?Unless the divine power has raised you up? I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that abominable practice of slavery, which is the scandal of religion, of England , and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might.?
The challenge for Christians is to stand firm, to be resolute in times of godlessness, to persist in times of divine opportunity, to be humble for the enabling . . .
It was 1798, William Wilberforce had battled against the political and commercial forces that were heavily invested in slave trading. For 10 years he had worked to almost no avail, after another defeat in the British Parliament, he returned home discouraged and tired. He opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written to him from John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again:
?Unless the divine power has raised you up? I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that abominable practice of slavery, which is the scandal of religion, of
The challenge for Christians is to stand firm, to be resolute in times of godlessness, to persist in times of divine opportunity, to be humble for the enabling presence of God to be seen, to be faithful not because of the good character you possess but because of the amazing intervention of God in you as you trust in His timing and expression. I read a story this week about an event that occurred in April 2004, a young 16 year old girl in
I. Is Standing Firm Really All About Leaning?
The main point, the main purpose for why the apostle Paul says what he does is, 'stand firm and carefully guard what has been handed over to you?. Do you remember that old song of the faith called ?Leaning on the Everlasting Arms?? I think everybody who has ever sung that probably interprets it a little differently, that is the angle at which they lean and the speed with which they lean varies greatly. My brother and I once played a game where one of us stood behind the other and the one in front just leaned back and went into a free fall trusting that they would be caught. Is leaning on the everlasting arms like that for you, or is it more like leaning on a firm arm as you cross the street or leaning against a friend as you go around a sharp curve? To what degree do you lean on Jesus, is it a five degree tilt or a forty-five degree tilt? One of the truths that had been handed over to the Thessalonian believers, which they needed to carefully guard, was that they were in a forty five degree tilt of leaning on Jesus, whether they felt it or not. This is the first key to standing firm in your faith, you are already in a place of absolute dependence on God, in fact you have been from the beginning.
a) Your beginning was God's choice of you. Note two things: they were chosen from the beginning and the knowledge of this is something which will enable them to stand firm. We could talk about what the phrase, ?from the beginning? means ?Ephesians 1:4, or how God actually chooses us? is it based on works, foreknowledge of our faith, or His sovereign will ? 1Corinthians 1:26-30. But what captures our attention here this morning is, ?How does knowing about His choice of me equip me to stand firm?? The answer has everything to do with the grasping of the extent of the sovereignty of God. Not only has God personally chosen you, not only did He do this apart from your physical existence meaning before you were born, not only has He done this in the face of your apparent failures and weaknesses, He has done so irreversibly, that is He doesn't change His mind about His choosing of you from the beginning because of flaw in your conduct or attitude, in fact He commits Himself to you through the process of sanctification for the glory of the Son. What I mean is that He began to sanctify you by setting you apart from the very beginning in His mind, He saw you as being conformed to the image of His Son'that is He began the process of preparing you for faith, obedience, love, joy, hope, peace, all the things that would be the traits of Christ?why? because Christ is the first fruits, the foremost One and first One of many. Your sanctification completes His decree that Christ would the first fruits, it glorifies Christ in that respect alone. He accomplishes this through the Spirit and through your faith in the truth. The volition of man to believe is essential to salvation, a will that chooses what is foreign to the natural nature of man. It chooses to submit to God, to hope for what is not seen, to love what is not worthy, to please God by faith. These things orchestrated under the sovereign hand of God are so far beyond our abilities, they confirm God's hand when we cannot see it, they affirm His love when we cannot feel it? by this we stand firm.
b) Your call is that you may gain the glory of Christ. This is a difficult statement isn't it, yet there it is in verse 14. There were not many wise, mighty or noble that Christ has called. In fact one of the reasons why He chose you is because you were foolish, weak, base, and without. He chose you to shame the things that are, the peoples of wisdom and the strong things of the world (1 Cor.1:26-29). His main purpose in calling you in this way is that no one could boast before God that they were a ?good catch?. Your call is that you would see His perfect choice of you based on His design and His purposes. When I agree with that my life is my Jesus. When I agree with that I gain the glory of Christ as I become baptized into His death, I do not let sin reign in my mortal body, I am dead to it but alive to God in Christ. The radiance of Who Christ is begins to shine in you?and you stand firm.
II. Is Standing Firm Really All About Giving the Glory to God?
The Greek language had a different grammatical construction than English, in particular was the Aorist tense in some verbs. In one word it carried the implication of something that not only started, it continued on to right now and would continue on into the future. In verse 16 there are two Aorist verbs: ?loved? and ?given?. Jesus Himself and the Father have loved you, are loving you and will continue to love you. The same applies for the term given. Look at what is ?given? in this Aorist sense: eternal comfort; good hope; grace. So what two words would you expect to see in the very next verse that would also have this Aorist tense? It's ?Comfort? and 'strengthen?, and they are applied to every good work and word that comes out of you?past, present, future. There is a wonder that comes from the realization that you are immersed in God. It's like a baptism where not even the tip of your nose stays above the water, you are all in Him, He is your all in all, my life is my Jesus. The issue of standing firm involves my will, my knowledge of truth and my right choices in that knowledge but the supply of comfort and strength to move forward with it comes from Him. It is this giving of glory to God for the fact that I am immersed in Him that is at the heart of standing firm. To stand firm, to have a faith that resolutely perseveres through the disappointments and opportunities of life, comes from an understanding of what God has done in you and an expectation of what God is yet to do through you in immersing you into the glory of Christ.
Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.