“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV).
How do you feel right now? Are you in season, where things are going well and the horizon is bright and sunny? Or does it seem that you are out of season—that things could be better, life more robust, problems less challenging, and relationships more sturdy?
I once heard a speaker say that “facts are pesky things.” At the time he was disabusing the audience of “opinions” we held on effective marketing programs he believed were unsupported by the “facts.” If “facts” are pesky, feelings are more so—they can be downright overwhelming.
I come home from work and my wife asks, “How was your day?” I am always torn between answering how the day felt to me as opposed to how much was actually accomplished in it. She is the same way when I query back to her. In human interaction, feelings carry great weight. Facts are, after all, without emotion; hard and cold, facts are a binary switch that is either yes or no, on or off, right or wrong. People, not so much. If I answer my wife with a feeling about how the day went it is a fact that any response from her about the “facts” is not helpful. And if I, a lummox about most “feelings” anyway, feel worse or misunderstood when facts are presented to me rather than messages of hope, heaven help her when I recite fact after fact after fact about just how well her day went with our homeschooled children, the management of the household, and the achievement of goals and objectives desired and sought after by her.
Feelings are like a giant battery. If we feel good, we have boundless energy, confidence, and enthusiasm. If we feel down, energy dissipates, confidence wanes, and alternatives are viewed pessimistically. Such a fact about feelings is important to know and remember; feelings are the lenses through which we interpret facts.
But facts really are pesky things. And if we can return to them, feelings can be brought out into the open and given great attention in a fashion that brings both comfort and energy.
Paul, in writing to his protégé Timothy, admonished him to do his job “in season and out of season.” We also must do our jobs in season and out of season. The old Patsy Cline song to stop the world and let me get off is nonsense. And if you are a leader—in your business, in your family, in your church, in your community, in your life—you must lead in season and out of season.
So, how do you feel, right now? Could you use a little factual “pick-me-up?”
Many organizations require employees to wear particular uniforms while at work. Sometimes the uniforms are for the protection of the employee as much as for identification with the employer’s business. As Christians, and particularly as Christian leaders, we also have a uniform designed for our protection. If we wear it, we will remember facts that replace negative feelings with feelings of hope and encouragement, even in difficult circumstances.
The Apostle Paul described this Christian uniform in Ephesians 6:11-18 using as a metaphor a Roman soldier’s uniform—belt of truth, shoes fitted for peace, breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, and sword of truth. Each article of the uniform is important, but chief among them is the belt of truth, for by remembering the truths of our faith and our God, we can rightly discern how to interpret our feelings; we can acknowledge our feelings but not submit to them.
What are some truths about our God that we should remember daily? He is omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, sovereign, creator, self-sustaining, life-giving, trustworthy, true, good, merciful, just, always working to bring about all that He desires, full of love and never far from His children. Of this we can be certain: God is not apart from us. Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Christians are part of God’s family, but closer than family—we are part of the body of Christ.
Paul’s admonishment of Timothy to preach in season and out of season is remarkable since Timothy was a minister of Jesus, instructed by Paul, fully equipped to proclaim the message, an eye-witness to the remarkable work of Paul and the growth of Christianity in spite of all its enemies. Yet Paul knew that even Timothy would have bad days, where feelings as well as circumstances would not be in his favor. In those days, Timothy would have to call upon his memory of God’s awesome power and mercy, His loving-kindness and goodness, to restore his feelings of hope. We are no different.
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NIV).
If you are out of season, remember that God stands with you and for you. Be encouraged, full of hope, and lift up your countenance. Spring is just around the corner.