Remaining Steadfast in an Ever Changing World

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Remaining Steadfast in an Ever Changing World

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday, 4th July 2021

Good morning Everyone.

Right now, Australia is wrestling with new outbreaks of Covid19 in a number of States.  

Although from where I am standing, we are not in official lockdown like other places, restrictions such as wearing masks indoors, no singing allowed, stringent 4 square metre rules, have made it impractical to meet together as a church in a meaningful way. 

So once again – I’m standing in an empty auditorium.  

Hopefully this will be a very temporary situation.  But it certainly brings back the memories of last year, with month after month of doing online church.

And as much as I’m grateful that Covid19 is not rampant here as in other nations, and we have technology to connect in some limited way, I think all of us need to be on guard that we don’t allow the waves of discouragement, uncertainty and hopelessness to wash us off course.

Last week as I spoke about “Hope”, I quoted the scripture from Hebrews 6:19.

In The Passion Translation it says:

“We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself…”

And I have this picture of our own lives being like boats on the ocean – being tossed around a bit by the waves of life – the storms that sometimes come out of nowhere – the trials we face – the emotional struggles that can also try to wash us off into another place.

But as the scripture says – we have a confident hope that is an unbreakable anchor to our soul – to our life – that holds us firm and secure.

And so I want to continue on this morning in this same kind of theme of being anchored – because our world is in turmoil!  I’m not even sure that the world has an anchor. 

There’s so much talk of sickness and death – the news is full of stories about the number of people infected, the places in lockdown, the call for people to be vaccinated – but at the same time there’s confusion about certain vaccines and their suitability for certain groups…

And in the midst of that, we are more isolated again.  Even wearing a mask in public I find extremely isolating and it’s a huge barrier in connecting with people.

At a conference we attended recently, one of the most well known mega church pastors in the United States shared his personal struggle throughout last year, saying that there were times when he seriously thought about walking away…. 

The effects of the pandemic had a serious influence on his well being, and his ministry life. 

But he said he grabbed hold again of the Word of God and fought his way out of a place of despondency and his call to serve God, and a recommitment in his heart to be obedient to that call has lifted him up again to face the waves and the storms with a renewed steadfastness and confidence.

We all know what it’s like to be tossed around.  

I’ve had seasons in ministry where I’ve been overwhelmed with wave after wave of funerals.  I’ve shared with you previously about some of those more traumatic losses some people have experienced.  Children, suicides, car accidents…. 

What a terrible shock, sadness and grief for those families to have to face – but some of it rubs off when you walk closely in those times with families.

It caused me to waver…. But now I look back and see what a privilege it was to share a small but intimate part of these people’s journey.  

When my wife nearly died from a blood clot – unable to breathe – surviving on a ventilator – it was like a massive storm that rose up unexpectedly.  

Raising three daughters has been the greatest joy of my life – but has involved a few moments of rough weather in those teenage years.

I give thanks every day that a strong and steadfast anchor has held me in place.  

I have known a security and a peace in the midst of every storm and every battle.  It has always been because of the steadfastness and faithfulness of God.

And this is what I want to you to take hold of for your own life as well, if you haven’t already.  

I know many of you do know exactly what I’m talking about, and could share your own stories of how God has held you firm throughout the trials of life.

I believe this is a season of sifting.  Jesus talked about this with His disciples.  

There are seasons throughout everyone’s life where we are tested – where we go through times and experiences that sort us out – one way or another.

The Message Bible says it really well.

Luke 22:31-32

The Message

This is Jesus speaking:

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. (That’s called sifting) 

Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”

Of course Jesus knew exactly what was ahead for Simon Peter.  He found himself sifted alright.  His denial of Jesus was just about the finish of him.

But Peter came through that storm a different person.  He definitely had a fresh start – and it was a lesson in how to extend grace to others.

And I feel that speaks to us right now.  It speaks to us personally.

But it also speaks to the church of Jesus Christ as a whole.

The church is definitely being sifted.  I mean the whole church.

The vulnerable parts of the wider body are struggling to even survive.

But there are other parts that are actually finding renewed strength – and a fresh start – renewed vision for the future.

If I had to say what I think the most important thing is that anchors the church in the plans and purposes of God – I would say it is its grounding in the pure, powerful, active and alive Word of God.

You see, our steadfastness is never in ourselves.  

Paul says:

Colossians 1:23

The Passion Translation

“if indeed you continue to advance in faith, assured of a firm foundation to grow upon. Never be shaken from the hope of the gospel you have believed in. And this is the glorious news I preach all over the world.”

We will never be properly anchored in the truth if we don’t know the truth.  And if we don’t know the Word for ourselves, we may be vulnerable to be swayed to believe a lie – to be deceived.

Deception is one of the devil’s main strategies.  

But we are to be discerners of what is true and what is error.  We have access to the spiritual gift of discernment.  

Discernment of spirits – discernment of doctrine – discernment of deceitful schemes.

But to have discernment we need to know what is right and true.

I’ve been in church meetings when things have been said that are just plain wrong – but other people seem to be cheering the speaker on.   

I remember one particular occasion feeling like – am I the only one here that is struggling with this?  

I’m not making out I’m better than anyone else, but sometimes you just have to take a stand for what you believe is right.

On this occasion an apology came from the platform some time later.  But what about all those people who just blindly accepted the preacher’s message? 

Ephesians 4:14

New King James Version

“that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,”

I’ve seen some winds of false doctrine blowing around in the past, as I’m sure you have.  And people do get tossed around by it.  They are tossed to and fro trying to work it out.

Paul said to Timothy – as a mentor, but also as a father in the faith:

2 Timothy 2:15

New King James Version

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

We can only rightly divide the word of truth if we have it in our heart.

