In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.2 Timothy 4:1-2
In 2 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul gives his protege, Timothy, a charge. It’s almost the kind of a charge a minister would receive at an ordination ceremony. Paul is reminding Timothy of his calling and what that entails.
First and foremost, Paul wants Timothy to preach the word. Another way of saying this is, “Proclaim the message!” Paul wants Timothy to continue to proclaim the message of the gospel throughout his life.
Secondly, Paul instructs Timothy to “be prepared in season and out of season.” The way the English translators translate this phrase always reminds me of a sports analogy. I always thought Paul was saying something like, “There is no offseason when it comes to being prepared to minister to people.” In other words, I always took this to mean that ministers aren’t just gearing up for events, like Sunday morning services, but that they are called to live a lifestyle that is prepared “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
And I still think that analogy applies. But when you dig into the actual Greek words used here, I think we get another layer of meaning.
The phrase “be prepared in season and out of season,” when translated more literally from the Greek reads, “be present when it is opportune or inopportune.”
First, the word typically translated as “be prepared” is a compound word meaning “to stand upon.” It comes from fusing the word “to stand” (histemi) with the prefix epi, meaning “upon.” So this Greek word ephistemi is the idea of being present or “to be at hand.” When angels suddenly stand before people in the New Testament, this is often the word used to describe that.
Likewise, the word for “opportune” is the Greek word eukairos and the word for inopportune is akairos. Eu is the prefix meaning “well” or “good”. Kairos is the word that means “opportune time.” So eukairos means “well-timed” or “a good opportunity.” Akairos is the opposite of that.
A more modern translation of this whole phrase could rightly be, “be present when it is convenient or inconvenient (whether it’s a good time or a bad time).” Paul is instructing Timothy to be ready to minister whenever and wherever he is, whether it is a convenient time or an inconvenient time. In other words, Paul is saying something like, “Don’t get so caught up in what you had planned to do with your day that you fail to be present to people and to God at inconvenient times.”
When you look more closely at the Greek, Paul’s instruction here goes well beyond “seasons.” This is more about being ready “moment by moment” throughout your day. You see someone who needs help and feel the Holy Spirit’s tug, you stop and help. You get a word of knowledge or prophetic word about that person next to you at the store, you ask them if you can pray for them.
Paul charged Timothy with this truth: True ministers of the gospel learn to live a lifestyle of inconvenient obedience.