But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
–2 Timothy 3:1
How aware are you of what is really happening around you? You might be thinking, “Pastor, that is a stupid question. I know what is happening around me.” Do you? Do you really understand the situation you are in? The single greatest enemy of situational awareness is denial, and we all engage in it when we substitute what we wish were happening for what is actually happening. We read about the rise of online harassment and cyberbullying among adolescents and we say, “Oh, that is just normal teenage behavior.” Or we observe our first amendment rights as Christians being threatened and we say, “That is just the culture in which we live.” Or we hear religious leaders saying, “There is really more than one way to heaven,” and we just assume, “They are trying to be compassionate toward other people.” But if we are going to survive the situation in which we are living, we have to see things the way they are. We have to have situational awareness.
How do we gain situational awareness and know exactly what is happening around us? The first step of situational awareness is knowing what time it is. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul warned his protégé Timothy about the coming moral and spiritual decline in the world. This single insight is like a flashing caution sign for all of us. Look at verse 1: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” I want you to notice two phrases in this verse that are key to knowing what time we are living in. First of all, the phrase “the last days.” You may be thinking, “People have been claiming it is the last days since the time of Christ. Are you saying we are living in the last days?” Most definitely. It is the period of time between the first and second comings of Christ. The last days began the moment Christ ascended into heaven after His first coming and the stopwatch started the countdown to His return. You say, “But Paul thought Jesus was coming in his day, and that was two thousand years ago.” That is exactly right. Every second that passes moves us closer and closer to that greatest event in human history. So we are most definitely living in the last days.
The second phrase to notice here is the word “difficult.” The Greek word translated “difficult” only appears one other time in the Greek New Testament, and that is in Mathew 8:28, when it is used to describe two demon-possessed men who could not be restrained. That word “difficult” literally means “without restraint.” What Paul was saying is the last days are going to be a time without any moral restraints. Isn’t that a great description of the age in which we are living right now? Karl Barth once told some young theologians, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper”–today it would be your Facebook newsfeed–“and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” The newspaper tells you what is happening in the world, but the Bible tells you what it means. If we are going to gain situational awareness and understand our world, we need both a newspaper and a Bible.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #2: Gain Situational Awareness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Karl Barth, as quoted in “Barth In Retirement,” Time, May 31, 1963, http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,896838,00.html.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org