Hanging in There

Ever need a good pep talk?  Clearly, Peyton Manning is probably not the place to start looking for one, but all of us need a good encouraging word now and anon.

This Sunday we’ll be looking at 2 Thes 2:13-16 (and in the Message), and I believe that’s what Paul is doing with his closing thoughts to the church in Thessalonica…giving them a pep talk.  Mind you, it’s a pep talk that’s pretty deep and rife with theological implications that have been studied and debated for 2,000 years…but a pep talk none the  less.  In a way, Paul is saying “look, I know that times are hard for you, and people keep predicting the end of the world for you…but hang in there.”  Then he gives them some reasons and ways to hang on.

In v13-14, Paul sets up the foundational encouragement for them.  What do you get as encouragement from these two verses?  Based on these verses, what can you remind yourself of when times are tough and you need something to hang on to?

V15 gives us a straightforward encouragement to do something in our “hanging on”.  What is it?  What do you think Paul is talking about, and how would we apply it to our day and age?

V16-17 tells us that God is the source of something to us?  What is it?  What should it result in concerning our state of mind and heart?

Ok…stuff to chew on.  We’ll talk about it more on Sunday.

7 responses to “Hanging in There”

  1. Rob, I’ve always struggled pretty heavily with depression, and frankly, it seems more and more lately it’s community at Eastgate that keeps me going.

    I’m young, and relatively new to this whole “faith” thing, so I definitely have a tendency to shy away from God when things get heavy.

    You always speak of grace, and of how there’s nothing I can do that will make God love me less, but I still have trouble buying it.

    This passage is encouraging for me, though. Verse 15 in The Message says “take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head held high.”

    For me lately, it’s been a struggle to even force myself to have my feet hit the floor in the morning. Paul is telling us to face hard times, knowing that God will provide “unending help and confidence.”

    Heartbreak, uncertainty, and confusion have defined me lately. I feel that I’ve been reliant on girls or friends or my career goals to determine my identity. I want to believe that my identity rests in God’s saving work in me, rather than any stupid temporal accomplishments of my own.

    It’s like I’m some little kid, trying to impress God with the things I’ve done or with how religious I can pretend to be.

    Verse 17 states that He “puts a new heart in us,” invigorating our work.
    With God, I should be able to find the courage to face the day.

    I feel that I’m lower than I’ve ever been in my relationship with God.

    I want to believe that I’ve received grace.
    I want to believe that He’s working in me.
    I want to stop trying to look impressive.
    I want to believe that He really is shaping me into the man he wants me to become.

    But I haven’t been hearing anything, and it feels that stuff is falling apart. (Kinda like how the dudes in Thessalonica felt)
    I was talking to Ford about it, and I guess it’s normal to go through periods where it just doesn’t seem like God is there, or in Thessalonica’s case – like he’s already come and gone.

    I guess it’d be a bit pretentious for me to assume that I possess some qualities that would enable me to hear God audibly more readily than anyone else.

    Thessalonica needed a pep talk. God provided through Paul. I guess I’m really not any different, other than a few thousand years seperating my birth and the birth of some guy named Joe in Thessalonica, who shares a lot of the same emotions, insecurities, and uncertainties that I do.

    I’m hopeful that God will speak to me through you on Sunday.

    I’m desperate for it.

  2. Joe, I can relate to what you are saying. I too have similar struggles. I don’t understand why we must suffer in this life but one thing I DO know is that I can trust Him, even when I don’t understand. I can see God holding out his arms to catch me when I fall and believe me, I fall constantly. But He helps me get up each time and tells me (just like He’s speaking to me through these verses and through you) that it will be alright. He is there.

  3. Joe…
    based on what you’ve written here, God is already speaking to you. Your perception of your situation is honest, and that you’re looking to God and His presence as a solution ushers you right into harmony with all of Scripture.

    That’s not just you being an ingenious young man.
    That is the work of the Holy Spirit within you, leading you into all truth, providing you a view from above which gives a better perspective.

    “I want to believe that I’ve received grace.
    I want to believe that He’s working in me.
    I want to stop trying to look impressive.
    I want to believe that He really is shaping me into the man he wants me to become.”

    With these words, you pretty much echo the whole of man’s cry throughout the Scriptures. You are not only “not alone” in facing struggles and uncertainties…you are walking in lock step with all the saints of history.

    Don’t let it throw you that you’re not hearing or seeing God the way you want to. We don’t usually hear Him very well…there’s a lot of interference where we live. Dietrich Bonhoffer said “A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”. He’s not a genie that pops out of a lamp when we say the magic words. He’s God, and He’s got a plan in motion to rescue us all, we just have to trust Him.

    Anyway…just because we don’t hear Him very well, doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear us. He hears us better than we hear ourselves…and knows exactly what we mean and want to say.

