Paul, in a letter, told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (1 Tim 4:2) Many people think preaching “out of season” means preaching when you are feeling bad. They think this is an exhortation to preach when you’re feeling sick or down or tired or bad. But the next verse explains what “out of season” means. “For the time is coming when 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 off into myths.” (1 Tim 4:3-4) The preacher should preach the Word of God to an audience who is receptive but he should also preach the same thing to an audience who isn’t. It’s the man of God’s duty to preach the Word, out of season, when nobody wants to hear it because “time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching.”
The church, today, has been infected with a consumer mentality that says, “When they don’t want sound doctrine you can water down and cater your message to fit with that. When they don’t want a lot of meat and heavy sermons you can back off and preach the Word a lot less.” The rule of thumb for many preachers today is “Preach the word in season and water it down out of season.” Paul, though, says to preach the Word when they want it and preach the Word when they don’t want it. Be ready, Paul says, “in season and out of season” to preach the Word and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We must preach to those who do have itching ears and preach to those who don’t have itching ears.
We must also preach the Word and apply it to all areas of life and living. If you go back one chapter in First Timothy you read this, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (1 Tim 3:16-17) All of Scripture is profitable and all of Scripture is profitable to all areas of life and living. That is why the man of God must not be afraid to preach it and apply it to all situations whether people want to hear it or not. The preaching of the Word must be stable and steady (it must not fluctuate) no matter how receptive the audience is.
In the book of Acts Paul speaks to the Ephesian Elders and says this, “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25-27) We should, as Paul, preach the whole counsel of God. But even more convicting, in this passage, is the fact that if Paul had not preached the whole counsel of God he would have been guilty of blood. Listen to what he said again, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Preachers who water the message down or trim it down to little, pathetic “sermonettes for Christianettes” need to check their hands for the blood of souls. We should want people to want to hear and we should pray that they want to hear but if they do not want to hear we cannot use that as an excuse to shrink from our duty to preach the whole counsel of God.
Paul continues, in Acts 20, by saying this, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31) Paul spent three years applying the Word of God and preaching it here and there and everywhere. We must also, patiently and consistently, preach the whole counsel of God in season and out of season, whether people want to hear it or not. We come up with so many excuses to NOT preach the whole counsel of God. We say things like, “we need to first build a relationship with them” or “they’re not ready for the meat” or “we need to be relevant” or “we need to build some trust first.” Paul said preach it if they want it and preach it if they don’t.
When I was little we use to play the game of hide and seek. When the person who was seeking was done counting to 30 he would say, “Ready or not here I come.” We, as Kingdom seekers, must learn to say, in season and out of season, “Ready or not here I preach.”