Waiting for Christ's return. 3:6-13
Our passage for study deals with Paul's response to Timothy's report concerning the welfare of the Christian congregation in Thessalonica . Paul is overjoyed at hearing how well the church is going, v6-10, and takes a moment to pray for the members of the congregation, v11-13.
v6. At this point in his letter, Paul begins a new section. He speaks of the arrival of Timothy and of Timothy's positive news concerning the Thessalonian church. Paul makes three points: i] the church members continue in faith; ii] they continue in love one toward another; iii] they continue to hold a positive view toward Paul.
v7-8. Paul goes on to express how he is uplifted by this good news. In the midst of his troubles, this positive news gives him renewed strength.
v9. Paul rejoices at what has happened, but it is a joy which is focused on God. The Lord has done his work and Paul is driven to respond with thanksgiving.
v10. This joy prompts Paul to pray for the church. "Night and day" he does this; he continually prays for them, constantly bringing them before the Lord. He asks that he might again see them to "supply what is lacking in (their) faith." He desires to exercise a continuing ministry with them, remedying any defects that may still exist in their Christian life.
v11. First, Paul prays that God will "clear the way" for him to come and minister to the Thessalonians. Paul is asking God to clear away any obstacles that may frustrate the exercise of his ministry toward this new church.
v12. He goes on to pray that they may love one another. This is the great command of Christ to his disciples and as such is clearly a prayer according to the will of God. Paul prays that their compassion for each other will increase, and not just for each other, but for the wider Christian fellowship.
v13. In concluding his prayer, Paul prays that the Thessalonians will stand firm in their Christian lives right up to the coming of Jesus. Again, this is a prayer according to the will of God. It is similar to the Lord's Prayer where we ask that we not be put to the test such that we are overcome by the Evil One. Paul asks that they remain faithful in Christ until the last day.
A Three Point Prayer
I remember as a young child I got into trouble from my mother. My punishment was to have no bonfire night and no firecrackers. I was heartbroken. So what I did was to turn on the radio and listen to a church service on Sunday morning; and did I pray! Yes! my mother relented. So did God make her relent, or did she give in because she saw I was heartbroken? Thankfully, my mother was a softie.
It's not that God doesn't care for a little bloke and his firecrackers, it's just that God has never promised to overrule parental discipline, nor overrule all the other nasties we face in life. The trick with prayer is to extract from the scriptures those things God has promised to give us when we ask. In our passage for study, the apostle Paul gives us three prayer points. Although he prays these things for the Thessalonian church, they are based on promises that apply to all of us.
1. May gospel ministry be furthered in our church
When we pray that Word-centered ministry be effective in our church for the building up of God's people and reaching out to the lost, we are praying according to the will of God. If we don't pray the prayer nothing much will happen, but if we do pray for effective ministry in our church then we will see the Spirit work to affect that ministry. Consider how preaching is often criticized by church members, yet have those who criticize the preached word prayed for a ministry of proclamation? In the end, the effectiveness of a preached word rests, to a great extent, on those who hear it. God speaks to those who want to hear, yes, even through a badly presented sermon. For those who have grown dull of hearing, the word will be foolish and boring.
2. May we grow in love
It's quite clear that Christian love is something that cannot be worked up, performed, practiced....... How can there be love in our church? We can talk about it all day long and never achieve it - sin sees to that. Past and present hurts, personality differences, race, social status..... all separate us. Yet, Christ's character of love is freely available, and when accessed, changes us from within. True love, the very loving nature of God, is a gift of God, a gift given on request.
3. May we persevere
Can we be assured of standing firm to the last day, or is there a possibility that we might lose our salvation? Left to our own devices we have no hope. Yet, all we need to do is look to Jesus, and no failing, weakness, or whatever, will cast us from him. If our trust is in Jesus, we are secure. In the last day we will stand blameless and holy before our God. We need only ask and we will stand. This is not to say that we can't walk away from Jesus, just that he won't walk away from us, not matter how deep the stain of our sins.
1. In what way does prayer affect the preached word?
2. By what means does prayer reinforce love?
3. How can we lose our salvation?
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