Michael Youssef - End of History and You - Part 5
2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 13 to 17, "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the very beginning God chose you 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 to the teachings that we passed on to you, whether of 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". Watching this magnificent sanctuary being built, it was quite an experience. But the most instructive thing for me was the building of the parking deck.
I watched when occasionally I would walk out, and I'd see how they would dig these holes for the foundation. And they're all equal in diameter, but they were not equal in depth. You get a hole in which they dug about 8 feet, and then they stopped. And right next to it will be going 15, 16, 18, even 20 feet deep. I couldn't help but ask Mr. Ivy at the time and I said, you know, "Why the depth varies from one hole to the other in which you're going to pour cement, you're going to pour the concrete"? He asked me the question, he said, "Do you want a stable building"? He said, "I mean, a building that will take all these cars that are going to be coming here, and people"?
My answer, "Of course I want a stable building". He said, "So, the reason for the variation in the depth of these foundational holes in which we're digging is that we don't care how far we go. We just keep on digging until we find the rock. Sometimes, we find the rock 8 feet deep. Sometimes, we can't find the rock for 18 feet deep. So, we keep on digging until we find a rock. A rock assures us of the stability of this parking deck". I've never forgotten that, and the word "stability" has always been an important word to me. Stability. Stability is really a coveted quality in every sphere of life. Governments talk about stable economies. Builders, of course, build stable buildings. Carpenters and furniture designers, they design stable furniture. Aircrafts and ships have stabilizers to counteract the turbulences and the ocean swells.
Parents know the importance of providing stability for their children. Stability, can you say that word with me? Stability. We all admire a stable personality, a stable character, and a person of conviction. And in the New Testament, you see it again and again and again the Scripture exhorts us to stability. It gives us command to be stable in our Christian walk. As a matter of fact, we saw it a couple of messages ago in chapter 2, verse 2. Paul urges them, he says, "Do not be easily unsettled or do not be easily unstable". And then we see it here in verse 15 of 2 Thessalonians, where he said, "Do not become unstable". He said, "So then, brethren, stand firm".
And the question any honest person will have to ask is, "Wait a minute, how can they stand firm under these crushing circumstances? How can they be stable when the world is being rocked? How can they find stability in the midst of the raging seas, what anchor that keeps them from being tossed about in every storm in life? How can they be stable when they are in the midst of this troubled ocean of life? Where can they find such stabling force in their life? What is that foundational rock that the anchor can find a solid rock, and to stand firm and be stable"? In fact, these Thessalonians, they were like a ship in the midst of a raging waters. You have to understand when Paul writes this, he was not writing to people sitting there in air conditioned comfort and everything is hunky dory, no. They were facing the high waves of persecution. They were facing strong gusts of the wind of false teaching that threatened to literally blow them over.
And so, Paul tells them first that he's praying for them. That's in verse 13, 14. And then he goes in in verse 15 and tells them to be stable. Had he started with being stable, you know, okay, somebody patting you on the back and said, "You know, hang in there, baby. It's going to be all right". No, that's not what he's doing here. He says, "I'm praying for them," first. He said, "I'm praying for you". He's praying for their stability. He's praying for their firm stand. In fact, Paul's prayer is a great model of prayer for every one of us as we pray for one another, and as we pray for the body of Christ. It's a great model of prayer to pray for people to be stabilized and have that stable force in their life. Above all, of course, in the context, he's talking about those who will face the spirit of lawlessness, those who are going to face the spirit of the antichrist, those who are going to face when hell breaks loose, all those who will experience the anarchy that's going to come with the antichrist.
All of those who live through the powerful wind of lawlessness, all of those who will face the gale of terror and evil that will come upon the world. That's what he was talking about. But before the Apostle Paul can appeal to them to say, "Be stable, stand firm," he told them the reason why they can stand firm. He reveals to them the power of the rock upon which they stand firm. He reminds them of this indescribable strong foundation that holds them in place. He reminds of them of their absolute unshakable security in Christ.
