Sermon Text: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
We started a new sermon series through 2 Thessalonians called "Stand Firm." The call of God in this book is for his people to stand firm amid opposition, persecution, and seasons of suffering. 2 Thessalonians begins like many of Paul's letters, with a greeting and a word of thanks. Within these verses, we see a few things that we need to be able to stand firm in the gospel:
1. Strong Identity.
2 Thessalonians reminds us that our identity is that we are people of the King. And since we are people of the king, we are in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is who we are if we belong to Jesus. We are tempted to find our identity in things that change: financial status, jobs, relationships, etc. But to be able to stand firm, we need to walk in our strong identity as the people of the King. That identity will never change, because God never changes.
2. Increasing Love.
Paul expresses thanks to God for the Thessalonian Christians because of the love they had for one another. It is an affectionate love that was increasing. They loved each other this way because they had been loved by God in this way. If we are going to stand firm in our faith, we need the love of other brothers and sisters to encourage us and help us. Love in the church builds unity, and unity strengthens the body of Christ, which enables us to stand firm.
3. Enduring Faith.
Paul also commends the Thessalonians for their enduring faith. Though they were experiencing hardships and persecution, they remained steadfast and faithful. That does not mean they didn't experience fear, confusion, doubt, or many other things that we experience in our own lives. But it did mean that they endured in their faith. And that's because their hope was set on Jesus. Tim Mackie said, "What you hope for shapes what you live for." For us to stand firm for a lifetime, we need to take time to consider where our hope lies. If our hope is in Jesus, we can endure with faith.
In verse 2, Paul writes: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The soil in which our identity, our love, and our faith grow is the soil of God's grace. It is by his grace that we can stand firm. And it is by the peace that he gives through the gospel that we can endure till the end.