Stand Firm and Hold On!
by: John Welkner
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
The church in Thessalonica was surrounded by opposition, tempting them to give way. False teachers and cruel governments sought to loosen their grip on the gospel - to let go of the truth that Paul had given them from Christ in both writing and word. In the midst of such trials, Paul gives the exhortations to “stand firm”, and “hold on”.
In 1987, pilot Henry Dempsey was flying his 15 passenger airplane from Maine to Boston in the United States. When he reached an altitude of about 4,000 feet he heard a noise in the back of the plane where the rear stairs are. So, he turned the controls over to his co-pilot and walked back. Just as he reached the rear, the plane hit turbulence, knocked him against the back door and it fell open.
Dempsey was sucked part way out, fell face down on the steps, and grabbed for anything for anything that might keep him from falling to his death. He caught hold of a railing and held on for dear life.
Meanwhile, the co-pilot thought he had fallen out and diverted the flight to a nearby airport. When he landed, they found him with his face 30 centimeters off the runway and with his hands so tight around the rails that his fingers had to be pried open.
The life and death grip with which Henry Dempsey held on to the stair railing at the back of that airplane is the kind of grip we should have on the truth of God.
The violence of the wind and the gravity and the noise that swirled around poor Henry and tried to pull him to his destruction was less dangerous than the lawlessness, and the lusts of the world and the flesh that are swirling around you even now.
So we ought to heed Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonian church and hold onto the the spoken and written truth of God as given by his apostles.
We know that Paul had spent some time in Thessalonica, pouring his time into teaching the new believers there the truth of the gospel, you’ll find the account in Acts chapter 17. And now he instructs them to hold on to the preaching they heard.
I think this is exceptional advice! Pay attention to and apply the sermons you hear!
How does one hold on to a spoken word?
Well, first, you’ll want to listen carefully - even critically, make sure that it is truly the Word of God that is being preached. Then consider taking some notes, that way, later, when you gather with other believers you can consider what was taught so that you can be careful to walk in obedience to the word of God. If a sermon goes un-discussed, it’s probably a sermon that’s not being held on to - and those whom Christ has saved are those who stand firm and hold onto his word.
Paul also commands them to hold onto the letter he had written. This is almost certainly referencing the letter that we now know as 1 Thessalonians, and the church was commanded to cling to it.
The words of Christ’s appointed messengers, the apostles, were to be read, studied, and applied. This is because faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. From the very earliest days, the followers of Jesus were known as the people of the book. Could you be found guilty of that charge?
One of the most important things you can do is regularly read the Bible for yourself.
What an amazing blessing it is that we have Bibles that we can read personally, whenever we want. For most of church history (and still today in many places) Christians have not had their own personal copies of the Bible. They had to gather to hear someone read it to them.
But now, with printed Bibles and even electronic Bibles, we have priceless access to God’s very words to us. Words that we are so tragically tempted to take lightly.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
It is the whole Bible, says Sinclair Ferguson, which was given to make whole Christians.
Everything in Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, is for the good of the church. Paul told the church in Rome that,
“..whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Brothers and sisters, let’s confess our faithlessness and distraction, and ask for the resolve to be committed to reading God’s Word. To hold on, to stand firm in the truth.
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.