Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
In season: any opportune time (the usual places: in church, in the Sunday School class, at a prayer meeting or Bible study, etc.).
Out of season: inopportunely (when it’s not so convenient–or perhaps not so “safe” as in the midst of opposition or persecution).
“With great patience and careful instruction,” as in “with all gentleness and patience; and in all this [the believer] must take care that ‘teaching’…’which is right, and true, and full of hope’…accompanies his rebuke and his words of comfort” (from Ellicott’s Commentary).
In short: we occupy all the time.
As opposed to “occupiers” of another sort, for example military or migratory, where a believer occupies is not necessarily about travelling somewhere else other than where you are right now, right here. For more on the where aspect, read Part 6.
As to how a believer occupies, read on, starting with the preparation aspect–which is the most important of all.
Prepping for the Occupation
How to prepare?
Read God’s Word.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Why is this truth so important?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrew 4:12)
In other words, God’s Word, as found in the anthology of spiritual as well as temporal TDYs called the Bible, is a whole different kind of “occupation field manual”.
But even if in some secular kind of occupation the occupiers censor, steal, or burn the Bible (and interestingly, it is usually one of the first books on the burn pile), the occupying believer is still not without its clarity and encouragement.
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
In other words, you might say, “God’ Word in, God’s Word out” because the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to “guide us from within” will still be potent–and will come back to mind.
(Talk about an “inside job,” right?–which might have a little bit to do with why the opposition wants it censored, stolen, and/or burned.)
But it’s not just seasoned believers whose field manual is dog-eared, coffee-stained, and well-worn in certain places referenced frequently in past troubles who have this kind of inner treasure, this coin of the (spiritual) realm, on which to draw when needed but also those late to the harvest, to use an analogy Jesus used. As put in Matthew chapter 20:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
So when the work is done we get the same coin which, to unpack the above parable, means eternal life for all who place their trust and faith in Jesus Christ no matter when they enter the harvest field.*
On Today’s Challenge
There is no doubt these days are challenging for believers. This is a topic of concern and discussion in many “churches,” whether “underground” or above.
When I talk with my own small groups (and remember, it only takes “two or three” for Jesus to be there, too), we engage variously in the following ”occupation instructions” that might encourage you and yours as well:
- study the Bible whenever possible; dog-ear salient sections; post verses in plain sight,
- pray for those who persecute you,
- pray for those yet to join the spiritual occupying forces,
- pray for each other,
- resist distractions, i.e., whatever or whomever would seek to keep your mind, emotions, and spirit away from the tasks at hand–and, especially, keep you away from the Owner of the Vineyard,
- stay close to Him at all times, in mind and heart,
- keep in mind that they also occupy who intercede, give, comfort, encourage, and myriad other less visible assignments,
- keep your arms, hands, feet, head, and heart inside the (spiritual) ride at all times, and
- carry on as best you can.
We’re with you.
And keep in mind that this occupying force has never been wholly disbanded, discouraged, discarded, or destroyed.
Indeed, that can’t happen.
For as much as other occupiers attempt with fearsome ordnance to occupy the world, it is Jesus Christ Who occupies all. Consider:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word… (Hebrews 1:1-3)
I mean, if you think about it, what earthly ruler no matter how powerful and/or formidable, has occupied his “universe” no matter how vast, for more than a moment, really, in time?
*For specifics on how to become a believer, here is a good source of information.