There is a view of the world that looks at currents events and says, “It all comes down to you, Christian. You’re the last line of defense. So, you’d better not mess up.” There’s a kind of preaching that rolls the weight of the world onto the shoulders of Christian believers. It places people under an intolerable burden—a burden you cannot possibly bear.
But Scripture does not leave us with an intolerable burden. Instead, it gives us wonderful confidence in Almighty God and wisdom for discerning how to stand firm in the darkest days of our lives.
What can you do when you see the world getting darker and evil getting stronger? Like the Apostle Paul, you can thank God for what Christ is doing in His people and for who you are in Him.
Remember Who You are in Christ
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm… (2 Thess. 2:13-15).
1. Loved (v 13)
Slow down and try to take in this greatest of truths. No matter how dark the world around you becomes, the Lord loves you. This is more than pity, compassion, and benevolence.
The quality of love you experience in life is determined by the capacity of the people who love you. Some people have the capacity to love more deeply than others. To be loved is good, but to be loved deeply is a great blessing. Think about the capacity of Almighty God to love deeply. You will spend eternity trying to take in the wonder of His love, so start now!
2. Chosen (v 13)
Paul was writing to ordinary people who knew that they had been chosen. How did they know that? Their belief in the truth was the sign that they had been chosen. This truth is given to believers precisely because we need it to stand firm in the darkest days.
When you lay hold of Christ by faith, it will not be long before you know that he has laid hold of you. You’ll begin to experience what Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). My little faith holding on to him isn’t enough in the dark days of life. I need to know that his mighty hand is holding onto me.
3. Saved (v 13)
The world is deceived, perishing, refusing to love the truth, delighting in wickedness, under a powerful delusion, believing lies, and ultimately condemned. God loves you and chose you to be saved from that!
4. Sanctified (v 13)
When we come across this word “sanctified”, many Christians immediately think to themselves, “This is one thing that I am not!” We associate the word “sanctified” with being saintly or holy or pure. But the word “sanctified” can have two different meanings: “made holy” or “set apart.”
Imagine that you have a bag of candy. You take some out for yourself, and then hand out the rest to someone else, saying, “These ones are mine. The rest you can have.” Do you know what you just did? You “sanctified” the candies. You laid hold of them for yourself, you claimed them. You set them apart from the others.
That is what God has done for you in Christ. He has said, “I claim you for my own. I am going to reproduce the very image of My Son in you.” What greater privilege could there be than that? Who has God sanctified?” Those who have believed the truth.
5. Believing (v 13)
Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). How do people come to believe the truth about the Lord Jesus? Paul says that believers are loved by God, chosen from the beginning to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
6. Called (v 14)
The gospel is the good news that Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins, and that he rose from the dead to bring us new life. God calls people through the gospel. That is why the gospel must always be central to the ministry of the church. As you believe the gospel, you will find that you are loved, chosen, saved, and sanctified. It is through the gospel that God lays hold of you.
7. Glorified (v 14)
The ultimate outcome of God’s redeeming purpose is not only that you will see Christ’s glory, but that you will share Christ’s glory. You will be glorified in Christ forever.
Receive What You Need from Christ
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word (2 Thess. 2:16-17).
After Paul reminds believers who they are in Christ (v 13-15), he prays. You, too, can pray for comfort and strength. And remember who you’re asking! The Lord Jesus is the one who gave “eternal comfort and good hope” (v 17). How did he do that? On the cross and through his resurrection.
Do you need comfort? Lift up your eyes and look at the cross. The Son of God is hanging there. The voices of hell mock him. People laugh at him in scorn. He is the man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. He knows what it is to suffer and to face darkness. Do you need hope? Lift up your eyes and look at the empty tomb. Jesus Christ has endured, conquered, and risen. Think what comfort and hope you could find in him!
Brothers and sisters, you live in a dark world. The battle is intense for you, and you may feel overwhelmed. Drink in the truth of who you are in Christ. In this reality, nourish your soul and find strength for the battle. You are loved by the Lord. God chose you from the beginning. You are saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and by believing the truth. God has called you through the gospel. Your future is to share the everlasting glory of Christ. So, now: stand firm!