Then on May 16 we woke to a temperature of 48 degrees. The thermometer on our porch never broke 70, and a stiff breeze blew leaves and sand all over the carport. The moment I stepped outside, I stopped, turned around and headed for the calendar. Did someone turn back the clock? No, it was still May, but as the week bore on, we were once again sipping coffee by a fire in the early hours of the day. Even the sparrows were confused. They always fend for themselves in the summer, leaving the bird feeder to their avian kin, but a couple of them landed that week and took advantage of the free meal. This unseasonable weather had everyone mixed up, but we all enjoyed it nonetheless, knowing it would soon disappear and the heat return, as it most certainly has.
The Bible talks about things being “in season and out of season,” especially preaching the gospel, 1 Tim 4:2. We have actually lived places where Keith was told that he should not preach about certain subjects. In one place it was “not the right time” for it, and in the other he was to avoid those subjects “from now on.” Why? Because certain people in the audience might not like it. Did they need it? Yes, but they might not like it. Asked when the right time was, the answer was, “I don’t know, but not now.”
Have you noticed that preaching styles change about as much as fashion styles? Some of the preaching I heard as a child would never be accepted today. Some of the preaching I hear nowadays would never have been accepted when I was a child. That tells me that what makes something in season or out of season is the hearers, not the preachers. We have a couple of good examples in the book of Acts.
After preaching a sermon on the day of Pentecost that accused the listeners of murdering the Son of God, they were “pricked in the heart.” They said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They experienced a heartfelt repentance and obeyed the command to be baptized (Acts 2). That preaching must have been “in season.”
Stephen experienced the opposite. After a sermon accusing his listeners of being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,” and “resisting the Holy Spirit” they were “cut to the heart.” (Acts 7) Was Stephen’s sermon any tougher than Peter’s? No, not a bit. Both preachers hit what they aimed at—the hearts of the listeners, one audience being “pricked in the heart” and the other being “cut to the heart.” But the reactions were certainly different. Stephen’s audience stoned him to death. I guess that sermon was “out of season.”
Too many times we expect the preacher or teacher to perform according to our rules and expectations, forgetting that he has a higher authority to answer to. God warns him that he will be held responsible for the souls he speaks to if he doesn’t tell them what they need to hear.
The next time we think a sermon is “unseasonable,” remember, that probably means we need to listen to it. Our reaction is not the preacher’s fault, but our own. We are responsible for our hearts. It is just as wrong to tell a preacher not to preach when it is “out of season” as it is to withhold the gospel from a good and honest heart, a time when it is “in season.” That’s what Paul told Timothy. When we do so we may be condemning souls to eternal death, along with our own.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Tim 4:1-5.