A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at King’s Grace Fellowship.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-12
In this teaching I want to begin looking at the prayers of Paul and as I do, I want to paint the backdrop that Paul used in prayer. (a sort of “framework” for prayer) To do that, turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12.
Now before we launch into the actual prayer requests (petitions) I want us to take a look at the foundation from which Paul prays. In, verse 11 he says, “Therefore, we also pray always for you” (NKJV), “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you” (ESV), “So we keep on praying for you” (NLT)
Of course, we have to investigate what he means with that statement. To do so, we have to consider what preceded the statement. With the exception of his simple greeting in verses 1 & 2 we have to consider all that’s been said in verses 3-12. It was fairly normal for Paul, after a brief salutation to launches in to a moment of thanksgiving for those he is writing to. In which he does in verses 3-10.
It’s really the point of this teaching to unpack these verses (too much), rather these verses give us a kind of “backdrop” if you will of why Paul prays as he does. What controls his thinking and guides his requests. Yet to do so we have to consider two dominant “features” of Paul’s prayer framework in order to understand why he prays as he does.
Framework #1 – Thankfulness For Signs of Grace
2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 (NKJV)
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
Giving thanks is fundamental or a core component of prayer, which controls most of Paul’s praying and intercession. So what is Paul thankful for?
What are we normally thankful for? A good day, getting a parking space, not getting a ticket when we clearly deserve one, restored health when we’ve been sick.
. . . our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 23). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
I’m thankful for God’s blessings and provisions, but these are merely “value added” transient things. Paul demonstrates thankfulness for things that have “eternal value”. He gives thanks for visible, observable signs of God grace working and growing in his target audience.
1. Paul gives thanks for faith that is growing.
He is not referring to their initial “saving” grace, rather, he is speaking of their increasing reliance upon God in all things.
the word faith (Gk. pistis) can also mean “fidelity” or “faithfulness,” and in this context “fidelity” and “trust” are not far apart. Growing fidelity to the Lord and his gospel is inevitably stamped by increasing trust in the Lord and his gospel; increasing trust breeds reliability.Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 23). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
It is clear that the Thessalonians’ growth in faith was tangible as Paul could observe this growth and commend them on it. They were not satisfied with their past growth and consistently continued growing in this wonderful grace of Christ. This is what Paul was thankful for.
2. Paul gives thanks for love that is increasing.
Here Paul is not merely speaking of their love for God, he is addressing the tangibly evident love they had for each other. Paul knew that if their love for each other grew it could only be because of their love for Christ which compelled them to grow in love for each other.
With any type of gathering or grouping of people, (book club, sports team, hunting partners, fraternal groups, etc.) because of their shared interest, ideals and goals it’s easy to foster love, tolerance and inner cohesion. But the church should be different. The church is made of many varied personalities. Rich and poor, educated and non-educated, white collar and blue collar, married and single, out-going and introverted and everything in between. Carson says:
The only thing that holds such people together is their shared allegiance to Jesus Christ, their devotion to him, stemming from his indescribable love for them.Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 24). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
He further comments:
That is why it is always wretchedly pathetic when a local church becomes a cauldron of resentments and nurtured bitterness. This pitiful state of affairs may erupt simply because there is very little at the social, economic, temperamental, educational, or other levels to hold people together. Therefore, when Christians lose sight of their first and primary allegiance, they will squabble. When social or racial or economic or temperamental uniformity seems more important than basking in the love of God in Christ Jesus, idolatry has reared its blasphemous head.Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 24). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Yet, when Christians grow in their love for each other simply because they have been loved by Jesus and love Him in return, growing love becomes an easily seen sign of growing grace. Paul was thankful for this because he saw this on a whole-scale level which is evidenced by his statement “the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV))
3. Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial.
It’s interesting to note that Paul’s gratitude was not restricted to “the prayer closet.” Because the Thessalonians had grown in faith and love they were able to stand up against the trials and persecutions they were going through. It was so remarkable, that Paul “boasts” about them to the other church he was overseeing.
He wasn’t saying, “See this great church that I’ve planted. . . .” Rather, he is something like:
“Have you noticed how powerfully the grace of God is operating in the lives of the Thessalonian believers? The way they withstand the pressures of persecution and of assorted trials is truly remarkable, a compelling testimony to the grace of God. Fortified by their growing faith and love, they just press on and on. What an example! What an encouragement! What an incentive for the rest of us!”Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
I think Paul’s boast was an overflow of praise and thanksgiving to God that other churches got to hear about.
So, what do we thank God for? Paul’s admonition to us in Colossians is this:
1 Colossians 3:1 (NKJV)
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above . . .
If what we highly cherish belongs to the realm of heaven, our hearts and minds will incline to heaven and all its values, but if what we highly cherish belongs to the realm of earth and the merely transitory, our hearts and minds will incline to the merely transitory.Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
And of course, Jesus said this:
Matthew 6:19–21 (NKJV)
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What does this have to do with praying? Everything! If we are to develop a mental framework about prayer that looks like Paul’s, then we have to look for “signs” of grace in the lives the believers we rub shoulders with and thank God for them. Carson comments:
the specific elements in his thanksgiving show the framework of values he brings to his intercession—and we urgently need to develop the same frameworkCarson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 26). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
As I bring tonight’s teaching to an end, I want to encourage you to do two things:
- Make a list of the people of King’s Grace Fellowship that comes to your mind or a list of believers at work/school, and quietly thank God for signs of grace in their lives.
- Make it a matter of praise to God when you observe tangible signs of grace in one another. (growing surrender to Christ, demonstrated trust in Jesus, growing love for other “believers”, and genuine spiritual stamina)