Welcome to Tuesday’s Podcast. Our reading today is 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. Today we’ll focus on verse 15:
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[a] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
Leslie Dwight, 23 wrote a poem recently that went viral on Instagram. ‘Liked’ over 500,000 times – and shared many many times – it captures something of the mood of the moment.
She says this:
“What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow,” the poem reads. “A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.”
“A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart. 2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.”
In an interview in Today.com – the aspiring writer reveals that at the age of 13 she learned that her father who died when she was a newborn died by suicide. She said that the story of her life – was to stay resilient through trying times.
There’s no doubt that we’re living in trying times – just watch the news – or read a paper or check out social media. Ravaged by a global pandemic and now some of the worst racial tension seen for generations across the USA.
We can’t not be affected by this moment.
The Thessalonian Christians were under significant pressure. Facing persecution for their faith and feeling undermined by divisive and corrupt teaching – in fact Paul tells them not to become unsettled or alarmed (verse 2).
In yesterday’s podcast we talked about how Paul took apart the concerns around the ‘man of lawlessness’ and now in verse 13 – 17 he offers, lovingly and with great care some great wisdom.
What can we learn?
It’s interesting that Paul’s words of comfort are this in verse 13 is to remind the Thessalonian Christians: you have been chosen. Before the beginning of time, God, the one who knows us intimately, chooses you.
It’s deeply personal. It’s deeply profound. It’s really rather beautiful.
In the midst of overwhelming confusion, Paul’s words of comfort are this: God called you & He chose you. It’s a deeply Pauline theme: you receive God’s grace – you don’t earn it. You simply say ‘yes, I receive it’.
Secondly, he reminds the Thessalonian Christians that it’s the saving activity of God – Jesus on the cross – that has secured salvation. Not their effort or lack of and then he reminds them that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify – to change us or transform us.
Theologians tell us that it’s Trinitarian – the Father calls, the Son makes it possible and the Spirit transforms us.
So, how can we respond?
Paul tells the Thessalonians to stand firm. It’s something he says to the church in Ephesus in the midst of his tome on spiritual warfare. Stand firm.
Sometimes, all you can do is muster the energy to stand. And as we stand – with all our effort – he does the rest. He meets our weakness with his extraordinary power.
It’s to embrace the predictable patterns – of regular times with God; daily prayer – habits that hold us in difficult times. Part of our standing is to remember teaching – things that have helped us over the years. It’s to not give up on reading scripture. Learning and meditating on it. Not to give up on community – to stay connected – in this time of angst.
You see I have a friend who says ‘nothing grows on the mountain top’ – but the valley is often lush with life.
We need to remember that often the experience of many Bible characters and men and women of God throughout history is that yes, God sometimes gets us out of tough times but he can also use tough times to grow us.
This has often been my experience. I recently jotted down some personal reflections about a season of life which at the time was challenging. In fact at that particular time – there were moments – where I wondered what on earth God was doing? Where was he? Would be turn up? Looking back if I’m honest I can now see that those times were actually really, really rich. They were times of necessary painful growth. Times of pruning – of dealing with stuff – of santification.
While the world around us confusing – let’s today choose to stand firm. One image of ‘standing firm’ theologians sometimes use is of a heavenly hand reaching out. Today, let’s take hold of that hand – it won’t falter even if we do.
Lord, may we stand firm with you today. Help us to not be shaken by world events and look to the unchanging one each day. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 (NIV)
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.