Prayers of Paul - Fruit and Glory (2 Thess 1.11-12) — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Prayers of Paul – Fruit and Glory (2 Thess 1.11-12) — A Christian Growth Message

A series untangling some of the Prayers of the Apostle Paul by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 9 Jun 2024Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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We thank you, our heavenly father, for a beautiful day. We thank you for giving to us a very precious small portion for us to consider. And we pray that you would help us to receive it, understand it, rejoice in it and in your goodness, live it out. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

I’m not sure if I’ve told you before the story of the, uh, businessman who’s overseas for work, and he’s standing in his hotel. And as he stands in the hotel looking out the window, he sees a beggar on the street shuffling through some of the bins. And he says to himself, Here I am. I’m a wealthy man. I have a heavenly father, and here is a man who’s obviously extremely poor.

And he gets a $50 note out of his wallet, and he puts it into an envelope, and he writes on the envelope, Don’t despair and throws it out the window near the beggar and the beggar picks it up, looks at it and and shuffles away, and the man thinks no more about it. But the next morning there’s a knock at his door, and there is the beggar holding out $500 and the man says to him, Not at all, not at all. This was a gift for you. And the beggar says No, this is your half. Don’t despair came in at exactly 20 to 1. And the point of the story is this. That, given the circumstances of life today, it is very easy to despair. It’s easy to despair about the world. It’s easy to despair about the church. It’s easy to despair about Christians. It’s easy to despair, especially about ourselves.

And the wonderful thing about the Apostle Paul is that he doesn’t seem to fall into despair because he commits himself to prayer. And what we’ve been doing over these last Sundays is a little series through five of the prayers of the Apostle Paul. And, um, we’ve come really to the fifth and the last this morning, these two little verses that Stephen read for us and this little prayer comes in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, the city of Thessalonica. Today, Thessaloniki is in northern Greece. It’s a harbour city. It still has a very strong church, going right back to the days where the apostle Paul visited and founded the church, and this is what he prays. I just read it again.

It’s only two verses, he says. We’re praying that our God will make you worthy of his calling and that by his power he may bring to fruition or fulfilment your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, of the five prayers we’re looking at, this is the one that I am least familiar with. It’s been a brand new experience to try and study this prayer this week, but it’s a beautiful practical prayer.

Uh, now the prayers are hard to get a handle on. I mean, if I was to ask you now, having just read the two verses, would you please step up the front and say exactly what it’s about? It’s hard to get a handle on the prayer. Uh, the prayers come sort of like little waterfalls full of words, and what we try to do is to simplify or to clarify now, before we actually look at the words of the prayer, you should know that Paul is praying for Christians. He is praying for Christians who are spiritually alive and well.

Uh, in his first letter, one Thessalonians, he thanked God that they had believed the Gospel and were showing the marks of faith and love. And now, in his second letter, he thank God because their faith and love are growing. In fact, he says, they are hyper-growing. Or we might say they are super growing. And the proof that God is at work in the Thessalonians is that their faith and their love are growing through trouble through persecution.

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They are being persecuted for their faith. They are experiencing dreadful trials, and their faith and their love are growing. So let us remember in passing this important point that for the Christian when trouble comes, it’s not that God has failed you.

It’s not that God is swiping you, but God is strengthening your spiritual muscles, training us so that if we do suffer for our faith, we can turn round and say this is a good God at work, for his honour and for our growth.

So the Christians are showing the double proof of life. One is that they have faith in love. Faith is a miracle, of course, is your faith in Jesus? That’s a miracle.

Do you have love for Christ? Love for his people, that’s a miracle. And also the proof of the new life in the Thessalonians is that they’re suffering for their faith. So is that all Paul has to say? Then does he just say OK, here things are great.

I think I’ll stop praying at this point now. He reminds them that justice is coming. Justice is coming according to the suffering that they’re experiencing. Evil, he says, will be punished. And in the verses that are just before this, he says What Jesus himself says, which is that Jesus will come as judge and the judgement works like this. In Chapter one, verses 5 to 10, the person who has refused Christ will be removed from Christ from his presence.

The person who’s refused him will be removed from him, John Stott says in his commentary. The tragedy that a person who’s been made by God and for God would now be without God and without God’s good gifts is a tragedy.

But the person who has received Jesus Christ, Paul says, will be rewarded by being in the presence of Christ. So refuse, removed, receive rewarded.

And the point that Paul is making is that a perfect judge is coming and perfect justice will be done. There won’t be any mistakes or complaints. On the last day. He will be just, and now Paul gets down to pray. He’s encouraged them. Now he gets down to pray, and this is the handle that I want us to get on the prayer. This is the handle that I’m going to take away from this sermon, even if nobody else gets it. This is the handle. He prays that their walk with Christ will be consistent, and he prays that their work for Christ will be constructive. OK, it’s a little cheesy. It’s a little cheap. It’s a little alliterative, but that’s the way we can get a handle on this prayer. He’s praying that their walk with Christ will be consistent, and he’s praying that their work for Christ will be constructive. Now the Christian life is often called a walk, a walk of faith. We walk by Faith, says Paul, or we walk by the spirit.

