Saturday, September 9, 2017

170910 Paul’s Prayer for the Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer was extremely important to the apostle Paul. He understood prayer to be essential to any kind of effective ministry. He was especially concerned for the Thessalonians because there was such extreme opposition to their ministry in the community. They had believed the gospel when Paul presented it and had stood their ground when they were attacked. We learn something about the way God acts in Paul’s prayer life.
Please take notice that Paul does not urge people to be strong in themselves. His prayer to God for them was that God would make them worthy of his calling. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we become a part of the family of God. As such we are to uphold the family honor, so to speak. I can remember during the years of my childhood hearing my mother say, a number of times, “You are a member of this family and you must act like it.” In her mind it was absolutely essential that we hold up family honor in the way we acted. We have a similar responsibility as members of the family of God. We need to act like we are Christians. Now I’m not talking about working to earn your salvation I’m talking about working because you have salvation.
To that end…
Paul prayed for those he had witnessed to. A similar theme is found in Colossians 1:9.  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Wherever Paul traveled he received reports on the churches that he had established. Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written about 10 years after the Thessalonian letters. It’s interesting that he used similar words in both cases. Having heard of their faith and love he made it a matter of disciplined importance that he pray for them. After all, the people in each of these churches are his spiritual children. He had led them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Paul who had taught them how to organize the ministry for effective service. It was Paul who taught them to go into the surrounding countryside and bear witness to Christ. It was Paul who understood what they knew and what their limits were.
He did not pray that they would have knowledge and wisdom and understanding. He prayed that they would have the knowledge of God’s will. He prayed that they would have all spiritual wisdom. He prayed that they would have God’s kind of understanding.
He wrote to the Ephesians and…
He prayed that God would make them worthy. Writing about the same time as the Colossian letter we find these words Ephesians 4:1-3. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Here, Paul is asking that they live a life that measured up to the high calling of God. His desire was that they would be humble and gentle, patient and loving. Not according to their own strength but according to God’s strength! There is a great need in the church today to recognize the responsibility to live our lives in such a way that God is honored. We cannot do that in our own strength.
When a person comes to faith in Christ, becomes a believer, the first response is often, “This is easy.” As time goes by the Christian life becomes more and more difficult. I won’t go through all the stages they are different for every person.
Finally we come to a place where we cry out to God something like this. “Father in heaven you have called me to an impossible task.” That is exactly where God wants us to be! Unable to live the Christian life in and of our own strength. God is not limited to our strength and ability. If he were so limited the church would have collapsed centuries ago. Throughout the word of God we see that God’s work is not done by human wisdom and strength. In the words of God to Zechariah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
We shall never be good enough in our ability. We need God to make us worthy of his calling. We need God to do his work in our life. We will never be worthy in our own strength.
To that end…
He prayed that God would fulfill their needs. Let’s look at Titus 3:14. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.
In writing to Titus Paul addresses much of the same issues that we have seen in the Thessalonian letters. We are to learn how to devote ourselves to good works. I believe that includes having a positive purpose in our good works. To the Thessalonians he asks that God will fulfill every intention of good work. To Titus he asks that they learn to devote themselves to good works. You see our needs are not entirely self-centered. Our needs are to equip us to the point of having resources sufficient to help others. Our resolve for good works should grow out of our relationship to the living Lord Jesus Christ.
It is God’s desire that we develop resources adequate to meet the needs of others in such a way that they come to faith in Christ. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he asks that God let his grace abound for them so they will have sufficient resources to do the good work he’s called them to. He supplies us with seed for sowing that will supply the needs of many (2 Corinthians 9:8). As Paul continued his prayer…
He prayed that God would strengthen their faith. Luke tells us that this was a continuing goal for the new churches. Let’s read Acts 16:5. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Paul and Silas had set out on Paul’s second missionary journey. Only a short period of time had passed since Paul had been preaching the gospel in these regions. Today, when we establish a new church we are able to be in contact with them in real time. Paul could only write a letter and hope it arrived. He could send a messenger and wait patiently for a reply. Or, to be certain, he would have to travel to each city and speak to the people face to face. During this time he had not written any letters to the churches. Soon he would see it as necessary to write letters since he could not quickly travel to see them. In order to strengthen their faith he could pray for them, he could travel to them, or he could write letters. Soon his letters would become his primary means of travel. We a grateful that he wrote those letters because they make up a large part of the New Testament.
One of the reasons he was making this trip was to tell the churches about the conference they had at Jerusalem. It was important that the Gentile believers throughout the Roman Empire understand that they were equal to the Jews. It was not necessary for them to become a Jew first and then a Christian.
One consequence of that message was a strengthening of their faith. The Gentiles would rejoice in the fact that there was equality in the church. Beyond the strengthening of their faith…
He prayed that they would reflect God’s power. Again we look at Ephesians for a continued example. Let’s read Ephesians 3:7. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
Paul’s ministry was not based on his education, ability to speak, or his rank in the church. It was God’s grace that allowed him to reflect the power of God. Remember, it was not Paul’s strength but God’s. Every work of faith is by the power of God. There is no other explanation for the fantastic spread of the gospel around the world that continues even today except that God chooses it to happen. So…
He prayed that Jesus’ name would be glorified in them. Let’s look at Jesus’ prayer. John 17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
A great need in the church today is for Christ be glorified! In this prayer Jesus speaks of all of those who are his. They are his because they are God’s. There’s always been, throughout history, a group of believers that God could point to. Remember the prophet Elijah! He had won a great victory over the pagan worshipers of Baal. He had prayed and ended three and half years of drought. And then he was told that the Queen was going to take his life. With those words he traveled into the wilderness apparently to escape the threat. He went a day’s journey into the wilderness and asked God to take his life. He didn’t need to go on this journey for that end to be met! Jezebel would have ended his life gladly. Instead of God ending his life he had an angel feed him and send him on his way to Horeb the mount of God.
There, he went into a cave and soon God spoke to him. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” To which he answered, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.… I only am left and they seek my life,” (1 kings 19:9-10). God then takes him through a series of encounters each of which he might’ve thought of as the voice of God. There was a strong wind, but God wasn’t in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake. There was a fire but God wasn’t in the fire. Then there was a low whisper and Elijah knew God was in that whisper. He went outside the cave where God spoke to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” These were familiar words. Again Elijah explained that he was the only one left and would soon be dead at the hands of the Queen. God did not dignify Elijah’s words with an answer. He simply gave him instructions as to what he next wanted him to do and then told him, “I will leave 7000 in Israel, all the knees that had not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Elijah was not alone and no matter how we feel we are not either.
Our prayer should be that Christ be glorified in us. And…
He prayed that they would be glorified in Christ. Let’s read Romans 8:16-17. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
John Piper coined a phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” This is the very reason that God called us to salvation. In everything God needs to get the glory because he deserves it. We are not to think of ourselves as better than we are. We are to rejoice in the Lord because he gives us all that we need to live a godly life. We need to pray for ourselves, and for each other, that we would be glorified with Christ.
Not only did Paul have a comprehensive prayer life he also called on his friends to pray for him. In closing his first letter he asked the people there to pray for him (1 Thessalonians 5:25). Specifically, he asked for prayer that the word of God would spread rapidly and be glorified in them (2 Thessalonians 3:1). One of the weaknesses of the modern church is a failure to invest adequately in prayer. Prayer should be a major part of the foundation of our ministry. We should so focus on prayer that people would be drawn to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Is he your Lord? Then you should talk to him regularly! If he is not your Lord you should ask him to receive you today!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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