So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV)
The second definition of stubborn on dictionary.com is “fixed or set in purpose or opinion; resolute:”. When we describe someone as stubborn we are generally implying something negative. Generally, I want someone to change and when they refuse I label them as stubborn. The principle that Paul is talking about here is one of the paradoxes of the gospel.
The way to continually grow and change is to stay put. In some ways we are to be like trees, firmly rooted and continually growing. Unlike other living things trees cannot move away from the circumstances that surround them. For the trees in the picture above the threat came from fire. Obviously, the trees couldn’t move. They were rooted in place and had no choice but to stand. For months the trees looked like dead sticks, but now new growth is popping out. I have no idea how long it will take them to recover, but I’m grateful for the homeowner’s decision to let them live. These trees are a reminder that recovery is possible even after what appeared to be complete devastation.
We’re not trees. We can change our physical situation and our ideas. We are easily persuaded to change our environment or ideas if change will make us more comfortable. The threat that Paul sees coming is not physical. Yes, there will be persecution and hardship, but those are not his primary concern. His concern is that the Thessalonian believers will be distracted, drawn away, and possibly deceived by messages that appear to be more attractive than the gospel. It would be hard to imagine a more relevant warning for the church today. Somehow the American dream became the Christian dream and the pursuit of happiness became the goal of discipleship.
How should we respond? Improving our ability to do church is not the answer. In Paul’s day that was the approach many Jewish converts wanted to revert to. It was what they were comfortable with. They were very stubborn in their unwillingness to let go of the former teaching they had received and never grabbed hold of the good news that Paul proclaimed. This stubbornness was an issue that Paul dealt with throughout his ministry. Doing nothing is not the answer either. Paul has just told us earlier in this chapter that what we desire and pursue matters. Letting go of truth for any reason leads us away from God. Paul challenges us to stand on the love of God and hold fast to the truth of His Word. We are saved by grace and out of our lives of gratitude should flow good words and actions.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)
For my grandchildren:
Never let anyone change your mind about the love of God in Jesus.