************ Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on February 22, 2015

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
"Pray for Us"

In our 25 years of existence we have supported many different missionaries. So, let me start with a quiz:
-who was our missionary to Honduras; he comes from Wyoming, Ontario, Canada and knows my dad (Rev. Ken & Sally Vanderwal)
-what two missionaries worked in Japan (Rev. Ted Boswell; Rev. Charles Hong)
-who was the home missionary in the CRC of Rocklin, CA that we supported (Rev. Kevin Adams)
-which missionary is related to Chuck Griffin (Rev. Duane Vedders); in what country did he work (Eritrea)
-in what country did Rev. Gil Suh work (Nigeria)
-Rev. Chan Thleng preaches and operates a seminary in this country (Myanmar)
-he was a CVC teacher and he and his wife ran a mission school in Brazil (Ryan & Erin Groen)
-this missionary has size 14 shoes and worked with Rev. John Van Hemert ministering to seafarers (Rev. Hans Uittenbosch)
-Rev. Elmer Tandayu ministered to the Filipinos in what southern California city (Long Beach)
-they worked at World Impact in Fresno (Luke & Gretchen Raughley)
-Pastor Moua lives in Fresno and has a radio ministry in this language (Hmong)
-Chris & Joy Konop ministered in Congo; what did they do (fly airplanes and nurse)
-the pastor of Big Springs (Rev. Bernie Van Ee)
Did anyone get all of the answers?

All of these missionaries needed our financial support. They all wanted to visit with us. But, especially, they all asked for our prayers. This continues to be true for the missionaries we support today. Every month, for instance, we post a prayer update from Eric and Penny Schering on our website. Their request: pray for us.

I Prayer Partners of Missionaries
A The Apostle Paul asks the church of Thessalonica for the exact same thing. "Finally, brothers," says Paul, "pray for us ..." (2 Thess 3:1). In the Greek language the word for "pray" expresses continuing action. So a better translation might be, "keep on praying for us ..." The church of Thessalonica had already been praying for Paul and Paul now asks the church to keep on praying for him and his work.

You should realize that at the time Paul wrote his letter the church of Thessalonica was a very young church. Most, if not all of the Christians, had been Christians for a year or less. But Paul had taught them well. So they made prayer a priority. They were praying for Paul and his missionary work.

I think we all realize that prayer is one of the pillars of any church. It is prayer that keeps a church strong and unified. It is prayer that gives a church a vision for ministry and mission. It is prayer that allows a church to draw on the power of Almighty God. So, for instance, many members found our prayers last Sunday night for rain and crops to be very meaningful.

The church of Thessalonica had made prayer a cornerstone of its life together. Through the ministry of prayer this church was in partnership with Paul in bringing the Gospel.

B This may not sound glamorous or exciting to you especially when you think of what is done by our missionaries. I still remember some of the stories of Ken & Sally Vanderwal in the Honduras or of Rev. Vedders in Eritrea. I think of Eric Schering meeting with and training government officials in Papua New Guinea. Next to all of this, what can possibly be exciting or glamorous about prayer? But prayer for missionaries and pastors who bring the Gospel sure is necessary. That is one of the most important things we can do for our missionaries.

C Church history is full of examples where the faithful prayer of those in the pew bore much fruit on the mission field. Christian History magazine tells us about the Moravian Community of Herrnhut in Saxony. In 1727 the Community consisted of 300 souls and was being torn apart by disagreement and bickering. Yet, in the 65 years from 1727 to 1792 this church sent out 300 missionaries to the ends of the earth and was used of the Lord to convert thousands. It is doubtful if any church has ever taken the missionary mandate as seriously as did the Moravians. They sent out 1 missionary for every 60 members whereas the average in most Protestant churches is 1 missionary for every 5000 members.

What happened to this church? What caused her to come alive and send out such an incredible number of missionaries? What made this church such an evangelizing church? It was prayer which made the difference in this church! You see, in 1727 the members of this congregation of believers commenced a round-the-clock "prayer watch" that continued nonstop for over a hundred years. On August 27 of that year 24 men and 24 women covenanted to spend 1 hour each day in prayer for the church's mission and missionaries; each couple was scheduled for a different hour so there would be round the clock prayer. That is when this church came alive.

Imagine what would happen to the efforts of our missionaries if we prayed for them 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Imagine what our missionaries could all accomplish. Imagine the lives that would be touched, the souls that would be won, the people that would be changed because God's people "back home" are praying for those who preach the Gospel. Imagine the results if we prayed constantly for our missionaries.

D "Finally, brothers, pray for us ..." (2 Thess 3:1). Paul is speaking here. When we think of Paul, we think of Paul the Apostle, or Paul the convert who at one time persecuted the church, or Paul the prisoner who ended up being killed by Caesar. But first and foremost we need to remember that Paul was a missionary. It was Paul who could take more credit for the missionary work of the early church than any other person. It was Paul, if you remember, who brought the Gospel to Asia and Europe. It was Paul who was planning a missionary journey all the way to Spain. It was Paul who preached the Word in season and out of season. It was Paul who endured hardship, who did the work of an evangelist, who discharged all the duties of ministry (cf 2 Timothy 4:2-5).

It is Paul the missionary who is speaking in our text. "Brothers, pray for us ..." (2 Thess 3:1). This is not the only time Paul asked for prayer upon his missionary efforts.
(Rom 15:30) I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

(Eph 6:19) Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

(Col 4:3) And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

(1Th 5:25) Brothers, pray for us.

