God Can Make a Way

An Exposition of 1 Thessalonians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God can make the impossible, possible.

Please take your Bible and turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. By way of announcement, we will be taking a break from our Study of 1 Thessalonians after this week. The next couple of weeks we will focus on the theme of thanksgiving, and then beginning November 29, Lord willing, we will begin our Christmas series. The reason why I’ve chosen to pause at this point is that our passage for today ends the first section of this epistle and so it seems an appropriate place to pause this series. Lord willing we will resume this study in January.
Normally I spend Mondays and Tuesdays reading and studying the text for the coming week. Then I begin writing the message on Wednesday, and I finish writing it on Thursday. Then I practice the message, and finally record the message for our YouTube audience. But this week is far from normal. I told our congregation last Sunday that my wife had some bad test results and she is to have a biopsy on the afternoon of Wednesday, the 4th. Because of this I have to be fully ready for Sunday by lunch-time on Wednesday so that I can help care for our two year old adopted son while my wife is recouping from her procedure. Therefore I am in a bit of a state of anxiety as I prepare this message, and I need to start practicing what I preach to others about anxiety.
I mentioned a few weeks back that chapter 2:17-3:13 is one long four part section. It began with Paul referring to the angst of being torn away from this newly founded work of Christ in Thessalonica. Then Paul, in his anxiety of the spiritual well-being of this church decided to send Timothy to check up on them. Last week we saw that after a lengthy lapse in time Timothy caught up to Paul, in Corinth, and brought great news about this beloved church. This news caused Paul to launch into a spirit of thanksgiving for the work that God was doing. And, as is common for Paul, he broke into prayer. It is this prayer that we will be looking at this morning.
As we consider out text we will see that only God can make the impossible, possible; He can clear the hurdles of Satan, He can enlarge the believer’s spiritual hearts, and He can make the believer holy and blameless before Him.
Let’s read this entire section together. 1 Thess 2.17-3:13
1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13 NASB95PARA
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Let’s look first at

A Hurdle to be Cleared

Look again at verse 11.
1 Thessalonians 3:11 NASB95PARA
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you;
Equality with God
Literally the first part of this verse reads in such a way at make Jesus equal with God the Father:
Himself now the God and Father of us and the Lord of us Jesus ...
Removal of Hindrances
A few weeks ago we saw that Satan had somehow hindered Paul from returning to Thessalonica. (2:18). The word translated hindered literally refers to tearing up a roadway to prevent travel.
In our present text, vs. 11, Paul prayed that God would direct their way back to the Thessalonians. The word direct literally means to make straight. In other words, he was praying for God remove the roadblocks which Satan was using to prevent his return to this beloved church.
Note that:
Only God can clear the hurdles of Satan
We live in the material realm, but we would be naive to believe that is the only realm
Paul faced spiritual barriers which prevented him for accomplishing his own agenda
The Holy Spirit prevented him from ministering in certain places at a certain time — Acts 16:6-8
Acts 16:6–8 NASB95PARA
They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
Satan, who is the leader of the spiritual forces of wickedness, prevented Paul from returning to Thessalonica to check on the welfare of his spiritual children —
In last week’s text we saw that after receiving the good report from Timothy, Paul began praying even more earnestly that he might return to Thessalonica. His prayer was eventually answered, but it took at least five years for it to be answered.
There’s a lesson to learn here about persistence in prayer
Do we persist in prayer or do we grow weary in prayer?
Do we pray for God to remove obstacles that are in our way?
Are we able to discern if the obstacle is from God or from Satan?
We have many physical barriers which make ministry more difficult. We are an aging population. At present, other than for our adopted son, there are no children in the church. We recognize the need for having young families with children in the church because if we don’t then this local assembly will die. If the Lord should suddenly bless us with a few young families, who would work with the children?
Sometimes I find myself with can’t do attitude rather than a can do attitude. What I need is to be reminded that it’s not merely about what I can do, it’s about what God can do. I mean, Jeremiah 32:17 is still in the Bible:
Jeremiah 32:17 NASB95PARA
‘Ah Lord God! Behold, “You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,
God can remove the obstacles which are keeping us from spiritual and numeric growth.
Let’ consider now God can give the believer

