2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Well, here we are! The time has certainly come for people preferring to have their ears tickled instead of daring to be challenged to improve. Maybe I’m being a little facetious, but personally it is hard for me not to believe that this is what our world has morphed into; just look around at all the different doctrines we hear and see today. I have developed some tolerance and understanding of the importance of different churches with different methodologies. I’m not arguing theological concepts here such as predestination, the rapture, or the role of women in the church (topics which I feel are important yet can very easily be a distraction from the core principles of what God tells us in the bible). No, what I am talking about is this tendency to prefer to sit in church and simply nod our heads in agreeance with something when it isn’t really what we believe. Or rather, to prefer listening to things that do not challenge us.
We have become lazy. We can’t even cook for ourselves anymore, we prefer a lame imitation of food that does not nourish us but rather makes us hungrier. Maybe I just feel like ranting today, but it seems that as technology and society advances, we get lazier and have more ridiculous expectations with a stronger sense of entitlement. We don’t go to church anymore to learn or be pushed for change; we go just to “feel good”. All that does is develop a false sense of security and righteousness.
As humans, we fear change. We need to learn to embrace change. Now, I’m not talking about surface stuff. I’m not talking about those personality tests you can take that tell you that you prefer moving every three years or your mind is constantly jumping around through different topics and you cannot pay attention in school or you change your job and fashion every five years due to boredom. I’m talking about our core beliefs. I’m talking about our inner drive that results in the things we say and the way we act. I’m talking about accepting the fact that what you believe this very moment could be completely wrong. Wouldn’t you want to know the truth? Yes, let’s all shake our heads and agree. But when we have an opportunity to do it or find ourselves in an environment that promotes growth and deep down change, we run and hide and search for something easier.
I suppose I am vehement about this subject because I hate this fear in myself. I’m disgusted with the times that I keep silent for fear of being told I’m wrong. I dislike my subconscious mentality of refraining from speaking what I really feel because someone might disagree and prove me wrong. I cower at the thought of someone giving me their opinion or sharing with me their beliefs because what if I suddenly stop believing what I believe and my whole world gets flipped upside down? Then the truth emerges; every time I have made myself that vulnerable; every time I have opened myself up to the possibility of being completely wrong, I grow.
We do not grow without challenge. Growth is change and if we ever desire to grow, we must put ourselves in an environment of challenge. This applies to education, lifestyle, spirituality, physical transformation, or anything else you can think of. Change is inevitable. I just imagined someone who prefers not to workout or change their health for the better (nobody specifically, in case you’re wondering). What happens when you do nothing? You still change, just for the worse! If I sit on the couch everyday instead of exercise, my body, spirit, mind, and emotions will change by just sitting there! One of my pastors always reminds us, “nothing changes if nothing changes.” If we don’t put ourselves in a place where we can be challenged and grow (not just physically, but mentally and spiritually) then we will regress into nothingness until one day we wonder how we got that way and it will seem hopeless to improve. Notice I said “seem hopeless,” change is always possible, you just have to embrace it.
Paul has been discussing this tendency of humanity throughout his letter to Timothy. He has been warning Timothy of continuing to be diligent in discipline and study and his relationship with God. Here, however, Paul is letting Timothy know that there will be others who do not constantly strive to improve, but rather prefer to have instant gratification. Change and growth does not seem gratifying at first. That first day to the gym and the subsequent recovery day is certainly not enjoyable. I am currently bemoaning the start of another cycle of Insanity myself. However, how many people who give in to the instant gratification of chips or cupcakes are truly happy whenever they see a healthy person playing with their kids or on an afternoon jog?
In missions school we had a lot of teachers. All of them seemed to be far superior than myself in their relationships with God. As they told their stories, however, I noticed a few commonalities. They took things one day at a time. They weren’t afraid to make a mistake (or if they were, they got over it quickly because it is part of being human). They constantly sought out to grow and mature. They always worked to open themselves up more and more to change, even if they did not enjoy the process. These men and women were not just strong spiritually, but were strong in many aspects of their lives: health, business, ministry, psyche, parenting approach, education, and more. I felt like I was sitting on the porch eating a bag of chips watching them sprint by but then they came back and encouraged me to get up and walk. They let me know it is ok to stumble. It is ok to take a day off when you just don’t feel like it as long as you go back out there the next day. It is ok to not be as good as someone else, as long as I strive to embrace the truth even when I do not like what I hear or the current process I am enduring is extremely painful.
The term tickled pink comes from the 17th century and refers to being pleased by what you hear. I am slowly learning to be tickled pink not by things that instantly make me feel good about myself, but rather by things that I know will make my soul content for the long haul. My challenge for myself and for you today is to find something that makes you uncomfortable, that challenges your inner being, and embrace it for the growth it will bring if you would just dare to face it instead of run away to something easier.