    In C.S. Lewis’ “A Horse and His Boy”, a young man named Shasta was on a journey to freedom…and in the course of his travels he faced a lot of dangers and uncertainties…but near the end of his trip, Aslan appears beside him, and lets him in on the secret that He had been there all along. Shasta simply hadn’t realized it was Him.

    You’re a young man Joe…troubles will come and go, that’s all part of the journey. That you have the clarity of perspective that you do at your age, puts you in a great position to face whatever life throws your way. God’s giving you eyes to see through the fog. He’s giving you ears that can hear, and if you listen closely…you may hear Aslan breathing next to you.

  4. Less than a week ago, a woman told me to look at Jeremiah 29. I was floored by “You will seek me and you’ll find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

    I’ve been praying that I’ll “hear something.” Anything, really. I like that bit about God not being a genie that we can compartmentalize and fit into a bottle. A god smaller than me is no God to me. So I began to think about new ways of listening.. these “ears that can hear”. Before, there was static. Today it was like God had a monopoly on all of the frequencies entering my ear canal.

    God wrecked me a few days ago. Tonight I can feel the rebuilding process, but it’s so much stronger than before.

    I’m beginning to believe in miracles. I know this message is already getting long – but this is on my heart and I need to share it with whomever shall stumble across it.

    The theme for Sunday’s message seems to be “Hang in there” and God is revealing that same idea to me through a series of small miracles that took place today:

    I’m taking classes to be a history teacher. These courses require observation hours at local schools. This morning my observation at Arnold High School fell through. I considered the day wasted, and headed back toward Eastgate, hoping to get a short nap in the parking lot. Ford Seeuws was having issues with his plans, too. We decided to talk for a bit in the parking lot, since neither of us had gotten into our bibles this morning. Sharing with someone else had begun to help me put it all into perspective. 

    From there, we went to brunch with a Brit Lit teacher from Arnold who just happened to have taken the day off. During our table conversation, this man, who claims to be an atheist, shared a story from a book he’s reading. He made a statement that really struck me: “Sometimes I think we just have to stick it out.”

    I received several phone calls and text messages from kids that I haven’t really shared my current struggles with. When I had an opportunity to help with Groms, I connected with the kids but wasn’t sure that it was reciprocal. These kids were calling me to tell me how much of a difference I’ve made in their lives. I don’t want to sound as though I’m developing my identity based on others’ opinions of me, but hearing that I’m appreciated completely changed my outlook. Several of them used the phrase “hang in there.”

    I hate chain letters and spam email. I use Gmail, which has a good spam filter, but somehow one made it through today. It was addressed to Joe and was from God. Yes, it sounds cheesy and ridiculous, but for some reason I can’t write it off as coincidental. The body read: “Joe, I just wanted to write and let you know that I’m in charge today. Give it up to me. I know you’re holding onto it. PS – Stop worrying. I’ll take care of this in my time. Not yours.”

    I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ vision about the guy with the lizard on his shoulder. It keeps defecating on him, and an angel is trying to get him to give it up, but he can’t because he thinks it’s such a big part of him. The angel eventually kills the lizard and the guy starts screaming. He had begun to define himself using this thing that was actually tearing him apart. It’s definitely not all that much unlike the stuff I refuse to give up.

    I watched a movie this evening about a dentist that is so self-absorbed that he missed out on having compassion for other people. At one point toward the end of the movie, he’s in one of those overpriced chairs, looking at those goofy motivational posters they always have on the ceiling before the gas knocks you out. They read “hang in there, baby” and “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living”.

    Two days ago I felt completely alone.
Tonight God is with me.
I don’t think it can be explained without recognizing that God is doing it.

    I pray that (if someone else actually reads this whole thing) God will remind us all that He is in control, and that we need to just “hang in there.”

    I called. He answered, as promised. 

    It’s a beautiful thing.

    Slowly but surely, I’m being healed, and I’m finding the courage to face the day.

  5. Dan and Patti C. Avatar
    Dan and Patti C.

    Many have been praying for you Joe, and it makes our hearts glad to hear how the Lord is meeting your need. Sometimes enduring a trial simply means to “hold on” and even though it has been a rough period for you, that is exactly what you did….held on! Keep it up.
    patti c

  6. Joe,

    I wish I had your faith and understanding when I was your age, through the years I have been in that position to many times and had nowhere to turn and I certainly did not trust God. I wish I could have met a, Joe who could have told me what you just said,but who would approach a cop ready to take the world on. Now that I have found God I try to let go and let God deal with it I can’t by myself I learned that the hard way. So if you ever need advise from an old fart but experienced give me a call or grab my collar.

  7. I really appreciate that, Lance.
    It means a ton to me to know that all of you are here for me, especially since my relationship with my own family is so strained.
    You’ve all been like parents to me from the time I first stepped inside Eastgate, and I can’t begin to express my gratefulness.

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