But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.Those five verses are a good summary of how God would describe "the last days" in which we are living! We've been in the "last days" since the Pentecost of Acts 2. We know this because Peter quotes Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) and applies it to what just occurred preceding his message that brought 3,000 to salvation. Notice that Peter cited "last days" in Acts 2:17 as applying to his day! When Paul wrote Timothy and said there would be terrible times in the "last days," he was referring to Timothy's day, which would also certainly extend over to us today.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
So then, just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.Furthermore, we are commanded to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18). The reversal of this same command is cited in Phil. 2:14-16:
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life ....Therefore, to complain is both a sin of commission (Phil. 2:14) and a sin of omission (Col. 2:7; 1 Thess. 5:18)! If Paul was alive today, do you think he'd be complaining about such petty things as the weather, the cost of living or the local football team? Why not? Because Paul was spiritually mature, had much faith, much revelation of God and knew the spiritual is what really counts. Therefore, he looked for the spiritual good when trouble struck. Again, his mind was focused in on the ETERNAL and the SPIRITUAL, rather than just the temporal and the physical. This truth is summed up with the following:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:17,18).To do this, one must look beyond the obvious, that is, past his frustrations, disappointments, broken dreams and sometimes almost crushing problems to the full picture, which includes our eternity as a Christian, beyond the grave. [To be spiritually "nearsighted" (2 Peter 1:9) means that one can't see past the grave.] To constantly focus your thoughts, INTENTIONALLY, on certain spiritual truths is the victory in overcoming ungratefulness. Consider what Paul wrote in Phil. 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.That can be accomplished by heeding the following:
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Josh. 1:8).Remember, our current age and environment has been cursed by Adam's sin (Gen. 3:14-19). Therefore, things won't ever be ideal for us as it wasn't for Paul, Timothy or anyone since then. The victory over unthankfulness, consequently, must come from within, since it can't come from our environment!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psa. 1:2).
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice ... (1:12-18).Paul had many reasons to complain and to be discouraged. In spite of all this, however, he looked for the spiritual good, which caused him to "rejoice." Let's focus in on the adverse conditions that Paul didn't deny, but chose not to dwell on:
How could Paul, therefore, "rejoice" under such circumstances? The answer is simple: He chose to focus his attention on the spiritual good, not the bad. (To notice the good, sometimes you'll have to look hard, but some spiritual good is always present and can be seen if sought after!)
First, everyone throughout the palace guard knew he was "in chains for Christ." This meant that they heard about Jesus, the Christ. (Perhaps this is what led to the salvation of some who belonged "to Caesar's household," Phil. 4:22.)
Second, his chains caused most of the brothers in Rome to speak the word of God "more courageously and fearlessly." (The importance of a fearless witness is that he is a sign to the opposition that they will be destroyed, while the witness will be saved, 1:27,28.)
Third, good can come out of all the preaching being done, even by those with impure motives like those who preached out of envy and rivalry.
Paul knew "God's word is not chained" (2 Tim. 2:9). In other words, souls could be eternally influenced in a positive sense by what was being preached, if the hearer was on the "side of truth" (John 18:37). The Gospel of Jesus Christ was still, therefore, being advanced by his imprisonment! These are the things he chose to focus his attention upon, which in turn caused him to rejoice. If he had focused his attention on all his problems, which would have been so much easier, he would have complained! He seemingly used the same technique after being severely flogged and thrown into prison at an earlier time! See Acts 16:23-25. Furthermore, we see a similar attitude reflected in the other Apostles after they were flogged, that is, beat bloody:
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:40-42).Why shouldn't you, therefore, look for the spiritual good when trouble strikes? Paul certainly did and it worked, as his attitude shows. Rejoicing is a spiritual safeguard for our souls (Phil. 3:1). This is very important since this will help us endure to the end for salvation's sake (Mt. 10:22). There are always two things Christians can "rejoice" over:
First, we can praise God that we bear the name of Jesus:
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (1 Pet. 4:16).Secondly, we can rejoice that our names are written in the book of life:
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20).Start to practice looking for the spiritual good and being positive, based on scripture.