A Bible study through 2 Timothy
We all enjoy listening to positive messages or speakers who motivate us and make us feel better about life. We also enjoy surrounding ourselves with friends who share similar ideas and encourage us. This is natural and a positive thing; however, we must be careful that we do not exclusively listen to people and messages that make us feel good. God’s Word and truth should bring conviction to our hearts at times, and that conviction is not always easy to listen to. But it is necessary for our spiritual health and wellness.
Therefore, be careful who you listen to. For Paul warns us that a time is coming, in truth I would argue that it has already arrived, when people will only listen to those who speak words that tickle their ears and by doing so, leave the path of truth. Let’s see what Paul has to say about these people and how we can keep from joining their number.
“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.”
~2 Timothy 4:3-4
The first step down this slippery path is rejecting sound teaching. Remember, God’s Word is living and active, able to cut through and pierce our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), so it would follow that there will be messages and truths from the Bible that are not comfortable to hear. In fact, they might be painful, awkward, convicting, and cause great sorrow. But is that a bad thing? No! God’s Word is meant to bring about transformation in our lives, show us sin and help us walk in truth, conforming us more and more into the image of Jesus. Therefore, we should not reject sound teaching that may bring conviction to our lives at times, but rather embrace it.
But that raises another point: how can we know what is sound teaching if we are not studying the Bible for ourselves? One of the reasons why people reject biblical, truth-filled teaching is because they do not recognize it as such. They have not personally familiarized and grounded themselves in truth, so they cannot distinguish truth from falsehood. Therefore, they are prone to disregard or discredit legitimate teaching based on God’s Word. As the idiom states, they proverbially throw the baby out with the bath water because they cannot recognize and identify truth. Therefore, in order to keep ourselves from rejecting sound teaching, we must dig into the Bible for ourselves and know the truth so we can recognize the Words of God from the words of men.
The second step off the path of truth is exclusively listening to things that make one feel good. Notice what Paul writes about these people. They surround themselves with teachers that will satisfy their own desires. Or as the NIV eloquently puts it, “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 4:3b). This is a dangerous practice and one we see happening on a daily basis in our culture. How many people only listen to what they want to hear? How many individuals gather around themselves “teachers” who will only teach them things they already know and agree with?
Can you see how this practice would lead one off the straight and narrow path? Contrary to what our culture promotes, truth is not a personal construct that we can shape and define based on what makes us feel good, sounds right, or tickles our ears. Rather, truth is absolute. It is timeless and not based on human opinion or the whims of culture but on what God ordained and established when He created the world. Therefore, we cannot know truth if we only listen to people who satisfy our own desires. We must look beyond ourselves and seek truth in the incorruptible Word of God.
So in closing, are you a pleasuring seeking learner? Do you only listen to people who say what you want to hear? Are you able to recognize and identify sound teaching from fluffy rhetoric?
Paul warned Timothy about these wayward people so that Timothy could be aware of the challenges he would face as a minister and preacher of truth. But this warning can also be used to keep us from joining the ranks of these people who have left the path of righteousness. Therefore, may we take heed and be careful to always keep our eyes fixed on truth, no matter the cost, and avoid the voices of flattery and affirmation that cater to our sinful, selfish nature. So be very careful who you listen to, because who you surround yourself with and listen to will shape who you become.