2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 – Stability and Durability

 

2 Thessalonians 2v13-17

Stability and Durability.

 

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.: In 1992 a popular American Yachtsman set out from The USA to sail across the Atlantic to Les Sables-d’Olonne, France. He was very experienced sailor – his yacht, Coyote, was state-of-the-art. It was equipped with the latest satellite tracking system and radio-direction finders etc. He was sent off with an enthusiastic farewell. After 11 days radio contact was lost – no one was too worried as he was a experienced sailor with good equipment. As the days went by and still no contact the worry increased and a rescue operation was launched. Eventually a freighter found the Coyote floating upside-down just north of the Azores. There was no sign of Michael Plant. No one back in the USA could understand it – yachts with 4-ton keels don’t capsize! Only when the boat was returned to shore did they see why. The 4-ton weight was missing – why? No one could be sure but the result was inevitable. Without the stabilising weight there was no chance against the storm.

 

Ship and aircraft have stabilisers to steady them in adverse weather condition.

Builders seek stable foundations so the buildings don’t subside.

 

Stabilisers are necessary to bring stability in the midst of turbulence and uncertainty. The NT has much to say about the turbulent world in which we live. It also has much to say to encourage and equip Christians to remain stable in an uncertain and ever-changing world.

 

The NT identifies the storms that threaten our stability and against which we have to “stand firm”.

Ä Opposition – which in extreme form as the Thessalonians were facing comes as persecution.

Ä False teaching – which Paul warns against in vv. 2-3 – an something which every church and every Christian must constantly guard against.

Ä Temptation – Satan is always looking for ways to cause God’s people to compromise their principles.

 

Behind these threaten storms stand the enemy of God and of God’s people – The devil himself. He is always seeking to attack, undermine, and discredit God’s people – physically through persecution; intellectually by false teaching; morally by tempting them to sin.

 

Whether these attacks of the Evil One are the constant secret power of lawlessness that is always at work in the world or whether it is the fierce storm of error and evil in the End Times when the antichrist is revealed, Christians need Stability and Durability.

  1. 1.     Stability.

 

In the first 12 verses of this chapter Paul has described an extremely volatile and frightening period. The Thessalonians Christians may well have been left wondering what was to become of them. How were they going to survive such and onslaught from the Evil One?

Paul now seeks to assure them that their situation while difficult is in fact secure.

 

Paul has just described in vv.10-12 the plight of those who have refused God’s love of the Truth – now he says…

2 Thessalonians 2:13

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (NIV)

 

These Christians were feeling unsettled and alarmed [v2] but Paul by contrast is confidently assured. How is this possible? Paul sees beyond the unstable circumstances in which they live to the light of God’s loving purpose for them. He is confident that they will remain stable and steadfast in their Faith because God is faithful.

 

We live in a time when less and less people are going to church – more and more are accepting a lifestyle and a philosophy of life that excludes / ignores God and we can feel vulnerable and isolated and unsettled– may doubt our faith. However Paul is confident that God’s people will share in Jesus’ glory.

 

It is difficult to imagine what it is like to share in Christ’s glory. I imagine it to be a state of total contentment. Sometimes we glimpse it as if from a distance – ILLUS.: Moments of wonder and contentment – Recently looking back on some family photographs and there was a picture of Janet and I on honeymoon in the Drakensberg Mountains. We are sitting on a rocky outcrop, framed by rocks on each side, with a magnificent panorama of the mountains in the background.

In the moment is an overwhelming feeling of wonder and contentment. We were hopelessly in love is a magnificent setting and all was right with the world.

A glimpse of what sharing Christ’s glory may be like.

 

We will be with the One who loves us infinitely – there will no longer be sin to cloud the relationship and we will be in a perfect environment – “lost in wonder love and praise”.

 

Paul gives a wonderful statement about God’s saving purpose in these two verses.

Look carefully at the structure of these verses:

2:13-14

13 .. God chose you

to be saved

through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and

through belief in the truth.

14 He called you to this {salvation}

through our gospel,

that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Our stability is in the fact the God chooses and God calls.

 

In both God’s choosing and God’s calling Paul tells us how he does it and why he does it – the means and the end.

He chose us for the purpose of salvation – in contrast to those who are perishing [v10] NOT that God chooses them to perish but rather they perish because they refuse to believe. God accomplishes his purposes in salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies / makes us holy / acceptable to God.

It is also through belief in the truth – in contrast to those who close their minds to the truth and refuse to believe it.

He calls us for the purpose that we might obtain / share Christ’s Glory – he did this through the gospel – The gospel is the good news about what Jesus did to rescue humankind from sin and the judgement of God.

How did the Thessalonians hear the gospel? Because Paul and his companions preached it to them. God’s choosing / election doesn’t in any way undermine our responsibility to evangelism and mission. In fact it enhances it because it is through the witness of God’s people by sharing the gospel that God chooses to call people to himself.

 

God’s choosing / election puzzles many. While it may stretch our minds way beyond our ability to understand it at the same time comforts our hearts because we know that if our salvation depended on us we could not and would not have any assurance.

 

Paul’s horizons here are wonderfully broad. In eternity past God chose us. In time he calls us to himself by us hearing the gospel, believing the truth, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit with a view to sharing in Christ’s glory in the future eternity.

