Summary: Four reasons we can be confident that God will complete His work in our lives.
Almost ten years ago I commuting to school when I was in a terrible auto accident. My car was totaled, my hand was broken, and had I not been wearing my seatbelt I probably would’ve died. In fact, the impact from the collision cracked my sternum right where the seatbelt goes across my chest. After that experience, it was difficult for me to get back behind the wheel of a car for several weeks. Whenever I started to drive my palms started getting sweaty, my heart rate started increasing, and anxiety filled my heart. Every time I went through an intersection I inwardly braced myself for impact. Fortunately that only lasted a few weeks, but it was amazing how one moment could crush my confidence as a driver.
We hear a lot these days about self-confidence. Self-confidence, we’re told, is the key to succeeding in the world. We mouth cliches like, "If it’s going to me, it’s up to me." We place success squarely on our own shoulders, relying our own attitude, our own ingenuity, our own efforts. If we just believe in ourselves, we’re told, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.
There’s of course a kernel of truth in that approach to life, but no one can sustain constant self confidence. But even the president of the optimist’s club has days where she feels like the cup’s half empty. Even the most confident person has feelings of inferiority. So if our success in life is completely dependent on our own self-confidence, then we’re in for a roller coaster of a ride because our confidence rises and falls more than the New York stock exchange.
And of course we get into even more trouble when we apply this principle of self-confidence to our spiritual lives. If everything depends on us in the spiritual life--our obedience, our efforts, our performance, our spirituality--then our relationship with God is also going to be a roller coaster of a ride. If my basis of confidence in the spiritual life is myself, that’s a pretty unsure foundation to base my confidence on.
We’re in the midst of a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians called LIVING CONFIDENTLY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES. In this series we’ve been preparing to usher in the year 2000 by looking at what the Bible says about confident living. Last Sunday we talked about how to be confident in the face of rumors about the end of the age. Today we’re going to talk about where our confidence in the spiritual life ultimately rests.
How can we be sure that God will finish what he has started in our lives? That’s the question we want to grapple with today: The basis of our certainty, the foundation of our assurance. Is my assurance rooted in my own efforts, or is there a greater foundation for assurance that God will finish what he’s started in my life? Today we’re going to see that for the follower of Jesus Christ, God is our sure and sturdy basis for confidence, even in the midst of uncertain times. Specifically we’re going to see four reasons why we can be sure God will finish what he’s started in our lives.
1. Our Salvation Depends on God (2 Thess 2:13-14)
After warning the Thessalonians not to worry about rumors about the end of the age, Paul once again expresses his gratitude for what God is doing in their lives in vv. 13-14. Here Paul reiterates what he said back in chapter one, that Paul and his co-workers Silas and Timothy are obligated to thank God for the Thessalonians (1:3). Here, however, Paul’s gratitude focuses in on God’s choice of the Thessalonian Christians for their salvation. From the very beginning, before the Thessalonians came to Christ, God had chosen the Thessalonians to be the objects of his love. This is the same thing Jesus was talking about when he said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you…" (John 15:16). This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 1:11, when he says, "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."
The Bible clearly teaches that every person who comes into a relationship with God through Jesus was first chosen or elected by God. This is called the doctrine of election, and Christian theologians love to debate how God does this. But Paul doesn’t tell us how here; he merely asserts that God’s election is a fact.
But Paul does tell how this election in eternity translates into our salvation from sin (Bruce 190). Salvation comes through the sanctification of God’s Spirit; that is, through the supernatural influence of God’s Spirit to bring us into a saving relationship with God through Jesus. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…" (John 6:44). God initiates our spiritual quest through the mysterious and supernatural agency of his Holy Spirit.If you’re here today as a seeker, investigating the Christian faith, that’s because God’s Spirit is drawing you. But along with God’s initiative, we must exercise belief in the truth about Jesus. God won’t believe for us, but it’s up to us to place our trust in God’s Son as the solution for our sins. We can’t do this unless God’s Spirit helps us, supplying us with the capacity to believe in Jesus, but God’s Spirit won’t have faith for us. New Testament scholar James Frame says, "Faith is man’s part; but behind the will to believe is the…work of the Spirit of God" (282).God invites us to have faith in Jesus when we hear the gospel message about Jesus. The gospel is the claim that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave on Easter Sunday, and that through faith in him we can enter into a personal relationship with God. We hear God’s invitation--his calling--when we hear the gospel.