As followers of Jesus, we are called to be the light of the world. In this chapter, Paul offers a concrete and actionable approach of this calling. He offers guidance for us to put this into practice in a context applicable to the modern world. We are told in this chapter that we have the power to bring change and to glorify God through (1) wisdom of His word, (2) endurance and (3) the proactivity to challenge the popular opinion.
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
Paul describes a world, a society, where people are blinded by their own desires and pride – one that is not too different from modern society. These people have their own sense of what is right and will seek to receive validation for them to indulge in their beliefs. This has culminated into an environment of confusion, frustration and anger — a place that seems most uninviting to God’s presence and teaching.
2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Just as light drives away darkness, our job is not to simply ‘coexist’ with or passively address false teachings, but to facilitate corrective action to bring forth God’s righteousness. In fact, Paul succinctly sums up the approach towards non-believers in three words: correct, rebuke and encourage. As evangelists, we are ‘teachers’ of God’s Word and a part of sharing the gospel will inherently require us to challenge these other doctrines. However, one must not simply begin provoking and deriding the beliefs of others. In fact, Paul reminds us to have great patience and to have tact: in such challenging conditions, we must rely on the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
In verse 4, Paul promises that there will be resistance and those that will not listen. We should, in spite of this, endure the rejection and maintain a godly mindset of faith. He also assures us that God sees our heart and will reward us accordingly (verse 8). As lamps in the darkness, we must strive to bring light even when the darkness is overwhelming.