Michael Youssef - Look Up When Others Are Looking Down - Part 3
Stability. We all long for it, don't we? And it is the absolute necessity in every sphere of life, every sphere of life. Civilization depends on the stability of government. Commerce and prosperity depends on the stability of the economy and the economic system. Even ships and aircrafts use stabilizing surfaces to counteract turbulence. Parents need to provide a stable environment in homes so that the children will grow up to be spiritually mature. And the list goes on. Stability; we all need it, we all need it to be able to confront some nasty changes that comes our way and unexpected circumstances; need it to confront obstacles that arises all of a sudden, opposition that invades our lives or encounter storms in life. We all encounter them. Often we refer to an individual, say, well, he or she is unstable, is unstable, the lacking of stability. And believe it or not, in the spiritual life, this is even more important.
Without stability of being anchored in Christ, we can be tossed about with every wind of doctrine. We get tossed about with every change, with every wind of change. And so this is the question that the apostle Paul confronts in the church of Thessalonica. Our Lord Jesus himself in Luke 21:19, here's what he said. He said when you see difficulties and turmoil and persecution, he said standing firm or having that stability, you will win life. These are his words. You'll win life. It is not surprising, therefore, that as you go through the epistles, that just about every one of the apostle Paul's epistles, he emphasizes the issue of stability, of how important it is.
In the last message we saw how false teachers came into the church of Thessalonica. Immediately after Paul left, these false teachers came into the church of Thessalonica to destabilize the church. He wanted to shake them up. The devil always want to destabilize the church of Jesus. Always. And so after condemning this false teaching, after correcting this troubling falsehood, after exposing the wickedness of these false teachers, the apostle Paul immediately goes on to emphasize the absolute necessity of having biblical stability. Biblical what? Question: How can we have stability in these turbulent times that we're living in? The first thing the apostle Paul does here is that he assures them of his prayer for them, and don't underestimate that. Don't underestimate praying for one another. He is praying specifically for their spiritual stability. He is praying for them to take a stand, to take a firm stand on biblical teaching.
Now, beloved, in times of lawlessness, anarchy, terror, and unrestrained evil, believers will need God's supernatural strength more than ever. They need God-given stability in order to stand firm and look up. So look at verse 13 with me please, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. "We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, loved of the Lord". Now, don't miss this, okay? Why ought he pray to God for them? Because they're very nice people. Hello? Because they're fitting very well with their pagan neighbors. Because they have mastered the art of compromise. Go along to get along. No. No. No. He prayed for them because God, from the very beginning, chose them and saved them through the sanctifying work of the Spirit through believing the truth. Are you with me?
Make no mistake about it. The world is going to applaud any and everyone who is going to compromise, any and everyone who compromise their faith just a little bit, everyone who waters down the gospel so it can be palatable for the non-believers, but Jesus will reward you if you hold fast in the truth of the gospel. God will protect you through the storms. God will guide you through the turbulence times of persecution. God will steady you and stabilize you during the time of testing. God will be your fortress. God will be your strong tower when the man of lawlessness is revealed. In John chapter 6, verse 37, I tell people that you've got to memorize, if you're gonna memorize one verse, you need to memorize that. But not just memorize the verse, memorize what it means, because nothing is going to give you confidence than knowing what Jesus said in John's Gospel 6:37. All ...can you say, "All"? "All of those whom the Father gives me, I will lose," how many? "None". God bless you.
Why should you be looking up? Because your heavenly daddy will never leave you nor forsake you, and no one can take you out of his hand. Praise God. In this passage, you read how Paul is making a contrast between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the redeemed and the unredeemed. The unredeemed are those who love sin and they hate the truth, and they're going to be the ones who are going to immediately be following the Antichrist when he shows his ugly head. We saw that in the last message. And therefore God gave them up. He gave them a spirit of delusion. If you remember, I said God always gives us more of what we want, the reason the Scripture said, "Delight yourself in the Lord and then he will give you the desires of your heart". We always like the desires of your heart first; no, no, no. You have to delight yourself in the Lord. And when Pharaoh hardened his heart, God said, "I'll give you more of what you want. I'm going to harden your heart even further".
As far as the redeemed are concerned who hold fast onto the truth, they will share Christ's glory. Question: When did God choose you? When did God call you? Was it the first time you realized that you're a sinner? For me, that was March 4, 1964. I recognized that I'm a sinner, I'm heading for hell, and I desperately need the Savior. Is that when he called you? Is that when he chose you? Is it when you got onto your knees and invited Jesus to come into your life and be the Savior of your soul and the Lord of your life? Did he call you before you were born? Did he call you before your parents were born? Did he call you before your grandparents were born? No, he called you... are you ready for this? Are you ready for this? Before the foundation of the world. He looked down through history and he saw you before history began.
In Ephesians 1:4 it tells us that "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight". Let me ask you this. Why would I want to offend, why would I want to offend or disappoint such divine eternal love? How can I even contemplate that? Beloved, Christianity is not the faith of regulations. "Here's... do this. Don't do this. Do this. Don't do this". No, no, no, no, no. Our faith is built on love, loving the one who loved us first. Why do we hate sin? Because we love Jesus. Why do we hate evil? Because we love God's church. Why we hate lying is because we love the truth. Why do we hate deception? It's because we love people. But above all, we love him who loved us before all of the creation began. Don't ever forget God's grace toward you is a reflection of who he is. Are you with me?
