Summary: Learn two secrets to remaining faithful in the midst of trials.
How do you remain strong and faithful in your faith walk when challenges raise their ugly heads? We have been involved in a series of studies from I John. Our study brings us to a place that has some vital lessons about remaining strong and faithful. Look at I John chapter 2 verse 18. This verse gives the essence of the problem. “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (NKJV) As we examine the surrounding context we find God’s strength for remaining strong and faithful. John wrote young believers who were living in the last days. He warned that false teachers were spreading false truth. He encouraged the young believers to remain faithful as they confronted the false teachers.
Before getting into the main point of the message I want to explain two phrases in this verse. The first phrase is “last days.” The New Testament writers believed that Jesus Christ was going to return in a short time. God has always wanted His people to live with a sense of urgency. That was true in the first century but it is also true today. It has been almost 2,000 years since Jesus ascended to Heaven. His second return to earth has not happened. Does that mean He has not kept His promise? Not at all! The Bible says 1,000 years is as a day with God.
The second phrase I want to address is the word “Anti-Christ.” In the Bible the word anti-Christ has two usages. In some places it refers to a spirit, attitude or teaching. In other places it refers to a person. That person is the evil ruler that will appear at the end of time to terrorize the earth. In I John 2:18 we find both usages.
Illustration: Remaining faithful to God requires determination and a spirit of perseverance. A meter reader in Oklahoma illustrates this principle. Overcoming locked gates, tall fences and dogs presents a challenge for us meter readers in rural Oklahoma, where we are required to read all meters: no estimates are allowed. One time a co-worker succeeded in getting past a particularly vicious watchdog tied to a chain that was long enough to give him sway over the entire back yard and driveway. Later, the man was questioned by his superior: "How were you able to get past that watchdog? The customer is curious."
"That’s easy, boss," the meter reader replied. "I parked on his chain." (The meter reader used ingenuity and showed a spirit of determination.
SOURCE: Jeff Strite, Church of Church, Logansport, IN. Citation: Reader’s Digest 12/86, p.5.
The message for you and I is thus: what do we do in order to remain strong and faithful as we face life’s challenges (such as false teachers)? John addresses this issue.
1. The first principle that will aid us is to walk as a child. John uses this phrase often. (2:1,12-1318,28; 3:1,2,7,10,18; 4:4; 5:21) When we think of remaining strong and faithful we (generally speaking) would not look to a child as an example. We tend to think of children in a developmental stage. John, using children, has an important spiritual truth to teach.
Illustration: Consider this example? Can you imagine what would happen if you were going financially bankrupt, and you went to one of your creditors and said, “Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to clear my debt, give me a brand new start, and then I want you to adopt me as one of your own children.”
After he recovered from the heart attack, he would make a phone call to the nearest mental hospital to have you taken away.
But God doesn’t do that. God says, “I know you are spiritually bankrupt. And so I will clear your debt, give you a new start, and I will adopt you as one of My own children.”
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Brian La Croix)
God brings us into His family as children. The Bible says “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:2 NKJV) We enter God’s family as children. We come by simple child like faith. However, we must also progress in child like faith.
Children are trusting and take things at face value. They are dependent on others to teach them. That is the point in John’s teaching. A child’s greatest strength is the adults in his life. Even so, a believer’s greatest strength comes from God. It is not intelligence! It is not education! It is not your church. So, in the midst of warning us about false teachers and anti-christs he warns us to depend on God.