Verse 13, "We ought always to thank God for you, brethren". Why? Because he chose you, because he loved you, because he called you. And he's going to keep you safe all the way home. Regardless of the present circumstances, regardless of the present troubles, regardless of future lawlessness, God's call, God's sovereign choice, God's predetermined love, all of that gives them that 60,000 pound anchor in the midst of the waves, and the tossing waves, and the stormy seas. You don't believe me? Well, listen to what Jesus said in John chapter 6, beginning in verse 37. He's talking about the believers. He says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never..." Can you say never? "Never drive away". But that's not all. "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up in the last day". But that's not all. "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day". But that's not all.
In John chapter 10, verse 27, Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they will follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never," here's that word again, "never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand". But that's not all. "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one can snatch them from my Father's hand". If that does not give you all the stability you need in life, I don't know what will. In fact, these scriptural truths alone should keep us in a state of thanksgiving 24/7. But he's doing something else here in this passage, in this chapter 2. He is contrasting the redeemed with the unredeemed. That's what he's doing here.
In the last message, for those of you here, we saw the description of the unredeemed. They love wickedness. They hate the truth. They will follow the antichrist. And God gives them a spirit of delusion. Remember I told you God gives you more of what you want. And so, he gives them up, and eternally they'll be condemned. Oh, what a contrast. God chose them, God loves them, God called them, God brought them into being. God gives them security in their life. But the question some people might be asking, when was it that God loved you, he called you, and chose you? Did this happen the moment you came to Christ, you repented of your sins and you put your faith in him alone? Is that the moment? No, much earlier than that. Was it when you were born? No, much earlier than that. Was it before you were born? No, much earlier. Was it when your parents were born? No, much earlier than that. He said he loved you, called you, and chose you before the foundation of the world. Can I get a witness?
Now, that is not my opinion. That's the Word of God. He knew you, he loved you, he called you, he chose you before the foundation of the world. You know and I know that, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we're not perfect, we know that. And people like to throw this at you, say, "You're not perfect". Of course we're not perfect, we know that. We know that we occasionally sin, we know that. But listen to me, I can testify to you, and I know many hundreds of you would testify the same, that because of this eternal love, because of this eternal choice, every time a believer sins, he feels or she feels like a heel. Do you know why? Who wants to offend and disobey such divine and eternal love? Only a person who does not really know the Lord can sin without the urgency of repenting and turning back to the Lord. But you have to understand that this has nothing to do with us. It has nothing to do with you, has nothing to do with me, it has nothing to do with Paul, it has nothing to do with the people in the Bible. It has nothing to do with it. It has to do with who God is.
That is the nature of God from Genesis to Revelation as it's revealed to us in the Bible. That's who he is. It has nothing to do with us. But do you know why there's some people who really resent and reject the sovereignty of God? I want to tell you, I want to give you a secret. The reason so many people reject the sovereignty of God is because it crushes our human pride. Oh, they don't want that. Me? You see, when God gets all of the credit for salvation, God is exalted, and he gets all the glory. And when he receives all of the glory and all of the praise for his sovereign love, that produces joy in us. And that joy fills our heart. And when it fills our heart, we feel privileged. And when we feel privileged, that promotes holiness in life. And holiness gives us stability and security.
This is the divine love and call and choice of God. And it does not undermine our zeal for witnessing to the unsaved and the unbeliever. It does not do that. It does the opposite. We feel so honored, we feel so privileged, and we feel loved, and we feel secure. And we want everyone in the world to discover this great treasure. In fact, Paul's point here is this. He said, "This sovereign, loving choice should banish fear from our life," really in reality. If you believe in that sovereign choice and love of God, you should not have fear in life, especially fear of sharing Christ with others. But listen to me, let Satan's toy, Satan's boy, the antichrist, persecute us. Let all hell break loose. Let all the rebellion break out. It will not shake us. It will never move us. It will never touch us. It will never affect us. For we are held in the palms of his hands. We are carried on his shoulders. He who touches us touches the apple of his eye.
Paul's stability, your stability is not based on the circumstances. It's not based on you, it's not based on me, it's not based on feelings, it's not based on emotions. But it is firmly established in the sovereignty of his loving choice. You see, now after he tells them all that and why he's praying for them, why he's thanking God for them, then he comes in verse 15 and he said, "Stand firm". A lot of people put the cart before the horse. Paul doesn't. He gives you the horse first, and he puts the cart in there. He gave them all of the reasons and all of the evidences as to why they should stand firm, then he appeals to them to stand firm. Most motivational preachers, sadly that's what they are, most motivational preachers, they preached empty affirmation.