And he reaches down to us when our lives were hopelessly damaged by sin, when our hearts was test, stained and unfit for his holy purpose; and he cleans our stains, and he heals our spirits, and he invests his life in us, and he values us and makes us valuable to himself. His sovereign loving and caring and calling and choosing us should do one vitally important thing: demolish our pride. The sovereign choice ensures that he and he alone gets all of the credit for our salvation, that he and he alone is exalted; that he and he alone is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory, for it is his love and holiness that made our lives stable, stable, secure. Look at verse 14. "And he brought you to himself through the preaching of the gospel". Verse 15, "Stand firm and hold on to this teaching," which Paul already passed on to them from Jesus. You see, he learned it from Jesus. He passed it on to them.
So, another question. Why should they stand firm? So that they might not only be stable, but they must pass the stability to others. Sure, I got a platform, so I'm passing it to many others, but you have to pass it to others. If you're home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, you can pass stability and encourage one another. Don't miss verses 16 and 17. It's very important. God's loving sovereign choice of you should banish, I said should banish your pride. Something else it should banish, and that's fear, anxiety, and worry. Listen to me. Let Satan do his worst. Let the man of lawlessness be revealed. Let all of hell breaks loose. We will not be shaken. We will not be moved. We will not be intimidated. We will stand firm, confident in the confidence that we are held in the palms of his hands, that we are cradled in his arms, that he who touches us touches the apple of his eye.
There is no stability or security in our circumstances, there is no stability or security in the economy, there is no stability or security in people, ah, but our true security and stability found only in God's sovereign choice. If the foundation of your confidence is on you, you are building on the shifting sand. But if your confidence in the foundation on the power and the might of the one who loved you, redeemed you, chose you, knew you before the foundation of the earth, then you are building on a solid rock, the rock of ages. What more evidence does anyone need more than Christ's life, Christ's teaching, Christ's promises, Christ's miraculous work, Christ's identity as the only Son of God, Christ's redeeming grace on the cross, Christ's resurrection on the third day, Christ's ascension to heaven, Christ's soon coming back to judge the world?
Beloved, this is all the stability I need. It's all the stability I need in life. In fact, if you break the word down, it's the ability to stand, the ability to stand. And who gives you that ability? The one who chose you. Have the ability to stand when everyone else is crumbling. They're crumbling. How do I know that? How do I do that? Chapter 3, verses 1 to 5. By having, this is a summary, a two-way conversation constantly, constantly. Two-way communication with my Redeemer. A summary of those five verses of chapter 3 is, pray for me as I pray for you. Paul, listen to me, he was experienced missionary, he was experienced evangelist, he was experienced preacher, he was experienced strategist. His true effectiveness for Christ was not rooted in any human trait, ability, or cleverness. He saw his true effectiveness for Christ as a result of a total confidence in the power of Jesus who lived in him and in the prayers of the saints. Beloved, there's nothing wrong with praying and asking God for things, nothing wrong. I hope you don't misunderstand me.
There's nothing wrong with saying, "Lord, I'm facing a crisis and I need you". There's nothing wrong with saying, "Lord, our loved ones need your help". There's nothing wrong with saying, "My business needs your direction". Nothing wrong with that. Are you with me? But if this is the sum total of your prayer, listening to me. If this is the sum total of your prayer in your prayer life, you have stunted your spiritual growth. You may be 7 foot tall, but you've stunted your spiritual growth. Chapter 3, verses 2 and 3, Paul asked the believers in Thessalonica to pray for him. To do what? So that he might be healthy, wealthy, and happy? No, that the Word of God be preached without hindrance.
Now, beloved, Paul was not necessarily asking for his own safety, for his own protection, 'cause he knew he's safe as long as God wants him here; but for the gospel advancement, for the advancement of the gospel. I want to conclude by telling you a true historic story. It's about a great man, great man of God who lived in the late 1700s, early 1800s. No, he was not a preacher. He was not a theologian. He was not an evangelist. He was not a Bible teacher. He was not a pastor. He was not a church at all. Are you ready for this? He was a politician. Some of you, nervous laughter. I did, too. He's a politician, a member of the British Parliament. His name is William Wilberforce. He lived between 1759 and 1833. Just keep that date in mind. 1759, 1833.
But many people know him as the man who singlehandedly ended up the horror of slave trading in the British Empire. Most people do not know how many years he persevered in his God-honoring endeavor. Most people don't know how many times during those decades, decades standing firm, how many times he got discouraged and was ready to give up, how many times. One day he was so discouraged, so deflated, so defeated, and he was ready to give up. And then that morning, he just opened his Bible. As he'd done daily, he read, he opened his Bible, but somehow this time, this time when he was feeling lowest of the low, he opens and a piece of paper falls on the ground. So he picks it up and he start reading it, and it was a letter that was written decades early by evangelist John Wesley to him, to William. When it arrived he had read it, but he forgot about it and put in his Bible until that day when he is about to give up. And these were the very last words that John Wesley ever wrote longhand. The letter was dated February 24, 1791. Exactly six days later, John Wesley died.
I want to read to you what was in that letter that inspired William Wilberforce to keep on going. "Unless the divine power has raised you up, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing the execrable villainy of slavery, which is a scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you'll be worn out by the opposition of men and the devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery shall vanish before it. That he who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is prayer, dear sir, your affectionate servant, John Wesley".
While all these words were written in 1791, it was not until 1833, I hope you're remembering those dates, that parliament finally passed the Slavery Abolition Act and ended slave trading throughout the British Empire. Here's something else that is amazing to me. Wilberforce lived to see the accomplishment of his God-given dream, God-given purpose, God-given vision for his life, but he died three days later after hearing that Parliament passed the act. Get this: when he started to the time of that act passed Parliament, it was 46 years before he accomplished God's purpose in his life. Think with me about these words of John Wesley that inspired and motivated Wilberforce to keep on standing firm. These are important words for your life or for my life. If God be with you, who can be against you? Now, beloved, the power of our Almighty God enables us to stand firm in faith as we look up to him. The strength of God will stabilize you in the stormy days ahead.