Times of Difficulty

Sometimes we can get more focused on the symptoms rather than the sickness. Distracted by what presents almost to the exclusion of what produces. Failing to connect the dots between things which are indicators and the root cause of what initiates.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

(2Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)

Times of difficulty. That’s the phrase that caught my attention this morning. That’s what I’m chewing on.

Difficult times (CSB, NASB). Terrible times (NIV). Perilous times (NKJV). Troublesome times (a favorite southern gospel oldie but goodie).

In the last days there will come times of difficulty. Hard to take. Hard to bear. Hard to do. Strength sapping, soul wearying, heavy sighing times.

But understand this, Paul commands Timothy, times of difficulty are but the symptom. The indicators of a deeper problem. For at the heart of times of difficulty is the heart.

. . . there will come times of difficulty. For people will be . . .

It’s because of the list in verses 2 through 5 that there will be troublesome times. Pervasive sin promotes perilous seasons. Loving self and pleasure more than loving God is a recipe for turmoil. The appearance of godliness is what causes us to snooze at the wheel rather than guard against godlessness.

What hit me this morning is that times of difficulty point to a deeper problem. Hard times are the fruit of diseased roots.

So, while we need to deal with the times, while we need to engage in solutions for today’s problems, we can’t loose sight that we also need to address the heart of the problem, the heart. And only the gospel has the power to do that. Terrible times are ultimately addressed through transformed lives.

So, as we get involved in the issues of the day, we need to do so in a way that also points to the only real hope for tomorrow. While we might be called to act for systemic reform, we must not forget that it happens, ultimately, with one changed heart at a time. That re-working worldly structures and systems is but a temporary fix, but that the redemption of souls is of eternal consequence.

Not saying that we don’t need to engage in being salt and light in the world, we do. But we do so with a bigger picture in mind, a longer term in view, a more certain solution for all who believe, which will deal with the symptoms of our times of difficulty as it works sanctification in the hearts of regenerated people.

Make sense? Hope so.

Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men [and women] of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

(2Corinthians 2:16b-17 ESV)

By His grace. For His glory.

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