 

There is no need for instability and fear – let Satan attack the weakest believer; let the antichrist be revealed and the rebellion break out. Set against the instability of our circumstances and indeed against our own unstable characters we need to set the eternal stability and purposes of God.

Look ahead at 2 Thessalonians 3:3 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (NIV)

 

  1. 2.     Durability and Perseverance.

 

Having confidence in God’s stability doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing.

Assurance of God’s faithfulness ought to prompt a response of faithfulness in us. This is precisely what Paul now encourages.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold on to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (NIV)

 

Paul could have said “Well God has chosen and called you – you’re secure now so just relax and take it easy”.

On the contrary Paul’s call is to Stand firm and hold on.

Picture a storm with hurricane winds – the danger is of being swept off your feet and your hand holds being forced loose. Paul says, “You need to work hard at standing your ground and holding on for dear life”.

 

For Paul Christianity is not a quick-fix treatment or short-term solution for all that ails us.

As someone has said, “It is a long walk in the same direction!”

Hebrews 12:1  …, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 3:14 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (NIV)

Matthew 10:22 22 … he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (NIV)

In the face of opposition and temptation and discouragement it is not easy – we tire in the struggle of faith as an athlete tires in a race and a soldier get weary of battle. Durability and perseverance is what is called for.

ILLUS.: Like a marathon runner preserves despite a protesting body / a sculptor perseveres against the unyielding stone / a husband and wife persevere despite the strains of marriage and child-rearing.

Stand firm on what? Holding fast to what?

 

  1. 3.     Safeguard.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:15 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold on to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (NIV)

 

One of the reasons the Thessalonians had become unsettled and alarmed is that they had allowed themselves to be misled by unreliable information. Instead of sticking closely to what Paul and his fellow-apostles had taught them and written to them they gave credence to information from “dodgy” places.

We have the apostle’s teaching written down in the NT. It is the best safeguard against misinformation.

 

In our day and age we find ourselves awash with false or deceptive teaching / information.

But all Churches and people claiming to be Christian appeal to the Bible to substantiate their particular view.

That is why we need to constantly check our beliefs and our actions against what the whole Bible teaching.

We need to ensure that we do NOT read it selectively leaving out the bits we don’t enjoy, or twist it to alter the original intent; or ignore parts our society finds offensive; or change section that restrict our lifestyle.

 

ILLUS.: I can’t believe that a God of Love would send anyone to hell therefore I don’t believe in Hell!

Evolution explains where the world came from so the bible account must be poetic / mythical language.

 

One of the consequences of our failure to hold tightly to the Scriptures and to stand firmly upon is that, like the Thessalonians, we become easily unsettled and alarmed. We become too easily like spiritual infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14

 

One more safeguard – Paul’s appeal for stability is to the Thessalonians as brothers [and sisters] – the context in which we stand firm and hold on is in the family of God – the Church.

 

We are to have fellowship in community – study in community – the exposition of scripture must be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. We are to wrestle together to understand God’s word to us.

Of course there is place for private and personal study – But there are dangers!!  Left to ourselves individually we can easily misinterpret the text. We all have our weaknesses and our blind spots and our prejudices. We need the checks and balances within the Church family to restraint our fierce individualism and establish the truth.

 

As we are established in the truth we will together be able to stand firm and hold on and so withstand the pressures and temptation from without.

 

 

 

 

  1. 4.     Supply.

 

Paul has assured us that God has promised to do something for us – to bring us to share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But we too have something to do – stand and hold!

NOW he prays that God will supply ALL we need to be stable and durable!

 

ILLUS.: More durable than Duracell batteries – They may be longer, longer, longer, longer lasting BUT they eventually do run out HOWEVER God gives us what is EVERLASTING!!

 

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17      16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (NIV)

 

The God who instructs us to Stand firm and hold on is that same God who then gives us the strength and encouragement to do it.

 

Stability and Assurance – Durability and perseverance –  Encouragement and Strength –

 

A story that may help to see how God both encourages and strengthens –

ILLUS.: Paderewski – Polish composer /pianist at a concert – a young 9 year old boy got to the piano before the concert and started playing ‘chopsticks’ – people shouted at him. Paderewski came on – put us arms each side of the boy and accompanied ‘chopsticks’ whispering “Don’t quit. Don’t stop. Keep playing. Keep going..!” Together the simple ‘chopsticks’ sounded wonderful.

And so it is with us. We hammer away at our project, which seems about as significant as ‘chopsticks’ in a concert hall. And about the time we are ready to give up, along comes the Master, who leans over and whispers:

Now keep going! Don’t quit! Keep on … don’t stop; Don’t give up!” as he improvises on our behalf, providing just the right touch at just the right moment. [from Stories for the heart p.39]

 

May God take our feeble attempt at ‘chopsticks’ and turn it into a symphony of praise for His Glory.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

 

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers

 

loved by the Lord,

 

because from the beginning God

 

chose you

 

to be saved

 

 through the sanctifying work of the Spirit

 

and through belief in the truth.

 

14 He called you to this

 

through our gospel,

 

that you might share in the glory

 

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

15 So then, brothers,

 

stand firm and

 

hold on

 

to the teachings we passed on to you,

 

whether by word of mouth or by letter.

 

 

 

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,

 

who loved us and

 

by his grace gave us eternal encouragement

 

and good hope,

 

17 encourage your hearts and

 

    strengthen you in every good deed and word.

 

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