2 Thessalonians 3: 1 - 5
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). In the last few wars in the Middle East, we have seen the marvels of modern technology: laser-guided bombs, missiles that can hit a tank under a bridge and leave the bridge standing, bombs guided by satellites, goggles that enable you to see at night and planes that cannot be seen by radar. 50 years ago this was the stuff of science fiction. Now we sit at home and watch the war unfold in real-time on television.
As amazing as those things are, they only touch the physical realm. There is a weapon far greater than anything we have seen in the war. It is a weapon that is supernatural in power. It is the weapon of prayer. I hope to encourage you to pray when you are in trouble. “Lord, it’s easy to get into trouble but it’s hard to get out of trouble.”
Psalm 50:15 “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.” When we are in trouble, God wants us to cry out to him. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Our God delights to rescue his children when we are in desperate straits. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17). God invites us to turn to him when everything in the world has turned against us. When in trouble, pray! That may seem obvious, but sometimes we forget to pray. Sometimes we don’t know how to pray. 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 - 5 gives us 5 requests that are always appropriate when trouble comes our way. Here are 5 ways to pray when our backs are against the wall.
1. Effective Proclamation v. 1
He asks that people would pray for the proclamation of the gospel. Literally - “that the Lord’s message might run.” May the message of the gospel go quickly from city to city, from house to house, from one heart to another. His desire is for the gospel to have free course as it hurries into the hearts of hurting people. He also wants this message to be “honoured.” “Lord, let your Word be received with the honour that it deserves.” So we ought to pray, “Lord, let your Word run through Wilro Park. Let it run down CR Swart and Ouklip. Let it run through Helderkruin and Roodekrans. O Lord, turn your Word loose and let it run from Wilro Park to the ends of the earth!”
2. Speedy Deliverance v. 2
Some people will do anything to stop the good news of Jesus Christ, even to the point of violence. Think of it this way. Not everyone is happy that you are a Christian. Not everyone is glad that your life has changed. Not everyone applauds when you speak up for Jesus. Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea to “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” Some people want you to “sit down and shut up.”
The “wicked and evil men” were the opponents who chased Paul out of Thessalonica and hounded his steps in every city he entered so that he was hindered from preaching the gospel. Later they would succeed in having him thrown in jail in Rome. Paul cared little for his own safety or comfort but he was passionately concerned about the progress of the gospel. That’s what mattered to him.
These first 2 requests often go together. When we commit ourselves to be bold for Jesus, we are bound to face opposition. If you ever decide to become bold about your faith, someone is bound to object.
“A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16: 9). Open doors and adversaries generally go together. Don’t overlook the phrase in v. 2: “not everyone has faith.” This explains so much that happens to us. Not everyone loves Jesus. Not everyone believes in him. Not everyone wants you to speak up about your faith. Some people hate it when Christians talk about Jesus. And a small minority will go to almost any length to keep us silent. That’s why we pray for effective proclamation. That’s why we pray for deliverance for those who oppose our message.
3. Growing Confidence v. 3, 4
This request is very simple: Growing confidence in God that he will give you everything you need when you need it. Growing confidence in God’s people that the Lord will be faithful to them just as he has been faithful to you. It all goes back to your view of God. Nothing is more basic than the confidence that our God is sovereign over every detail of the universe. You will have what you need when you need it. Why? Because God is faithful. Pray for growing confidence so that when trouble comes, you will still believe that God is faithful even when the circumstances aren’t going your way.
4. Undiscouraged Love v. 5a
As I thought about the love of God, I wondered what adjective should go with it - undiminished love - undivided love - unhindered love - unconditional love. Finally, my mind settled on a word - pray for undiscouraged love. When trouble comes, it is so easy to become discouraged. It’s easy to become selfish and self-centred. If you are sick, it’s hard to think about anything else or anyone else. When you have a family crisis or a crisis at work, it’s natural to spend all your energy focused on the crisis and to spend little time or energy thinking of those around you. In moments like that, we can all become inward and extremely selfish so that all we want to do is talk about our own problems, our own issues, our own struggles. But what a blessing to have undiscouraged love that reaches out to others when it might be easier to crawl into a cave and have a pity party. God’s love never gives up, never gives in, never loses hope, never stops reaching out. In the time of trouble, pray that his love will fill your heart.
