If you were going to write your last letter to a dear friend, what would you write? In 2 Timothy, we get to see what may have been Paul’s final words to Timothy, his protégé and “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). In chapter 4, Paul gives Timothy a series of solemn exhortations, encouraging him to be faithful to the truth about God and Jesus Christ. Paul commands Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). The whole command is this: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1–2, NKJV).
The word translated “ready” comes from the Greek word for “stand.” The idea is to always be “standing by,” always “on-duty,” “ready to go.” The word also carried a connotation of urgency in the original language. A good example might be a soldier standing at attention, attentive and ready to assist at any moment. Timothy was to “be ready in season and out of season,” constantly prepared to do whatever God is calling him to do (2 Timothy 4:2).
In the original language, the words for “in season and out of season” mean “timely and untimely” or “convenient and inconvenient.” The word for “in season” literally means “good time,” and “out of season” comes from the same word but with a different prefix, giving it the opposite meaning. Another occurrence of the same word is found in Mark 14:11, where Judas is looking for a “good time” or “opportunity” to betray Jesus.
By being “ready in season and out of season,” Timothy is prepared to engage in the actions Paul specified: “preach the word,” “correct,” and “rebuke and encourage” (2 Timothy 4:2). Timothy was to do these things whether it was convenient or not. In every circumstance, he should be ready to proclaim God’s truth. That was his job as a pastor, regardless of his personal feelings or the audience’s reactions (2 Timothy 4:3–5).
What about us today? Like Timothy, we are commanded to always be ready for God’s work (1 Peter 3:15; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 6:9–10). It is easy to “clock in” and “clock out” of our faith, erroneously believing that we represent God at church but not throughout the week. This was not an option for Timothy, and it is not an option for us. If you are a Christian, you are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Whether we are speaking to a crowd or changing a tire, we should “be ready in season and out of season” to declare His praises and His truth to a watching world.