And here in Chapter one, verse 11, if you do have it in front of you, Paul is praying for these Christians that their lives remember their Christians would match their calling.

We pray, says Paul, that our God may make you fit his calling. God’s put a new life into them at the cost of Jesus’ death. And now Paul is praying that God will push the life along to match the calling, the high calling.

So do you notice that Paul doesn’t give up praying even when people are going well? He is grateful, of course, that they’ve got faith in love, but he wants their faith and love to go forward. He might have said to himself, Ah, these Christians are fine. Think I’ll do something else, but he wants these healthy Christians to go forward.

We were praying a few minutes ago for our missionary couple, uh, Michael and Rani serving in Belgium. And one of the difficulties for missionaries in a foreign place is how to communicate to the church back home. Every C MS missionary normally has five or six churches that support and pray, and we’re one of them for Michael and Ranny. Now, how do they write back to us if they write back and say everything is unbearable? We as a church may say, Well, perhaps we picked the wrong people.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have gone. If they write back and say Everything is just fantastic, we kind of switch off. We’re not so urgent and so communicating from the Mission field back to the home church that things are going OK, but we certainly need prayer is a very subtle prayer letter. Well, Paul shows the way he shows the way he’s thankful for the life and the growth of the Christians in Thessalonica. But he’s also prayerful for their walk.

Now the calling that God has given to all his people is a very great calling.

He’s called us to be his people in a very dark world. Do you remember? Jesus said on one occasion to the disciples, Your salt. You light your city on a hill. You can’t miss salt on food. You can’t miss light in a dark room. You can’t miss a city on the side of a hill, Jesus said. You’re going to be my unmissable people.

And so God does it work. You see, he can call people to himself, and he could also help people live up to his calling.

In other words, he can help you to match his call with your work. I don’t know if anybody here has ever been called to great responsibility, but think of the person who’s called, perhaps to be the ambassador of the country.

And it’s a very serious position, isn’t it? Because the way you behave, the way you speak, the decisions you make your views on things will affect the way that home country sees the country you’ve come from, or think of the sports team that suddenly plunged onto the very international stage of a field.

And it isn’t just whether they’re gonna play well or whether they’re gonna go win.

It’s going to be How do they react when they win? How do they react when they lose the calling? To be in the spotlight as a sports team for a country is quite a serious calling, or think of the person who marries into royalty. Suddenly they had a normal life. They’ve been swept up into something which is unbelievably different and very high expectations are placed on them.

Well, you may have had a very responsible role to play, I don’t know. But I can say without any doubt whatsoever that the calling from God for you to be his person in his world is the highest calling that we will ever receive. There is no greater calling. Even if we got to be an ambassador or a sports star or married royalty, we would not get. We would not get a calling above the calling to belong to Christ and to be his person.

And if you’ve heard the Call of Christ. And of course, most people here in this building have heard the call, and if you’re seeking to follow him, you will find yourself every now and again in a very hard place. I mean, you may be among neighbours who are totally disinterested in Christianity.

You may find yourself in a work context that would positively laugh at the whole idea of God. Or perhaps you’re in families where your faith is now seen to be not just foolish but irritating and annoying and discouraging.

But you’ve received the highest calling. The highest calling to be Christ’s person.

And this is the question. Are you good at matching the call with the walk? Are you good at matching the high call with the lifestyle? Because I’m not. I’m not good at it.

And Paul’s Prayer, therefore, is full of wisdom. And it’s full of beauty because he’s praying to somebody who’s capable of closing the gap slowly but surely between the call and the walk, that’s the first thing in the prayer. I’m praying, says Paul, that God would help you to walk consistently.

It’s a very, very important and wonderful prayer. Now my mother-in-law, who’s Gone to Glory was a very godly lady. Lovely lady. All the jokes about Mothers-in-law disappeared completely when I was with her because she was such a sweet and godly lady. But I remember somebody saying of her. They said if ever I became a Christian, it would be largely because of her life.

Her life said more to this non-christian than reams of books and reams of sermons. And that’s what the Apostle Paul is concerned for. It’s a great thing to pray. Are we good at bringing the gap together? We’re not Can God do it? He can.

Second, he prays for their work to be constructive. And when we say their work, I don’t mean their occupation, although God is very interested in our occupations now, he says, I’m praying for your work of faith in Verse 11 that God’s power would carry or make possible your deed, your work produced by faith.

We might say Paul is praying that your desire to do something faithful would be made possible that what you want to do for him would come to pass. I was reading this week, uh, of the great Martin Luther that he said, thinking of the resurrection, which we’ve been reminded of today. We’re gonna look at tomorrow night the most wonderful subject of the resurrection, and Luther said, you know the links of the Christian chain, none of them can be removed. But if you remove the link of resurrection, of course everything falls apart.

There’s no reason for Christ to come. There’s no reason for him to die. There’s no reason to gospel anybody. There’s nothing. It’s crucial.

