Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Season or Out of Season

                My husband and I just got back from a 5 day vacation to Orlando, Florida. We spent the majority of our time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They just happen to be our favorite amusement parks of all time, so any opportunity we get to go- we go. This was our third visit, but our very first one without our children. If you have children you can probably understand why the thought of going without them was so appealing! (But, I will admit, that for a brief moment I felt guilty- but only a brief moment!)

                One thing that you can be completely sure of is that no matter where you go in an amusement park you will run into, or run over people. People are everywhere. They are walking in front of you, behind you, beside you, and standing in line with you. No matter where you go or what you do people are everywhere. I have to admit that there was more than a few times where I became frustrated with all these people. I would be walking along at a pretty steady pace when all of a sudden the person in front of me would stop dead in their tracks, pull out their phone and take a picture. Too many times I found my face plastered in the middle of their sweaty, smelly, shoulder blades. I was just about to say something (not so lovely) to this one girl in front of me, when I felt that gentle leading of my Lord say to my heart, “be ready in season and out of season, Stephane.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
                “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is judge of the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV
                As I went around the girl I apologized for almost knocking her over. I didn’t want to apologize because it wasn’t my fault, but the apology came out of a convicted heart full of bad attitude. It was at this point when I realized a very simple, yet powerful truth. Right here and now God my Father, the One who will judge me, whom I will stand before and give an account to is only concerned with my behavior, my response, my attitudes and how I handle the various seasons of life. He will judge the living, those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and have eternal life and He will also judge the dead, those who have rejected His free gift of salvation. He is judge of all, but He is also judge of me.
                God is focused on me- my obedience, my reactions, my responses to His world all around me. I realized that even though that girl was the one who stopped and caused the collision, it was up to me to show forth Jesus- no matter what. I realized that even though these thousands of people running into me and me into them might never cross my path again, there was still an opportunity to preach the word not only in what I said, but in what I did and the attitude that I had through it all.
                Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to preach the word. Paul was not telling Timothy to get up on stage and speak it; he was encouraging Timothy to walk it. Paul is encouraging us as believers to live before the people we run into day after day and to live Jesus Christ fully and completely at every opportunity, in season and out of season. Paul uses seasons, not as actual times, but as opportunities. To be in season means to take advantage of those opportunities that present themselves.
             For instance, one day I was standing in line waiting to get something to drink. There was a woman behind me with her little girl. The woman you could tell was in a bit of a hurry and the little girl was growing more and more impatient the longer we stood there. I have been in those moments, waiting in line at an amusement park with an impatient child beside me, so I could sympathize with this woman. All of us had been standing in line for some time, and it was down to just one person in front of me. I turned to the woman and told her to go ahead; she could get in front of me. She asked if I was sure. I told her it was not a problem, I was in no hurry and she was more than welcome to go before me. The look on her face was at first surprised, then grateful, then as she turned back to thank me, her whole demeanor had changed. She was no longer hurried and stressed, the lines of frustration were gone and she looked relaxed. It was at that moment that I understood what Paul was referring to. I saw an opportunity to bless someone and to preach through my actions and my attitude and it had an immediate result on this one stressed mom. As I told her to have a God blessed day I thought to myself that maybe God could use that seed of kindness to open her heart to Him. Maybe, just maybe that seed of opportunity could turn into a seed of grace for her and her whole family. Who knows what God can use to bring someone to the full knowledge of His grace? He doesn’t ask us to know what the seed will become, He just asks us to plant it.
                Paul also teaches us through Timothy that we are to be ready out of season as well. If in season are opportunities that present themselves then maybe out of season are opportunities that are not there at all. There were plenty of moments throughout our five days at the parks that were very difficult for me to maintain a positive, gospel focused heart for people. There were times when I wanted to just scream because of the obvious lack of compassion and consideration this world has for one another. If you ever want to see the world at its worst, put 50,000+ people in an amusement park together, add the tropical heat of Florida to the mix and watch the worst unfold! But, even in those moments God was still holding me accountable to His word. He was still focusing on my actions, my attitudes, and my behaviors and I was continually before His throne. He was just as focused on my out of season opportunities as He was on my in season ones.
                We must be ready to show forth Jesus Christ even when being a Christian is difficult; even when the world needs a wakeup call, even when we don’t see any opportunities at all. We must be ready in season and out of season knowing that all 50,000+ of them need our complete patience. Let’s face it; we are in the last days my friends. Paul tells Timothy that “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV) That time is here, that time is now. I saw it; I ran into it and I tripped over it every day. Men are lovers of themselves, they do not want to listen to what we have to say, they just want a candy coated Christianity that won’t require them to give up their sins. They want grace without repentance or change.
                  But, one thing is for sure, in these last days one thing they cannot deny; one thing they cannot reject is the way we live our lives before them. They can reject our words but they cannot deny the power of Christ as He lives in us and through us. They cannot deny our attitudes, our behaviors, and our actions in season or out of season. There are 1440 minutes in a day that means that we have 1440 minutes to preach the word of God in season and out of season. Remember, in the end God is going to judge the living- that is you and the dead- that is them. Are you ready? Amen.