So my point is – people can personally be tossed around by false doctrine and deception – but so can churches.  So can denominations.

And when we try to appease a worldly culture – or try and make everyone our friend, at the expense of truth – at the expense of the Word of God – I think this is exactly what Paul and others are talking about.  

In a way – the church is being sifted not only by the effects of government and health restrictions throughout the pandemic, it is also being sifted by our self absorbed worldly culture that we all live in.

If we uphold the Word without compromise, God will be faithful to fulfil all that it says.

Hebrews 10:23

New King James Version

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Hold fast your confession of faith.  In other words, remain steadfast, stand firm, be confident!

While we do that – and don’t try to manipulate the Word to fit our own desires and comfort, our God will be faithful.

Jesus Christ is our Rock!

He is the expression of God’s faithfulness to us.  Our faith is our life!

I’m using a lot of scripture this morning because I can’t do any better than what the Word says.

Hebrews 3:14

New King James Version

“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,”

Hebrews 10:35

New King James Version

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”

Church – this is not a time to be casting away our confidence.  Don’t give up!  Don’t waver!  

Don’t let go of the anchor of hope that secures you to God Himself.

I want to encourage you – that this is a season for being steadfast – for confidently standing.  For seeing the reward of our faith and faithfulness come to pass.

I’ve mentioned Paul and Timothy already.  Paul was an incredible encourager.  But he was more than that.  He was an apostle – a father in the faith.  

He was someone who spoke strength and encouragement to young Timothy who by the sounds of it was experiencing some uncertainty, some fear, some discouragement…

And we can draw a lot from Paul’s letters to Timothy.  

I want to just look at a snippet of Paul’s second letter, because Paul is an example of how we can encourage one another to remain steadfast – to become our best selves – to not be tossed about by outside influences.

He starts off by saying:

2 Timothy 1:3-7

New King James Version

“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears…”

Let’s pause right there.

Already Paul is saying – I care about you.  I’m really grateful to have you in my life.  I’m praying for you.  Night and day I’m praying, lifting you up to God.  I can’t wait to see you.  But then he says, I’m mindful of your tears.

In other words, I get it.  I understand what you’re going through.  And Paul would.  He’s been through much worse persecution and difficulties himself.

It’s not so hard to build one another up and to strengthen one another.  

But I love what Paul goes on to say:

“that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

Paul is saying – I can clearly see a generational blessing and gift of faith throughout your generations.  You have the gift of faith Timothy.  And it’s a powerful blessing over your family and your life.

It’s like Paul is prophesying over Timothy what he already knows to be true.

He’s imparting faith.  And he goes on then to impart courage!

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Paul is now turning the focus on to God as the faithful One – the steadfast One!

Timothy – you have the gift of God.  I laid hands on you myself.

He hasn’t given you a spirit of fear…

That’s another of the enemies strategies to get us to waver and to step back and give up.  Fear!

But Paul says, God has given you a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind!

Again – a prophetic declaration of the truth!

The Passion Translation says:  “fan into a flame and rekindle the fire…”

We need the fire of God – to be ignited with a Holy Spirit flame – because in and of ourselves, we are weak and vulnerable.  

But with God – we are made perfect in His strength.

And we can call that fire forth in other’s lives as well.

This is all about building courage in one another.  With the courage comes an authority – especially when the fire of God is burning in our hearts.

This is God’s encouragement for us – but it’s also our encouragement to pass on to one another.

Isaiah 33:6

The Passion Translation

“He will be your constant source of stability in changing times,”

That is the truth.  God is our constant source of stability.

Times are changing.  They are changing faster than they ever have.  But He never changes in who He is.

Verse 6 goes on…

    “and out of his abundant love he gives you

    the riches of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.

    Yes, the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure!”

There’s only one fear we should have.  The fear of the Lord!

That place of standing in absolute awe and wonder – knowing that He holds the key to life – He is from beginning and the end – He alone deserves the glory – and His ways are always just.

Just as I close, remember that steadfastness is not something that is established through comfort.  

It is established through the difficult times – the uncertain times – the times of trial.

And I think we can all envisage that the challenges for us as Christians will only be heightened in these last days.  

Persecution is already increasing around the world.  

Many in our society today with very different views and opinions about our identity – morality – even basic realities of gender – are becoming more and more intolerant of our faith in what God says about who we are.

But fear of where the world is headed is not ours to take on.

In fact, if we persevere in faith and remain steadfast in the truth, God will be faithful to His promises.

Revelation 3:10

New King James Version

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

God will keep you…. He will hold you…. You can stand with steadfast confidence in the midst of the crashing waves – because of one reason.  You are anchored!

Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Our answers don’t come from the opinions of men or from the changing cultural influences around us.  Our hope doesn’t come from the world we live in – which will one day pass away.

We stand firm – steadfast – on the Word of God.  

Holy Spirit, help us to build the Word into our life so that when trials come, or when false doctrine rises up before us – we will be able to spiritually discern truth from error.

We look to you Jesus – the One who is faithful.  You are our Rock – our fortress – our strong and mighty tower.

We are anchored to our hope in you Jesus. We are steadfast in the gospel.

As we go through times of sifting – times of trials – we pray for Your strength to be made perfect in our weakness. 

We pray that when fear tries to come around us – that we would hear the words of Paul – that You did not give us a spirit of fear – but of power, love and a sound mind.

Holy Spirit, fan the flame within us.  Rekindle the fire.  And help us to impart courage and faith and to fan the flame within one another.

You are our constant source of stability in the changing world around us.

Thankyou Father for Your faithfulness towards us.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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