of God’s magnificent metanarrative—is the only foundation upon which to build a life that can withstand any storm.
The writer of Hebrews assures us that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Regardless of the reason for the storm—our own sin or foolish behavior, the wrongdoing of others, the snares of Satan, or God’s fatherly discipline—the Word of God is an immovable anchor in the midst of that storm. Jesus assures us,
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-26)
Remember, no matter what the circumstance, if you have placed your trust in the death of Christ on your behalf you can be certain that God is working all things for your good and His glory. Sometimes He is simply getting our attention. Sometimes He is purifying us from all unrighteousness. And at other times he is using adversity to prepare us for ministry to others. But His ultimate purpose is to conform us to the image and likeness of His beloved Son.
So . . . instead of seeking to satisfy our itching ears, let us instead seek out the pure preaching of God’s Word— the whole counsel of God. That is what will meet us in our place of deepest need—not only daily, but moment by moment.
Got an itch? Scratch it with Scripture!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!