Date: June 19, 2005
Theme: May The Word Of The LORD Speed On!
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
– Pastor John Ude, Farewell Sermon
The Order of Worship:
Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.
Theme: May The Word Of The LORD Speed On!
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Pray for Us
3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (ESV)
Sermon: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. 5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
In the name of Jesus June 19, 2005
A modernist preacher in his farewell address said: “I have not pleaded with you to believe in God. I have not asked you to bring your sins to be forgiven. I have not asked you to believe in the realities of a spiritual world. I have asked you to believe in yourselves, in the divinity of men, in the greatness of the human soul.” He thereby reveals he is one of the unreasonable and wicked men which V.2 prays that we may be delivered from. There have probably been times when you have thought I was a little harsh condemning such error or our sins and doubts. But it is God’s Word that is intense and absolute in its condemnation of error and sin that our faith may stand securely in Christ. With Paul I then pray for you, MAY THE WORD RUN SWIFTLY AND BE GLORIFIED! How is this done? We probably answer: “By each of us proclaiming the Word to our neighbor, sending out more missionaries, building more churches, and increasing our offerings to do all these things.” But Paul does not mention one of these things. Rather, we hear one imperative repeating with every thought. Pray for divine speed to outrun wickedness. Pray for divine endurance to stay on course in Christ’s love. And pray for divine confidence to guard your hearts.
Our Scripture lesson revealed that Paul had only been able to preach God’s word for a few weeks in Thessalonica before he was driven out under accusations that the gospel was rebellious sedition against the emperor. Some of the Jews of Thessalonica had become jealous about the converts to Christianity, so they found a group of evil men to create an uproar with a timely accusation: “these who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” They were referring to how the Roman emperor Claudius had become so jealously incensed that Jesus should be called the King that he expelled the Christians from Rome. Now the Thessalonians picked up this accusation claiming that preaching Christ was turning the world upside down for it was rebellion against the Emperor that endangered government contracts, pay checks, social security checks, and their prosperous status with Rome. What a reminder that our spiritual contest is not with flesh and blood but with satanic powers that will use every underhanded deceit and trick ever seen to defeat the gospel. They drove the preacher out of town. They branded the gospel as seditious rebellion. They brought persecution and social pressure. Paul undoubtedly longed to share faithful Bible teaching with these few new converts so overwhelmed by the powers of the devil so that the word might run swiftly and be glorified among them. Yet in humble repentance Paul realizes that Satan had thereby set a trap for him. The trap of thinking that he was necessary for their faith – that he was the one that could win the battle for them rather than Jesus, only Jesus. Paul does not set himself above them but asks them to pray for him, for he needs divine speed to outrun the wickedness of the Devil. When I received the call to ILC the same temptation was there to think, “I am necessary at ILC or I am necessary here at Grace to make things prosper.” When I accepted the call someone may have been tempted to think: “Oh, Pastor Ude is leaving now everything will prosper again,” or “Now things may falter.” Jesus, only Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. Yes, Pastor Hein and I, like Paul, are to minister God’s Word faithfully so we need your prayers that with the Spirit we may live in continual humble repentance and also convict others of sin and of the righteousness that is in Christ alone for only then does the Word prosper. Yet Paul could not be there so all he could do was pray. NO! That’s not all he could do. That was the most he could do even if he were there. It’s the most that we can do. I will no longer be your pastor but I pray for you that the word run swiftly and be glorified among you. Isn’t this the first thing that Jesus directed us to pray for, “Hallowed by Thy Name?” No matter how hard we train, we will never by our speed and plans outrun the wicked deceit of the devil, so we pray for divine speed to outrun wickedness.
Paul’s coming to Thessalonica was also truly a demonstration of the need to pray for divine endurance to stay on course in Christ’s love. Remember Paul had wanted to bring the gospel to Asia but they were forbidden by the Spirit, to Bithynia but the Spirit did not permit them, and yet in Troas they struck out. Forbidden, prevented, struck out it would have been easy to quit but the endurance of Christ kept them on the course and directed them in Christ’s love. A course that Christ’s love laid out so that His Word might come for the first time to the continent of Europe. And run swiftly it did. >From riverside encounters to prison house conversions the word ran swiftly. Paul would have stayed in Philippi but persecution drove him onto Thessalonica. He would have stayed in Thessalonica but persecution drove him onto Berea. He kept trying, we’re told, to come back to the Thessalonians. But every time Satan hindered it. Should he quit? Just walk away? Christ’s love endured separation from His own Father to give you and me forgiveness and salvation, that’s a love that’s meant to be shared. In that love Paul learned to accept, to rely on God’s will rather than his own, even as it is sometimes mysteriously carried out in this world. The endurance of Christ’s love kept them on course in God’s will proclaiming His Word. Since Paul could not be with them to personally direct them into the love of Christ he proclaimed the word through letters and the LORD brought His inspired Word to the Thessalonians in these letters but thereby also caused it to run swiftly to other people through all the world and all the centuries even to us. Satan was thwarted. What a vivid demonstration that our faith stands in God’s calling and choosing us not our choosing Him. That love that called me, wondrous love, gives us confidence (V.4) and patience (V.5) to seek and do Jesus’ will with endurance all the way to the finish line. Yet, how often are we tempted to give up, to quit, to just walk away? The patience of Christ endured the agony of the cross for you and me and confirms for us that even when we would have it another way, God’s will provides the best for all His children. We can accept and rely on His will. That is the third petition that Jesus taught us. So keep praying for patient endurance to stay on course proclaiming Christ’s love so the Word might run swiftly and be glorified.
To win the victory in an athletic contest speed and endurance are obvious needs. To win this spiritual race we need not only the speed and endurance of Christ, but Paul prays also for our heart’s confidence in Christ. Confidence is needed in any athletic contest to win the victory: “I can hit this shot, hit this ball, keep the pace to win the race.” How could Paul be confident about the Thessalonians? The few weeks he had been there may have been intense but still would have only provided the basics of Christian faith. Indeed the reports he had demonstrated major misunderstandings and disobedience. But it was Christ that called Paul to preach the Word there and it is Christ who has promised: Isaiah 55:10,11 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So Paul was V.4 confident in Christ and His gospel as the power of God unto salvation for them and us. And what confidence we can have in Christ. The best athlete cannot be confident that he’ll make very shot and outrun every opponent forever. But Christ Jesus has and He’s done it for us. He ran the race to the cross and finished the full payment for the guilt of your sins and mine, nothing was missed, nothing left undone. He took all the shots, keeping all the commandments for us perfectly. No one can challenge Him, outrun Him, defeat Him. Since He has done this in our place, we can have absolute confidence: “In Christ the race is won.” So Satan wants to shift our confidence to our self to undermine our confidence in Christ or lead us to abandon Christ reverting to the mud hole of sin. But Christ gives the power through the hearing and keeping of His Word to so keep us so that no one can snatch us out of His arms forever (Jn 10:28). So pray for divine confidence in Christ for that is the second petition, “Thy Kingdom come.” Jesus wants to see you crowned with the imperishable crown taking the victory lap with all the believers so pray, “May the Word run swiftly and be glorified.” Amen.