"You can do it, you. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. You can turn your lemons into lemonades. You can climb the mountains. You, you, you". And the flesh loves it. Yeah, let's flock to that. No wonder after awhile, all of this empty teaching fizzled out and fizzles out. You see, Paul is saying you can stand firm. Listen, I'm a positive guy, surely you know that. But my positive life does not stem from the fact that I can do it. No, it stems from the fact that I stand on the rock. It comes from the fact that I know what anchor is holding me. It comes from the fact that I know that my feet are fixed on terra firma, that you can stand firm because who's holding onto, not what you're holding onto. And what's holding onto you is immovable, immovable. What is that? The truth of the gospel that has been handed to you.
Now, some of your translations, I don't know what translation of the Bible you have. It says the tradition that passed to you? Well, it's an old English word really, we don't use it in the same way today. It's the tradition that you go to the restaurant next door after church every Sunday. That's a tradition. Tradition is to be eat fish on Friday, that's tradition. That's kind of... but that's not what the word here means. That does not mean that at all. The word here means the foundation of the Christian faith as it was handed from the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples, and they in the New Testament handed it to us. And I often say this is the greatest apostolic succession there is, is that we are successors of the apostles because we are into their teaching, because we build our faith on the teaching of the apostles.
It is the historical evidence of Christ's life. It is the historical evidence of Christ's redeeming work on the cross. It is the historical evidence of Christ rising again on the third day physically and bodily. It is the historical evidence of Christ's ascension into heaven. It is the historical evidence of Jesus' miraculous work. It is the historical evidence of Jesus' teaching. It is the historical evidence of Jesus being the divine Son of God, who is God of very God, and become man of very man. It is the historical evidence of Jesus promising that he's going to come back, and he's going to judge every single human being that's ever lived. Our stability is based on the solid rock promises of God. That's what the word "tradition" here means. Our stability, our security is built on the historic evidence of the work of Christ. Our stability is founded on God's own words. Our security stems from God's sovereign, unconditional love and choice. Then he conclude this passage, verses 16 and 17. He concludes with a prayer.
Again, it's an incredible model prayer, a prayer that the God of power and might, the God of all strength will strengthen them even further, will empower them in their day-to-day life. Paul's prayer teaches us that our stability totally rests on the foundation of God's sovereign and unchangeable love. But then the way we manifest that to the world is our moment by moment living, relying, trusting in the strength of God, not our own, where people think, "Well, you know, back yonder, I made my profession of faith, so now I can live any which way I..." No, no, no, no, that's not how it works. That's not what the Apostle Paul is praying for here.
We live every moment of every hour of every day in absolute, total reliance upon the strength of the Lord. We cannot serve the Lord, we cannot serve one another, we cannot give of ourselves based on our own strength, or even our good will, or even our desire. That would only last for a short period of time, and then we crash and burn. I meet so many crashing and burning Christians, I really do. Why? Because I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. And then when they can't do it, leaning on the strength of the everlasting arms, leaning on him and his power moment by moment is my witness to the world that I truly believe in the promises of God, that I truly anchored my faith in him and him alone. And that keeps me strong, and go from strength to strength to strength.
In fact, that is the only thing that's going to protect you from going on a spiritual high and a spiritual low. Spiritual high, spiritual low. Spiritual high, that's going to give you what? Can you remember the word? Stability. In fact, there's a word picture here in this prayer, the last 2 verses of chapter 2. The word picture is that a faithful believer stands in the middle between two things. He is standing between the power of the promises of God and the Word of God, which is the past, and the power of God today in the present, day by day. We live between the unchangeable, unconditional love of God and his Word, and his present empowerment to live faithfully for him and stand firm for him day by day.
Standing firm and having stability in life is not only impossible, but incomprehensible apart from being sandwiched between the past promises of God and the present power of God, amen? Only you know where you stand. It's a very personal issue, but I pray that if you are a person who have said, "I made my profession of faith. God just expect me to make the best I know how and live by my own strength," that you will turn away from that because that's a sure way for the enemy to get to you. Are you bracketed, are you sandwiched between the promises of God and the Word of God, and the moment-by-moment strength that he provided for you? That's his desire for you, it's his desire for me. That's his desire for his church.