Pray For the Success of the Word

February 4, 2024 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Second Thessalonians

Topic: Prayer Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5

We are back in Thessalonians today. Paul is near the end of his 2nd letter to these believes. And he said, “Finally, brothers, pray for us!” PRAY that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be honored.” 

Paul’s concern was NOT mainly for HIS comfort, his prosperity, his popularity, BUT for the success of the word of the Lord. His one goal, at any cost to himself, was to get this message out.  He said, “I consider my life of no value to me, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus—the ministry of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  

We all have lots of things we care about, our kids, our work, our homes, our everyday responsibilities. But far above these things, we must care about the word of the Lord! That it would speed ahead and be held high! We CAN’T let our lives shrink down to the worries and cares of every day life.  Jesus said it’s the cares of this life that choke the word and make it unfruitful!  Paul said it’s the affairs of everyday life that keep people from being a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  This word of the Lord, it’s success and fruitfulness in people’s lives needs to become our passion and priority!  

So Paul urges the Thessalonians to pray for him, that the Lord's message might go out with speed and success. We aren’t Paul! God doesn’t expect you to be! But you CAN pray for those called to be on the front lines of preaching the word. You can pray that the word of the Lord would be spoken boldly and clearly and that people would respond and be transformed.

He asks them to pray because he believed prayer made a difference in whether that happened or not. His confidence was not in human plans, programs or in his own personality, but in the Lord working through the prayers of his people. 

He asks them to pray that the word may speed ahead, literally “to run”.  He wants as many as possible, as quickly as possible to hear the word of the Lord.  Sabrina posted a video on Instagram last year that blew up to over 6 million views. That is something like what Paul asks to happen with the Word of the Lord, that it would explode across the world.  

And he asks them to pray that the word of the Lord would be honored, or received with honor, that people would see it’s power and glory, “as happened among you”. They received the word, NOT as a human word, but as the word of God. They honored the word, held it high, and they turned from idols to serve the living God.  

The word will NOT bear fruit in people’s lives unless it is honored.  Spiritual indifference and unchanged lives always indicate that a person has NOT received the word with honor.  We NEED to pray that as the word would be honored, loved, lifted high here at RLC.  We can teach and preach week after week but unless the word comes with power and is honored, not much is going to happen. Unless the Lord builds the house.. The workers labor in vain.  And so we must pray!

*But what IS the word of the Lord? Well, it’s the FULL message about Jesus. We tend to abbreviate the gospel to “Jesus died for our sins. Believe in Him so you can go to heaven”.  That’s true! But it is so much more.  Four key parts to the word of the Lord:

First: The word Paul preached was that Jesus is the Messiah. In every city he went to the synagogues and said, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” That means He is God’s anointed King, the promised Savior of Israel.  That was Peter’s message too. He said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  Acts 2:36 

In Rom. 1 Paul called his message “the gospel God promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures”. The prophets promised the Messiah is coming who will save and deliver and rule over His people. He will usher in a coming kingdom of joy and peace, health and prosperity, (the lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!). There will be eating and drinking in God’s presence.  

Jesus is THAT King and will rule and reign over His Father’s Kingdom. At the last supper Jesus told his disciples I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” All who receive Him will enjoy that Kingdom with him! The word of the Lord is that Jesus is the Messiah 

Second: The word of the Lord is that FIRST Jesus our Messiah must suffer and die for out sins.  Acts 17:3 “Paul reasoned with them from the scriptures explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.” Jesus IS ALL that the OT prophets foretold. He will fulfill all the prophecies of the kingdom. He IS the Messiah. But FIRST, he has to redeem us from our sins. 

Paul said this is of first importance, that Christ died for our sins. Revelation 1:7 “He loved us and released us from our sins through his blood. A gospel that doesn’t deal with our sin problem is no gospel.  A message that merely says, God loves you or God is for you, or God thinks you’re amazing. Is NOT the word of the Lord.  The word of the Lord is “Jesus is the Lamb of God! Who takes away the sin of the world!”  

And this forgiveness of sins had a purpose. Peter said, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18. 

Of course forgiveness is so that you can feel clean and have a conscience free from condemnation and shame. But ultimately Christ died to bring you near to God. So that you can come right up close to God, so you can be accepted into God’s presence and to live with Him forever! Ephesians 3:12 “In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God's presence with boldness and confidence.” The Messiah had to suffer and die to remove our sins and to bring us to God!

Third: The word of the Lord is the amazing secret that Gentiles like us can come into the household of God. We take salvation like we are entitled to it. We are NOT! And at one time we were excluded from it. Paul explains how hopeless our situation was in Ephesians 2:12 “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

That is talking about us!  Israel had the promises. We Gentiles were NOT part of the blessing of Israel.  Verse 13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Who was far off and without hope? Everyone who was not a Jew. 

The word of the Lord is that a massive influx of Gentiles into the kingdom of God, that was hinted at in the Prophets was now burst open through Jesus!  Ephesians 3:4-6, “The mystery which in other generations was NOT made known to the sons of men, as it has NOW been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit, to be specific, that the Gentiles, are now FELLOW heirs and fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise of Jesus Christ through the gospel.”  This was BIG news! Great news! 

2:18-21 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are FELLOW citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”  The word of the Lord is that gentiles are welcomed into the special status of God’s people, through repentance and faith in Jesus.  We become part of the holy nation. We partake in the promises made to Israel. Paul said, We are like a branch, grafted in. You, “like a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others to share in the nourishment of the olive root”. (Israel)  

Rom. 15:10 “As it is written: “Rejoice, you Gentiles, WITH HIS people.”  And again, praise the Lord all you Gentiles!”. We are to be thrilled with being included in God’s promises.

