2 Timothy 4: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
I have had the privilege of observing a number of great coaches over the years who coached in a variety of sports. While the sports may be very different, while the technical requirements may have been totally different, there was a commonality amongst them. They cared about their athletes, they had high personal standards, and they all had significant knowledge of their sport. They understood their role and they continued to learn (i.e. they too were coached).
The role of a great coach involves a number of key things that go far beyond praising the athlete. A great coach finds the right balance for each athlete as they teach them, as they correct them, as they encourage them and, where required, as they rebuke them. A great athlete, in return, will recognize the value of each of these things and embrace them, especially the less pleasant ones of correction and rebuke. This, however, requires a great deal of humility and wisdom as the receiver. The athlete needs to have the wisdom to understand that the coach’s discipline will allow them to maximize their development and ultimately their performance.
Today’s scripture from 2 Timothy 4 reminds me of the instructions of a great coach as he mentors another coach. Paul was in prison in Rome after his fourth missionary journey and desperately wanted the church in Ephesus (a church he had planted) to do well, and therefore wrote instructions to his trusted friend and mentoree Timothy. Paul first instructs Timothy to “Preach the Word” (v. 2). There is nothing more important than preaching the Word of God, and preaching all of it. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “No man can be said to preach the whole gospel of God if he leaves it out, knowingly and intentionally, one single truth of the blessed God.” It is important that if someone is preaching to you that they are preaching all of the gospel, and not simply what you are comfortable hearing. May we never be the person only wanting to hear what is easy to hear, an easy theology that makes no one around us feel uncomfortable. Paul speaks of such people in verse 3 saying: “3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3).
It is vital that you find a spiritual leader who is prepared to correct you, rebuke you and encourage you with patient and careful instruction. Then it is as vital that you have a humble heart and are prepared to accept the discipline that is shared with you. Like a great athlete who heeds the advice of a great coach and succeeds, a believer who wants to succeed in the battles of life must submit themselves to the godly authority that God brings into their life, and they must likewise submit themselves to the Word of God that they bring. For “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
May we unashamedly preach God’s truth and also be prepared to receive it. All of it!