WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – There’s much debate among those who like to argue such things as to whether Christians will go through The Great Tribulation of Revelation 7. I’m not certain of the answer.
I am certain of something else (and I think it’s more important to know because I can do something about it): Some of my fellow believers are going through a great tribulation right now. You may be one of them; and if not, you know someone who is. What I want to find out is how to serve people going through the toughest times of their lives.
Today’s chapter has some instructions for that. Paul starts by urging us to face the reality that hard times are coming. Peter told his readers: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you” (1 Pet. 4:12). Jesus had issued the same warning: “In the world you have tribulation (same word as in Rev. 7:14)” (John 16:33 NASB). Here’s how Paul says it:
“Know this: Hard times will come in the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1).
I believe “the last days” to which Paul refers in this verse are not the last, last days of Revelation. They are the final phase of human history on this earth, the phase between the first and second comings of Christ. We live in those last days, and they are indeed full of hard times.
These hard times are not caused by Revelation’s plagues, earthquakes, and firestorms. Instead they are caused by the increasing wickedness of the earth’s population in rebellion against its Maker. Paul lists 18 of the worst characteristics of these evil people, and in verse 13 he says they “will become worse.” He gives us four things that help in such painful times:
Avoid people who cause them. – Read Paul’s list of destructive people in verses 2-4 and then “Avoid these people” (v. 5). When you’re in a hole, draw close to people who can help you out – not to those who will dig you in deeper.
Don’t be “gullible.” (v. 6) – Sometimes it seems like things can’t get any worse, but they can. When you’re near the bottom, you’re susceptible to being “overwhelmed by sins and led astray by…passions.” The next point tells us how to avoid even worse decisions:
Follow apostolic teaching and example, which is now the New Testament. – Timothy had followed Paul’s “teaching” and “conduct” (v. 10), and that had served him well.
Be willing to suffer persecution for serving Christ. – Even if you adhere to all these instructions, you’ll still suffer some hard times. “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v. 12). Do it with grace.
WONDERFUL THING IN LIFE – God may or may not lead you to share any of these things with people in terrible times. Listen carefully to Him before you do. Often the best thing you can do is back in verse 1: just know they are suffering. Sometimes they just need to know that you know.
When Job’s friends came to comfort him in the worst time of his life, they started well: “They sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense.” (Job 2:13). They were just there; they just listened. Who do you need to be there for?