Over the past couple of months, we have been challenged to be a prayerful people. Each week, Pastor Britt reminds us to lift up in prayer the following six areas:
- All local, state, and federal authorities
- Healthcare workers/providers at every level
- A calm disposition amongst the people of our nation
- The SBC missionaries around the world
- Global economic stability
- Our church body
I hope you have taken heed to the call and have seen the importance and necessity of prayer. While I do not want to add to the list, I would like to take a moment and focus on a piece of the sixth point of prayer a bit. My prayer for you is that you would take my call as a transparent plea for your prayer not just for ourselves as elders, but that the ministry of the word would flourish amidst this pandemic.
Not too long ago, I had the privilege of preaching on 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. This text sits heavy on my heart in normal circumstances and even more so in these unusual times. Many of you may wonder how you can serve God in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. That said, I would like to explore what Paul tells the church and then call each of you to do the same.
Paul writes this wonderful text to the church at Thessalonica and calls them to something; that is, to lift up the ministry of the Word of God in prayer. You could look at this as Paul telling the believers what one of their job duties is. Did you know, Christian, that you have a job description? I would submit to you that one of your most important duties is prayer.
In fact, one of America’s foremost theologians, Jonathan Edwards, said, “There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the kingdom of Christ as by prayer.”
As you look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 I want to draw out to you something that hits me hard. What we have here is a summary of everything a pastor would ever want from his people, and the implications are great. We see Paul in a very real, personal, and tender sense as he calls the church to prayer. Paul knows that just as the pastor has a ministry to his flock, so too does the flock have a ministry to him as well. Therefore, he asks them two things. And, as one of your elders, I would like to ask you the same.
1. Paul wanted his people to be prayerful
Shepherds want the prayers of the flock, particularly in difficult times that we are currently experiencing. Paul faced unimaginable trials and so in many ways he needed their prayers as much as they needed his. Paul clearly longed for the prayers of his friends. This is why he asked them repeatedly to keep him in their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11, Romans 15:30-33, Philippians 1:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:25). This time, he simply and humbly asks, “Brothers, pray for us.” You see, Paul was deeply aware of his own inadequacies and deeply aware of his dependence on God, which he gained through the prayers of his friends.
John Macarthur says, “Here really lies the true greatness of Paul: preeminently gifted and yet utterly dependent on the prayers of his flock.”
In this, the first thing he asks is that they specifically pray for the success of the message. Do you pray for the success of the gospel? Paul wanted his friends to pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead. Paul is affirming the primacy of the word of God. The word Paul uses here is the Greek word, trecho which means “to run.” I picture the word of God taking on sprinter's legs and taking off on a dead sprint around a never-ending track. What a beautiful image that is.
Paul not only wanted prayer that the Word would run, but also Paul wants them to pray that the word of God would be honored. Paul is not asking for himself to be highly regarded, though. Rather, his desire is for the advancement and glorification of the message. It is a regard for the entire Church. So, I ask you to pray that the word of God will go forth rapidly, be honored, respected, believed, obeyed, penetrate, and change lives in our city.
Paul also pleads with them to pray that they would be delivered from wicked and evil men. This is a necessary protection so that the message can go on. Thankfully, we do not face much of this physical danger in our current day. Yet, we know that the evil one is always lurking and seeking every opportunity to slow the spread of the message or destroy the repute of the messenger. Satan uses those under his influence to imprison, distract, detain, or use temptation and other modes to negate the testimony of the messenger. Even though God promised to protect Paul this does not cause him to take for granted the Lord’s protection. He still depends on the prayers of the saints. One commentator says, “Knowing God’s will and having His assurances should never lead to prayerlessness and a spirit of independence.”
2. Paul wanted his people to be trusting as they pray.
Notice that at the end of verse 2 Paul says, “For not all have faith.” However, he immediately follows up verse 3 with a magnificent promise: “But the Lord is faithful.” There is a balance of understanding that as we pray, we pray even for the evil ones. You see, Paul was no stranger to those who sought to undermine or even eliminate his ministry. Think about it. He was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, robbed, and stoned. He even drifted out at sea for a day. And yet, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:28 that “besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.”
It is wonderful to look at the life of Paul, see his trials and tribulations, and then see how he responds to them. He continually had a laser-like focus on Christ. He trusted God because the Lord is faithful no matter what happens to the messenger. He could do this because he understood that God never changes and his love never ceases. He has compassion that never ends. His promises never fail and He has never erred in wisdom. He is all-powerful. C.H. Spurgeon comments, “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand that never fails.” Remember, Christian, that the Lord is faithful in all things and in every circumstance. Lamentations 2:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
So what does all this mean for you today, particularly amidst the pandemic we’re facing?
First, Pray that the word will run on farther and be received as it was with you. Just as Paul’s instruction back in chapter 2, verse 15 was not a general call to stand firm, but was very specific: “stand firm and hold on to the teachings that had been given to you”. Therefore, the instruction to pray was not left as a general statement. We know we should pray. We are told what to pray for the spread and reception of the message of the Lord and the deliverance of the messengers.
Second, Pray that the Word will be glorified, honored, believed, and obeyed.
Third, Pray for your elders – daily. We long for your prayers. The temptations, the pressure, the spiritual warfare that we face daily can easily become overwhelming. Paul knew that as you pray for someone in ministry, you join them in ministry.
Romans 15:30 “…strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf…”
When we pray for other believers in ministry, we strive with them in God’s work. And as you pray, trust that the Lord is faithful. Trust that he will strengthen and guard us against the evil one.
Fourth, Pray that the word of the Lord – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – will RUN swiftly from this place even amid this crisis. And as you pray, you will see the word glorified as it runs into the hearts of men and women, because the Lord is faithful. That is his promise.
Only By Grace,