A Love Which Overflows

In the later years of the 1990’s my Uncle Tom, who was my mom’s sister’s widowed husband, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart. Because my aunt and uncle never had surviving children (she gave birth to a stillborn child, and also had a miscarriage) my uncle made me his heir.
Tom was born both deaf and mute. Back in those days they considered every deaf mute to be retarded, and so Tom was sent to live in the State-home which was in our hometown of Lapeer. Eventually one of the men from our church who worked at this place came to the realization that Tom wasn’t retarded — he was simply hearing and speech impaired. With the aide of a surgery and hearing aides Tom was able to hear a bit and he even learned to speak. Long before he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy we knew that he had a big heart — referring to his capacity to love.
As I was meditating on verse 12 my thoughts turned to Uncle Tom.
Look again at verse 12.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 NASB95PARA
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;
Note that:
Only God can enlarge our spiritual hearts, giving us the capacity for overflowing love
Paul uses two similar terms here — increase and abound in reference to love. Perhaps one refers to capacity while the other refers to volume. Regardless, it is the work of God which accomplishes this. We know that the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit also enables the believer to love the things of this world less and less, creating room for the love of God to abound. He enables us to to allow others to be more important than ourselves — which is an unnatural thing to do. As Paul wrote to the Philippians 2:3-4
Philippians 2:3–4 NIV84
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The object of love as mentioned in this verse is for one another. In other words, for fellow believers in Jesus Christ. This is a sacrificial kind of love in which a believer loves a fellow believer in an extravagant, costly way. Jesus Christ is our model for such love. Phil 2.5-8
Philippians 2:5–8 NIV84
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
What are some of the ways in which we each can show extravagant love for one another? Each of us needs to wrestle with that one.
Look again at verse 12.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 NASB95PARA
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;
Not only are believers to love their fellow believer, but they are to love everyone else as well. Love your neighbor as yourself!
I heard a story this past week about two neighbors who supported different candidates for POTUS. The person who was supporting Biden/Harris had the signs in his yard stolen. So his neighbor, a Trump supporter, went and got some new Biden signs for him. I thought that was such an amazing story during a time when we are so politically polarized!
Let’s turn our attention now

A Standing Which is Blameless

Look again at verse 13.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB95PARA
so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Note that:
Believers are holy because they are in Christ
Hiebert points out:
1 & 2 Thessalonians (b) Aim Indicated (v. 13)

The word for “holiness” (hagiōsunē) is used only by Paul in the New Testament (Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 3:13). It denotes not the process of becoming “holy” but rather the quality of “being holy.” It has an ethical quality that reveals itself in purity of life.

He goes on to say that through faith in the atoning work of Christ
1 & 2 Thessalonians (b) Aim Indicated (v. 13)

the believer has been separated from the world and set apart as belonging unto God. That which is devoted to God must be separated from sin. Genuine holiness is motivated by the obligations love imposes. “Since selfishness is the essence of sinfulness, love, which turns the self away from itself and towards God, is the condition of holiness, which is the antithesis of sinfulness.”

Notice that the last phrase of our text reflects on the timing of this: “At the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
The term translated coming can refer to the second advent of Christ or to the presence of Christ. It is the idea of presence that is pictured here. In other words, the time in which the church will be raptured away from earth and meet the the Lord in the air, and will be with in His physical presence forevermore. At some point after this event, believers will appear before the Bema seat to be evaluated for they way in which they have lived out their life in Christ. It will be a happy occasion for those who have walked worthy of God. But for those believers whose walk has been unworthy, it will be a sad day. Not that they will lose their inheritance in heaven, but they will lose potential rewards. The spiritual destiny was settled once and for all at the cross of Christ. And nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Their spiritual account was settled because they recognized that there is a Creator/God to whom they are accountable. They recognized that they were sinners and under the wrath of God. They recognized that Jesus, the Eternal God who became man, paid the gruesome cost for their sins as He hung on the cross; that He died, and was buried, and then rose triumphantly on the third day. And they placed their faith in His person and His work on their behalf.
Those who have not embraced the message of the gospel will not be a part of this coming of the Lord Jesus. But they will one day stand before Him at a different judgment. And on that day He will sentence them to eternity in the Lake of Fire.
It is impossible for the believer, in his or her own strength, to clear the hurdles which Satan puts in our way. It is impossible, in our own strength to fully love as Christ loved. It is impossible for anyone to be found blameless before Christ as a result of their own righteousness. But God can make the impossible, possible.
God can clear the hurdles which Satan uses in an attempt to diminish the effectiveness of the individual believer as well as the corporate church. Christ can give us the capacity to love others in the same sacrificial way in which He loved us. And in Christ can we who are believers are found to be blameless.
We’ve focused this morning on God making the impossible, possible. But we should also learn a few things about praying for one another from this passage as well.
We should pray that God would remove the spiritual hurdles that are inhibiting one another’s effectiveness in ministry.
We should pray for an increase in our own love for others, as well as for an increase in other’s love for others.
We should pray for one another that our lives would reflect the holy standing we have in Christ.
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: # 704
God Will Make a Way
Jude 24–25 NASB95PARA
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
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