And in this particular short prayer of the Apostle Paul, it’s also a series of links, and you can’t remove this link either that your work of faith would come to fruition because, you see, if you’re a Christian, you have got a new life in you. Yes. And if you’re a Christian, you suddenly have new goals. Yes.

And then you get new help from Christ. Yes, you do. And this results in new praise to Christ. Yes, it does. So he says in verse 11. If you have a desire to serve Christ and we often do have a desire, don’t we to be faithful? Not always, but we often do.

And if he says in verse 11, you’ve got faith to do something about what you want to do. Paul is praying that that work would work, that God would bring it to affect. Good result.

So I think it works like this. I’m trying to anchor this down to the ground with us. Imagine I want to respond faithfully to a difficult situation. Imagine I want to respond faithfully to a difficult trial that I’m going through.

Or maybe there’s a cause that I want to support. I don’t really know how to support the cause, or maybe there’s something I want to contribute to.

Or maybe there is, um, some help I wanna give to somebody. Or maybe there’s a believer I want to encourage. Maybe there’s an unbeliever that I want to help them to believe. My faith prompts the desire to do something.

And Paul says, I’m praying that Christ will carry the desire to its end to its effect. It’s a very, very valuable prayer. And and we know that God will hear this because he’s so gracious. God gives Grace, doesn’t he? Not just to be saved, but to serve him?

That’s why Paul says in Romans eight, he who did not spare his own son. Will he not along with him, graciously give us all things. If he’s given us his son to be saved, he will give us grace in order to be faithful.

It’s very profound. I have a friend who’s, uh, living quite near me, and he’s marked by great faith and love. But he is in terrible trouble at the moment, and so I get down, perhaps to pray for him, and I’m using this prayer. Let’s imagine from two Thessalonians 1, 11 and 12 and I pray something like this Heavenly Father Please help him to walk with you consistently. This is not the time to be ungodly. This is not the time to be vengeful.

Help him to walk consistently and heavenly Father, as you’ve called him to be your servant, help him to do his work constructively. This is not the time for him to give up the Christian life. He’s actually a pastor. This is not the time for him to give up the pastoral Ministry.

This is a very valuable prayer. May his work be consistent. May his work be constructive. Now why does this matter? Is it just so that we’ll be happy?

Is it that we’ll be successful? Look at what Paul says in verse 12. It’s so the name of the Lord Jesus will be glorified and honoured in you. And you, of course, honoured in him because he says his grace can make this possible.

Now, why does the word of God Why do the people of God go on all the time about giving glory to God, giving glory to Jesus? Why do we talk about this? Does God have such an ego that he just needs to be stroked all the time? The answer is, of course, no God deserves to be honoured way more than we will ever do it. We have absolutely tiny idea of how much he deserves to be thanked and honoured.

And when we have sung our best hymns on a Sunday at the top of our lungs, meaning it as best we can, we’re only coming close to give him the real honour that he deserves. Marcelo reminded us last week in his sermon that there’s something wrong. There’s something unjust when the wrong person is thanked and the right person is not. And God is the person behind every good thing. He’s behind our being, our creation, our breathing, every good thing he’s behind. But he’s the unsung hero in the world, isn’t he?

And so Paul, as in Romans 11, where he has a burst of insight and he says, Everything is from God. Everything is to God. Everything is by God. And now here in Thessalonians, Chapter two, he prays for this, that God would be properly honoured. So it’s a work of God, and it’s also a work that we do.

We’re not robots being programmed to go out where people who can think and decide and make sacrifices and make decisions. It’s a work of God, 100% and it’s a work that we do 100%.

And if we do walk consistently and if we do work effectively, it’s God behind the scenes working in and through us. But it’s also us doing our part where not you see a tree as we’ve been thinking with the Children just sitting passively, waiting for something to appear. We’re people and we’ve got decisions to make and steps to take.

So the Christian will be appreciated when the Christian walks consistently and works effectively. Yes, but God will be glorified. This is therefore an excellent prayer, my friends, to pray, to walk consistently, to work constructively, Don Carson says in his little book on the prayers of Paul. He says God invites us, of course, to bring all our needs to him, but if our prayers stay in this world and we’re simply asking to be happy and to be healthy and to be successful and we’re not praying beyond this world, says Carson, what will those prayers look like in 40 or 50 years?

And what will those prayers look like in 40 or 50 billion years. And so you see, what Paul is doing is he’s showing us the way to pray for a most faithful Christian life,

Let’s Pray

but also a most useful Christian life. A war that is consistent, a work that is constructive. It’s a brilliant thing to pray. We’re not to despair. We’re to turn to prayer. Let’s do that. Let’s bow our heads.

We thank you, our Heavenly Father, for giving to us in this word. Such wisdom from above that we might see what you desire. That your people would live consistently by your grace and the things we do prompted by you would come to fruition because of your grace. So please hear us and help us. We pray that as we echo this prayer this morning you’d help us this day this week to walk consistently and in your goodness to work constructively. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.