2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 – Prayer Requested: Prayer Offered

2 Thessalonians 3v1-5

Prayer Requested: Prayer Offered.

Introduction.

Paul has spent a large part of his letter so far talking about the future coming of Christ. He has talked about the Last Day, the antics of the Devil and the revealing of the ‘man of lawlessness’. He has explained that the ‘secret power of lawlessness’ is always at work in the world – that is, all that is anti-god – directly or indirectly.

As Christians we live in a world in which the powers of evil are at work while at the same time these evil powers are also being held back from complete anarchy. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (NIV)

Also we are, as Christians, living in two realms. Jesus came to give new live – eternal life / life of the Age [to Come]. However that eternal life starts now in this world. So we are citizens of this present world with all its imperfections and opposition to God and we are citizens of the kingdom of Heaven. This is, of course, the source of much tension for Christians as we seek to live by God’s criteria in a world that largely ignores God and his Word.

In this final section of his letter Paul gives direction to the Thessalonian Christians. His prayer is that the Word of God will be honoured both in the world and in the Church.

It is God’s desire, indeed it is his purpose, that his church should grow. In fact Jesus promised it would, Matthew 16:18 18 … I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (NIV)

God wants his Church to grow in numbers as the gospel spreads to all the nations of the world. He also wants the Church to grow in obedience and spiritual maturity.

Paul’s prayer request for himself and his fellow-workers and his prayer for the Thessalonians is for both of these dimensions.

The Church must spread the Word to the World.

The Church must herself obey the Word.

  1. 1.     Prayer for the Gospel.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. (NIV)

pray for us – is in the present imperative tense meaning that what Paul is asking is that they pray form him AND keep on praying for him.

Do you ever ask others to pray for you?

Here is the great Apostle Paul – a man of strong faith and exceptional ability and yet he has the humility and the wisdom to ask these Thessalonian Christians to prayer for him and his fellow workers. They were young in the faith while Paul was a veteran. What an encouragement it must have been to these young believers that they could be part of Paul’s ministry.

When you and I ask for prayer what is it that we ask for? Is it for things for ourselves usually? I guess it often is!

In this 1st request Paul asks for two things.

Ä For the Advancement of the Gospel.

Ä For the Acceptance of the Gospel.

1.1.         The Advancement of the Gospel.

Literally what Paul ask is “that the message {logos} of the Lord may run its race”.

Paul uses the imagery of an Olympic event – maybe he had attended some of the Greek Games at sometime – certainly the imagery was familiar to his readers.

It was also used in the OT – Psalm 147:15  He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. (NIV)

Paul’s concern and desire is that the Gospel will be like a champion runner – running well, running fast, and that wherever it goes it may it may be honoured – have a glorious reception.

1.2.         The Acceptance of the Gospel.

Paul has seen the Thessalonians and others embrace the Christian Faith and he longs that many more will do so.

We know that Paul had a great vision to reach the Roman Empire for Christ. One can’t read the letter to the Romans without being left with the clear impression of his passion to preach Christ even as far as Spain.

His request is that these Thessalonians Christians will share his burden that the good news of Jesus Christ will run in every direction and be accepted wherever it goes.

Is that our passion? It this the subject of our prayers? Is our over-riding concern for the gospel of Jesus Christ?

What we think about. Read about. Pray about. Give our time and money to reflects our priorities and passions. Is it for self-advancement and self-comfort or is it for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Missionary activity and concern for missionary activity is not the responsibility of a select few. It should be the concern of every Christian – the advancement and Acceptance of the Gospel. A Church that has lost its vision for mission has lost its heart for God. A Christian who has no concern for the salvation of others is not in tune with God’s purposes.

In fact as someone has said “The height of selfishness is a Christian who is content to go to heaven alone!”

  1. 2.     Prayer for Promoters of the Gospel.

2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (NIV)

Paul’s 2nd request for prayer is for protection. This is for himself and his fellow missionaries.

Now while it is true that some are specially gifted as missionaries and evangelists as Paul was, it is also true that we are all called to participate in the advancement of the gospel. This will mean different things for different people. For many of you most of your life in spent at work and it is likely therefore that that is where your opportunities to demonstrate and talk about your faith will come.

2.2. Protection from evil faithless forces.

However, we must be under no illusion that the advancement of the Gospel will take place unhindered. The forces opposed to God ensure that the task is not a simple Sunday afternoon stroll but a strenuous, all-consuming cross-country marathon with numerous obstacles.

We have seen in this letter the Satan is the one behind all that opposes God.

Not everyone is going to accept the message of the gospel. In fact it seems that most will be indifferent and some will actively oppose it and make life as difficult as possible for those who seek to promote the gospel.

ILLUS.: Recently two Christian ladies were standing outside the Millennium Dome offering Christian literature to visitors. The were reported to management and In spite of the ladies pointing out that the millennium is only happening because of Jesus Christ they were told to stop because “This project is multi-faith!”

People have faith in many things but Paul is talking about faith in God through Jesus Christ alone! And without such faith people remain faithless in relation to God and the gospel.

