Seasons of Stress in the World

by Lambert Dolphin

 

"...when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" (Mark 4:35-41)

According to our Lord Jesus Christ, the entire age we live in between His first and second appearances on earth, is to be characterized by "wars and rumors of war...famines, and pestilences and earthquakes in various places." (Matthew 24:6). Paul's second letter to Timothy (3:1-5) contains words of admonition and encouragement to the young pastor Timothy who was learning to serve God in a pagan society---a culture very much the same in many ways as the one we live in today. The rich meaning of the original language of the passage comes out by looking up the individual Greek words in this passage in a lexicon.

The Apostle Paul wrote concerning cycles of stress in the world that would periodically come upon us:

"Understand this: In the last times there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Avoid such people..."

The New Testament uses the term last days to refer to the entire 2000 year interval between the two advents of Christ. The idea here, in this passage and elsewhere in the New Testament, is that repeated cycles (kairoi = seasons) of stress (chalepos = perilous, dangerous, hard to bear days) in society will occur throughout this age. These cycles will come with repeated frequency and intensity as the age draws to a close---like the birth pangs in a pregnancy.

The seasons of stress and distress will also be less local and more and more global as the age draws to a close. For instance, only in our century have we had World Wars. Or consider the present world economy: A recession in one nation these days is strongly coupled with the world economy because of electronic international banking and investment networks. Economic problems are thus not easily corrected by the individual sovereign nations. Air travel and instant communication networks of all types link the entire world together minute by minute instead of year by year or month by month. These are new developments in our century.

We can not anticipate where and when the next time of stress will befall us, nor can we tell what form it will take. Thus we can't plan ahead very well---we must take one day at a time, as Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

One Bible scholar, Archbishop Trench, says in regard to this scripture,

"It is during the times of stress that the real character of human beings comes to the surface, that raw ugly sores open in society and the situation becomes dangerous and violent. Astrologers would describe such times as arising from most unfortunate aspects of the planets all lining up at once."

The actual Greek words in this passage and their common meanings taken from a Greek lexicon are as follows:

1. lovers of self (philautoi) means self-centered, selfish, a me-first attitude, putting one's own interests ahead of the welfare of the other person, or above the common good. Included in this category are all the modern self- improvement programs which seek to glorify man rather than God (Rom. 1:21).

2. lovers of money (philarguroi) means love of power, prestige, wealth, and greed for worldly success and advancement in society. While it is commonly said that the Bible teaches that money is the root of all evil, what the Bible actually says is "the love of money is a root of all evil."

3. proud (huperephanoi) literally means "to show oneself up," that is to have contempt for everyone but oneself, to be aloof, disdainful and uninvolved. One who brags or boasts about himself, even overpassing the limits of truth to impress others about his own accomplishments.

4. arrogant (alazones) means "wandering about," or vainglory, and is used to describe the medicine show quack, the man who makes many promises but never delivers. An arrogant or haughty person who shows himself above others.

5. evil-speakers (blasphemoi) is the root of our common English word. It means to insult God and man, to slander, especially to tear down the character of another person.

6. disobedient to parents (apeithes) means unwilling to be persuaded by one's parents. It implies loss of respect for authority and an obstinate attitude that spurns belief.

7. ungrateful (acharistoi) literally means "without grace" which includes "grace-lessness" and a thankless attitude towards God and man.

8. unholy (anosioi) means having no decency, debased, decadent, profane, a person who readily indulges in shameless self gratification. It implies a pollutedness and lack of the true righteousness which comes by faith.

9. inhuman (astorgoi) is literally means "without natural affection" as is a word used to describe parent-child relationships, especially. Lack of natural kindness and concern towards others is implied.

10. implacable (aspondoi) means "unwilling to sign a truce." This refers to an unwillingness to enter into binding agreements such as marriage, jobs, treaties or debts, irresponsibility, irreconcilable.

11: slanderers (diaboloi) is a familiar root and refers to the person who enjoys story-telling, gossip, fault-finding or innuendo that tears down the character of another. Those who promote quarrels in order to gain from them for themselves.

12. incontinent (akrates) is lack of control over one's desires. It implies powerless, impotent, unbridled and unrestrained living.

13. fierce (anemeros) means "not tame", "savage, "without any sympathy for others, i.e., brutal, bestial, uncivilized.

14. haters of good (aphilagathoi) means "not loving good things." This means associating with base, sleazy people and situations, reading cheap literature and feeding on the degraded things of this world. [What ever happened to good art, good music and good books]?

15. treacherous (prodotai) means describes a person who is revengeful, who pays back old grudges and seeks constantly to settle the score with others. The noun means a traitor or betrayer, a Judas.

16. reckless (propeteis) refers to recklessness, impulsiveness, an unwillingness to wait for wisdom or to think things through, headstrong.

17. puffed up (tetuphomenoi), lit. "to fill with smoke," refers to the kind of person who looks down on others, is conceited and has an inflated sense of self-importance.

The Apostle Paul concludes his second letter to Timothy with these words of advice for living in such times of peril:

"Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (3:12-17)

lambert@ldolphin.org

I send out periodic Bible-study newsletters. They are archived on my web site.

Web Pages: http://www.ldolphin.org/

 

9/16/90; 12/29/96.