A preacher was having a tough ministry. His work was not going well and he was not appreciated by many in the congregation. Things were falling apart, attendance was low, finances failing. After one particularly poor bad Sunday morning sermon he received an anonymous note – “The last train out of town leaves today at 3 p.m. Be under it.” History bears out truth-preaching preachers sometimes displease men and women. The bigger question is whether or not God is pleased. Jesus Christ preached truth. In John 8:26 Jesus told a group of Jewish leaders who opposed Him, “… He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” But what God had to say was not what those close-minded men wanted to hear, so later at John 8:40 Jesus stated,
“But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.” They finally did kill Him, but not for long, and He and the truth He told ever lives on. Jesus always pleased God (John 8:29), but that wasn’t enough to please some people. The prophet Jeremiah preached the Word of the Lord for forty years. He spent part of that time in prisons and dungeons for telling God’s truth (Jeremiah 38:6). John the Baptist’s preaching literally caused him to lose his head – to King Herold’s executioner’s axe, that is; all because John had the gall to tell Herod his marriage was unlawful in the sight of God (Matthew 14 * Mark 6). John’s case reminds us God still has a little something to say about marriage, and that preachers who are true to their God-assigned task will remember they answer to a higher authority than kings, Presidents, public opinion polls, the Supreme Court, liberal preachers and churches, popular pop icons, and people who don’t want to change their ways. Jesus’ apostles were often accused of causing trouble and suffered for preaching Christ (see Acts 4:3, 17ff; 5:18-42; 16:20-24). So dangerous was it to be a prophet over the course of Old Testament history that Jesus plaintively lamented in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” The historical record testifies that truth-tellers and preachers who are popular with God are always unpopular with some people.
All this is what makes the words of 2 Timothy 4:1-5 so important in every time and place. Wherever you live, whoever you are, whatever church you’ve been in or are in or even if you’re not in one, this is what God expects of the preacher: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” If the preacher is the real deal, those words are his guide. Hopefully he is kind, patient, and loves not only God but people. But he will preach the Word whether it pleases people or not. And God is on public record – His truth will not please everybody. Never has. Doesn’t now. Never will. Still, we must preach the word. That will make us popular with God, but not all people. Every preacher is unpopular with someone. The vital question is, is it people with fable-loving and itching ears, or with God? Think about it.