When it comes to being a witness and a promoter of the gospel we must confess that it is not easy. We often feel vulnerable, timid and sometimes threatened.

BUT… here is another of scriptures ‘buts’.

2.2. Protection by good faithful God.

There is a play of words here. Those who oppose may be faithless BUT God is faithful.

The faithlessness of humans can never overturn or undermine the faithfulness of God to his people and to his word [logos – v.1 message].

God has spoken and decreed that the gospel will succeed. God’s message of salvation will be received by those who respond to God’s word. God is faithful to His word.

Jeremiah 1:12     12 The LORD said to me, “…. I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” (NIV)

Isaiah 55:11         11 .. my word .. goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (NIV)

There may be opposition and that is why Paul urges the Thessalonians and us to engage n earnest prayer – spiritual battle.

God is not only faithful to his word but also to his people. We fail the Lord and we fail each other and we fail ourselves BUT God remains faithful – faithful to strengthen his people and to protect them. Protect us in the sense that we will have a cosy comfortable life? NO! Rather as in the Lord’s prayer so her to protect us from the Evil One. Satan seeks to snatch us away from God, to destroy us with himself BUT God is faithful and will not allow that to happen to his people.

The church with all her weaknesses and shortcomings will succeed – The gospel message carried by weak and feeble messengers will triumph because God is faithful and does not fail.

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (NIV)

Revelation 7:9  After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. …. (NIV)

 

The Message of the Lord must be proclaimed / preached / taught/ talked about / gossiped/… by all means.

To be effective it must be received by the hearer.

And because the Evil One is being obstructive we need to pray that unseen spiritual forces will not stop the free-flow of the gospel.

  1. 3.     Prayer for Believers to live the Gospel.

2 Thessalonians 3:4-5 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (NIV)

Having requested the Thessalonians to pray for him Paul now offers a prayer for them.

Ä He expresses his confidence in God’s enabling.

Ä He desires that their commitment will be to be Godly.

3.1.         Confidence in God’s enabling.

Note that Paul does NOT say “We have confidence in YOU and in your ability to do …”

If our ability and willingness to obey God depended on us we would be very insecure in our faith. BUT Paul’s confidence is in the Lord’s ability to keep and strengthen and enable his people to obey his commands.

Paul’s confidence is well-founded – God perfects what he has begun –

Philippians 1:6 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

How is it that we experience this spiritual strengthening and protection? “By continuing to do the thing we have been commanded”.

Often we wonder why we are not experiencing the blessing of God. Why God isn’t teaching us wonderful new things.  May it be that we fail to obey what we already do know?

3.2.         Commitment to be like God.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. [patience] (NIV)

Does he mean OUR love for God and OUR patient waiting for the coming of Christ? Or does he mean God’s love for us and Christ’s patience with us?

I believe it is neither of these and yet a combination of them.  That our love will grow and become more and more like God’s love so that we begin to love unconditionally. That we will develop patience and perseverance and constancy, even in the face of opposition just like Christ.

In short, that in all things we will grow up into Christ and be like him.

Conclusion.

This then is what Paul requested prayer for and what he prayed for in others. Does this reflect the way we pray?

When we pray do we pray expectantly or is it just words?

Sometimes we learn most not from learned adults but from the childlike trust of the young.

ILLUS.: The red umbrella – retold by Tania Gray.

As the drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of midwest farmers were in a quandary as to what to do. The  rain was important not only to keep the crops healthy, but to sustain the townspeople’s very way of life. As the problem became more urgent, the local church felt it was time to get involved and planned a prayer meeting in order to ask for rain.

In what seemed a vague resemblance of an old Native American ritual, the people began to show up. The Pastor soon arrived and watched as the congregation continued to file in. He slowly circulated from group to group as he made his way to the front in order to officially begin the meeting. Everyone he encountered was chatting across the aisles, enjoying the chance to socialise with close friends. As the pastor finally secured his place in front of the congregation, his thoughts were on the importance of quietening the crowd and starting the meeting.

Just as he began asking for quiet, he noticed an 11 year-old girl sitting in the front row. She was angelically beaming with excitement and laying next to her was her bright red umbrella, poised for use. The beauty and innocence of this sight made the Pastor smile to himself as he realised the faith this young girl possessed that the rest of the people in the room seemed to have forgotten. For the rest had come to pray for rain …. she had come to see God answer.

Do we pray with an understanding of what is on the heart of God? And do we pray with childlike faith expecting God to answer?

God calls us to pray but not selfish for what I want but rather “May YOUR will be on earth as it is in Heaven”

 

Prayer Requested: Prayer Offered.

 

2 Thessalonians 3v1-5

 

1.  Prayer for the Gospel.

 

– The Advancement of the Gospel.

 

– The Acceptance of the Gospel.

 

  1. 2.       Prayer for Promoters of the Gospel.

 

– Protection from evil faithless forces.

 

– Protection by good faithful God

… of His Word

… of His People

 

  1. 3.       Prayer for Believers to live the Gospel.

 

– Confidence in God’s enabling.

 

– Commitment to be like God.

 

 

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