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.

Out of Season

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. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. 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 4:1-3

Paul encouraged Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season. I’ve seen the importance of this in my own life.

There are moments when we do “in season” kind of ministry. We are the one asked to speak on Sunday morning or asked to lead a bible study. We are the one asked to pray for someone or answer a tough theological question. For the “in season” moments of ministry there is a process of preparation, creation, and execution/delivery. The moment is pre-planned and the expectations are established. These are the moments when you can be at your best and bring the best version of yourself and your gifting to the table.

However, the danger of these “in season” moments is that we can easily slip into using our own strength to accomplish the task rather than being dependent on the Lord. The secondary danger is that–especially for those with outgoing personalities–these are moments when we could be fake. With predetermined ministry moments where a person puts their best foot forward, there can be a temptation to be inauthentic.

This is why Paul wanted Timothy also to be ready in the “out of season” moments of ministry. These are spontaneous moments, unexpected moments when a ministry opportunity presents itself without warning. It could be someone asking for prayer at an unexpected time and place. It could be when the Holy Spirit spontaneously sends us to say something or do something that we hadn’t pre-planned. These “out of season” moments cannot be faked. They come from the overflow of our hearts. They come from the authentic place in our character that has been forged in the secret place with God.

This is why daily time with the Lord is so vital. Daily worship, prayer and scripture reading carve out room for the Presence of the Spirit to dwell with us intimately and continuously. When God’s Presence is always “near” and “at hand”(Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15) we can be ready to release the Kingdom at any time wherever we are. We don’t have to wait for a powerful moment in a Sunday worship service; we could be at work, at the grocery store, the coffee shop or the gym.

One reason these “out of season” moments are so powerful is because they are nearly impossible to fake. They communicate to the world that following Jesus isn’t about a show on Sunday but about daily life transformation born out of the grace of the gospel. People need to see the real, the authentic, the tangible power of the Kingdom on display in real life, or they will continue to surround themselves (their Facebook feed, their podcasts, their Twitter and Instagram) with teachers who just tell them what their itching ears want to hear rather than the truth of the Kingdom.