Fourth: The word of the Lord is that the day of the Lord is coming. The message the apostles preached is that Jesus is risen and will appear again from heaven to judge the world and save those who belong to him. 

When Paul preached the gospel to Felix in Acts 24:25 He reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment.” The coming judgment was PART of the message.   When he preached the word to the Athenians he said, God calls all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” The word of the Lord is that all men will stand before the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

For those who repent and believe the good news. Jesus will come to gather us to Himself, to save us from the wrath to come, to resurrect our bodies, to raise us up to live with him and to rule and reign with Him.  Paul taught the Thessalonians about The Day of the Lord, the appearing of Jesus as the first things of the gospel. He taught them to wait eagerly for His appearing. 

Somehow we have managed to shrink the gospel into a self help message mainly about this life and my success or fulfillment in it! And that keeps our eyes glued on ourselves and our present situation. You can’t reduce the gospel to a sound byte, to “He gets us”.  Or “Jesus wants to be your friend”. Or it’s “your best life now”.

It’s SO much bigger than that!  It’s an eternal program, it literally solves ALL the problems of the world! It solves our alienation from God, it removes all condemnation for our sins, it brings us into peace with God, into the love of God, it delivers us from the coming wrath. It prepares us for a future kingdom, where we will live in resurrected bodies, and reign with Christ forever. It promises a life without end, in a world without end, a world of safety and joy and glory and “the riches of God’s kindness throughout all eternity!”.

And we receive all this as a gift through faith in Jesus!   This is the WORD of the Lord that Paul asks us to pray for that it would speed ahead and be honored

*Then Paul goes on, “Pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” Paul wants prayer that he would be delivered from his enemies so he could keep preaching the gospel. Not all have faith. Not all believe. Some oppose the word of the Lord. Some hate it.  

Sometimes opposition comes from governments like in China and all nations where Islam dominates.  Sometimes it comes from false teachers within the church. Sometimes it comes from divisive people inside and out of the church.  But the bottom line is: Ministry is hard! Getting the message out is hard. Lots of things that get in the way.  

Paul knew that and he said, Brothers, pray for us! And WE need prayer to do the work of the Lord here at RLC.  There is nothing automatic, or easy, we need the Lord’s protection. Nothing lasting or life-changing will happen here without prayer! Pray!! 

*Verse 3 “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” Paul assumes the evil one will attack them BUT he expresses confidence in the Lord to strengthen them and protect them. In all the dangers and drama of your life God is faithful, and WILL deliver you from evil. And he will turn everything to your good. 

Chesterton said, “Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” We’re in constant trouble because the evil one is against us. Life can get pretty rough. Our journey is hazardous. But IN that reality, Paul turns their attention to the Lord’s faithfulness to protect and strengthen them.  

So we DO acknowledge our problems, pain and evil things done to us by evil people or Satan himself. But we can never STOP with that. Some Christians can talk about their problems SO eloquently. They’ve got it down pat. They know the speech. They play over and over in their mind and that’s what they talk about with others. And don’t move on to the Lord’s faithfulness and His superior power!  But we can never stop with the problem, we can never end the conversation about how tough our life is. We must move on to  faith and confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness, goodness, and power to deliver us.  Listen to how you talk. 

*Third. Paul expressed confidence that they will live and act in obedience to the Lord and will continue to do so!  Verse 4 “And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.” Paul knows the weakness of people. But he is confident in the Lord to keep them in the path of obedience. Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” And we should express this confidence to one another. 

We need to admonish, and warn, and there’s a time to correct, BUT we should also express confidence that our brothers and sisters are going to make it, and do well and continue to obey.  If we don't think and speak like this, we are really showing that we have no confidence in the Lord.  

John said the word of God is like a seed planted in you and it will keep you from sinning and change your life! Be confident it that power at work within you, AND for your wife and your children and fellow believers.  I know of a wife who constantly told her husband he wasn’t born again.  I know parents who kept telling one of their kids you’re not going to make it, you’re not born again. Obviously that could be the case.  In these situations I think they were. And it was devastating.

Expressing confidence in someone to continue isn’t rooted in THEM! But in the Lord’s keeping power. Learn to speak like this to one another. Love believes all things, hopes all things. It talks hopefully about other believers. 

*Then Paul prays for them Verse 5 “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” Those who believe the message ARE loved by God! In chapter 2 Paul addressed them as “brothers, beloved of God.  Now he prays may the Lord “Direct your hearts into God’s love.”  

We have the information that God loves us and that’s important. But Paul wants our hearts to be moved into the full experience of God’s love!  Christ came into the world and gave his life that we might know and enjoy God’s love.  Your life is all about what is going on in your heart! You are not defined by outward circumstances, what you have or don’t have, your success of failure, riches or poverty, those things do not define you. What defines you is what is going on in your heart.  “Out of your heart flow the issues of life”.  And it’s so important for our hearts to be moved into or turned toward the love of God. And to live in that place where we enjoying and are aware of and experiencing the love of God.

Psalms 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love.”  Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days”.  God’s love nourishes and feeds the deepest needs of your inner person! Only God’s love can meet the vast inner needs of your heart. It heals and satisfies like nothing else in the world.   Let’s pray this for one another!!

Next he prays that the Lord would direct their hearts into the perseverance of Christ. (vs 5)  he wants us to have the same endurance that Christ showed in his trials; even to the point of death on a cross. He wants them to stand firm. We need to pray that for each other too.\

*Would you pray for the preaching and teaching of the word to be clear and powerful? Would you pray for the message to be honored, glorified, lifted high and loved by those who hear?  Would you pray for your brothers and sisters here that they their hearts would experience the love of God?  And would you pray for one another, that we would all would stand firm in Christ, and endure to the end no matter what happens in our lives.    

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