5. Cheerful Perseverance v. 5
Fascinating phrase: Christ’s perseverance. In what sense did Christ persevere? 1 Peter 2: 23 “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” But what about the “cheerful” part? Hebrews 12: 2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In case that isn’t clear -The Message -“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” I like that phrase: “He never lost sight of where he was headed.” He knew he was bringing salvation to the world and would soon be with his Father in heaven again. Therefore, he could put up with anything along the way.
To pray for cheerful perseverance means praying that you will never lose sight of the big picture, that you will always remember where you are going. If you have that perspective, you can endure anything.
Semper Fit! - Always Faithful.
That should be our motto as well: “Semper Fi,” “Always faithful to the Lord.” “Always faithful to our calling.” “Always faithful to our family.” “Always faithful to Jesus.” When you know where you are going, you can be “always faithful” to the very end.
Hugh Latimer was a Protestant preacher in England in the 1500s. When Queen Mary ("Bloody Mary") came to the throne, she attempted to return England to the Roman Catholic Church. Latimer protested and he was thrown into jail along with his friend Nicholas Ridley. Convicted of heresy, they were sentenced to be burned at the stake. The sentence was carried out on 16 October 1555. As they approached the stake, Ridley drew back in fear. Latimer comforted his friend with words that have echoed across the generations: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God’s grace shall never be put out.” So they did light a candle for God by their fiery ordeal. This is cheerful perseverance. Always Faithful.
In You and Through You
A. What happens to you is not as important as what happens in you.
We can’t do much about what happens to us. Sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Sometimes they just happen. Sometimes people turn against us for no reason at all. Occasionally evil people try to destroy us. In a fallen world, bad things happen to good people all the time. This passage reminds us that God is not nearly as concerned about what happens to us as he is with what happens in us. When hard times come …Will we be courageous? Will we trust in God? Will we reach out in love? Will we hold on cheerfully?
B. What happens to you is not as important as what happens through you.
Paul does not always pray that our troubles might cease, but he does pray for strength on the inside, growing love, increasing discernment, and a fruitful life that brings great glory to God. But in this passage he did pray for speedy deliverance from his adversaries. Why is that? Paul’s concern was not for himself. He was totally committed to sharing the gospel with as many people as possible. He didn’t care whether he lived or died, he only wanted to make sure that others heard about Jesus. Since they were opposing his gospel preaching, he asked God to put a stop to their opposition.
This brings us to a huge point: What happens through you has a powerful impact on those around you. The people of the world watch Christians to see how we will respond when hard times come. Unsaved people pay attention to our response to trouble. They want to know if what we believe makes any difference when hard times come.
Parents, your children watch to see how you handle the problems in your marriage. They watch to see how you handle financial difficulties and trouble with other people. Your children may not say a word but they watch and listen and learn from everything you do and say. You preach a sermon by the way you respond in a crisis.
Christian, your friends at work are watching you. Your students are watching you. Your colleagues are watching you. Your close friends are watching you. People you barely know are watching you. Your neighbours are watching you.
From the shadows of sin and the darkness of life without Christ, lost people are watching you. They form lasting judgments by the way you handle yourself when trouble pays a visit to your home. Will you give in to bitterness? Will you lose your temper? Will you become selfish, moody, withdrawn? Will you drift away from your faith altogether? Or will you respond with courage, hope, faith, love and God-inspired cheerfulness?
You preach a sermon by the way you respond in the time of trouble. Paul knew that and that’s why he asked others to pray for him and that’s why he prayed like this for others. I end where I began. Prayer is our greatest weapon, our most powerful resource. Use it and you can change the course of history. Use it and God will open blinded eyes that they might see the light of the gospel. Use it and God will raise the spiritually dead and give them new life in Christ. Use it and your children will grow strong in the Lord, your friends will find new courage, your church will gain new power, your pastor will be given new blessing, and you will grow in Christ.