Paul saw an interdependence, an interconnectedness, between himself and the church. Paul did not see the work of missions as the work of individuals who were out on the mission field alone; rather, he saw it as a partnership between the missionary and the church. That is, as he did the work of a missionary, the church back at home did the work of prayer.

E In asking for prayer, Paul was admitting his dependence on God. He knew that it was only God Who could bless his work as a missionary and make it a success; that's why he asked for prayer. Jesus taught us that we cannot accomplish anything of lasting value apart from Him. We are totally dependent upon Christ to do His work through us. Remember the words of Jesus: "Apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5).

In asking for prayer, Paul was also admitting his dependence upon the churches. He needed their prayers. He wanted their prayers. So he asked for their prayers.

Paul, then, depended upon both God and the church for the success of his missionary journeys. That's why Paul was not hesitant to ask for prayer. In fact, the prayer of the saints, of the churches, was a vital ingredient in his formula for missionary success.

We need to recognize, then, that there is a partnership, a three-way partnership between the missionary, the church, and God. The missionary proclaims, the church prays, and God blesses.

II Pray the Message May Spread and be Honored
A Now, what is it that the church is to pray for? A couple of years ago I was given a bookmark: HOW TO PRAY FOR MISSIONARIES. Here are the suggestions:
Sunday - emotional needs
Monday - physical needs
Tuesday - relationships with missionaries
and so on.

Notice what Paul first asks for. "Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored" (2 Thess 3:1).

Paul asks the church of Thessalonica to pray and to keep on praying that the Gospel may "spread rapidly." This makes me think of the Sequoia Cycling Classic bike race to be held in Visalia at the end of April. Ruth and I saw some of the previous races. Every cyclist is cycling as fast and as hard as possible. Pray, says Paul, that the Gospel may spread as quickly as a cyclist races his bike. Pray that the Gospel spreads like wildfire. Pray that doors will be opened. Pray that opportunities will arise. Pray that our missionaries will be given chance after chance to preach and proclaim and witness.

B But it is not enough that the Gospel be spread quickly. It must also "be honored." So Paul asks, "pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored" (2 Thess 3:1). That is, pray that people will respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith. Pray that people will respond to the Gospel in obedience. Pray that people will believe in Jesus and ask Him Who died for their sins and rose for their justification to come into their hearts.

According to Paul, this is the way the Thessalonian Christians responded to the message of the Lord. He asks, "Pray for us that the message of the Lord may ... be honored, just as it was with you."

Do you remember what happened when the Gospel came to Thessalonica? The book of Acts tells us:
(Acts 17:4) Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of Godfearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
In his first letter to Thessalonica Paul describes it this way:
(1Th 1:5-6) ... our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction ... in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

The Thessalonians knew and experienced the power of the Gospel. They knew and experienced the changes that the Gospel makes in the lives of people. So Paul asked that they pray that the same power and changes be experienced by others.

III Pray for Deliverance from Evil
A What else is the church to pray for? Paul tells us to pray about opposition to the Gospel. "And pray," says Paul, "that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith" (2 Thess 3:2).

Paul is thinking of those evil men who oppose the Gospel. We know that Paul was opposed by the Jews in many of the cities he came to; in fact, they caused riots in their opposition to Paul and the Gospel message. He was also opposed by pagan worshipers.

Paul knew what was behind the attack of these evil men. Paul knew that his real struggle was not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Paul knew that his real struggle was against Satan and his demons.

Anytime you seek to spread the Gospel, you can be sure there is going to be a direct attack from Satan who will oppose you. Satan tries anything to stop the evangelization of others. Satan does not want the Gospel message to spread quickly. Satan does not want anyone to honor the Gospel message by responding to it in repentance and faith.

B Satan and the forces of darkness attack the spread of the Gospel in many different ways. In the life of Paul, for instance, we see persecution, imprisonment, death, hunger, riots, and beatings. In the Honduras I remember the Vanderwals telling us about poverty, crime, theft, political unrest, and false Christians.

A couple of weeks ago I had to change the mission page of our website. One of our missionaries called and asked if we can remove all mention of him. Different governments are now doing searches of his name. The country giving him the biggest problem is India because radical Hindus hate Christians. I also removed all names of anyone working in Muslim lands. Isn't that sad?!

You all know what is going on with ISIS in the Middle East. It is horrible how last week 21 Egyptian Christians were kidnaped and murdered with at least 12 of them being beheaded. Let me say what our president refuses to say: radical Islam hates us and will do anything to stop the spread of the Gospel.

C For this reason Paul asked for prayer. "Pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith" (2 Thess 3:2). Pray that the Lord will watch over those who preach the Gospel. Pray that the Lord will provide them strength and protection from the evil one. Pray that nothing Satan throws their way will succeed in keeping them from delivering the message of the Lord.

"Pray for us." There is a partnership, congregation, a three-way partnership between the missionary, the church, and God. The missionary proclaims, the church prays, and God blesses.

What are we to pray? Paul has clearly told us what to pray.
(2 Thess 3:1-2) Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. (2) And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.

Notice, the most important thing is the message of the Lord, the message of forgiveness that we heard from the Catechism this morning. So pray that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will be proclaimed.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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