A Prayer and Reminder that God is Able.

Perseverance: 1 Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and that conversation turns into a prayer? Maybe if that has happened, it has freaked you out a bit and you didn’t know what to do with that person’s eagerness to pray. We often are not used to people praying with us in our regular conversations. However, if we scroll on social media, we will see statements like, “Urgent prayer needed” or “Please pray for this situation or this person.” In our prayer and praise times on Wednesday night, we share prayer requests for family members and friends most of the time which are requests about dealing with sickness. Sometimes we get a dramatic story that goes with the prayer request and we focus more on the details of what happened than we do for the well being of the ones involved. In our study of 1 Thessalonians, we have been looking this book with the theme of perseverance. We have gone through and looked at each section of this scripture and how Paul, Silas and Timothy want the Thessalonians to succeed in their faith. We have seen instruction and encouragement. What a gift Paul gives us in this letter. Not only can we see his love and concern for those he has invested his life, but he challenges them to grow in there faith. He does so in the form of a letter so it can be read over and over. In the middle of this letter, right in the middle of conversation, he breaks out in prayer. The Thessalonians are fortunate to have this letter but so are we! We have this spontaneous prayer in written form that we can study it and also read it over and over.
1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 NIV84
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
These three verses give us a prayer of boldness, a prayer of bountifulness, a prayer of blamelessness, and a prayer of blessedness.

A Prayer of Boldness (vs.11)

Verse 11 makes a very bold statement. It addresses both God the Father and the Lord Jesus. How is that bold? Well, the Jewish tradition was to pray acknowledging God as the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul boldly prays and goes where no Jew has gone before. He includes Jesus on the same level as God. This echoes the teaching of Jesus regarding the relationship with the Father and the Son.
John 10:30 NIV84
30 I and the Father are one.”
Several other passages show evidence of this as well including the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
John 17:11 NIV84
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.
Paul could only pray this prayer only if he proclaimed and taught the Divinity of Christ. It was not meant to be an argument but a declaration. Paul uses “Lord and Father” to show a distinction between Jesus and God.
1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV84
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
He later affirms this declaration to the Thessalonians in his second letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:16 NIV84
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
Paul uses these turning points in prayer to make it a targeted prayer.
He says,
1 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV84)
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.
The word clear means to remove the hindrances. If you remember back in Chapter 2 verse 18, there was a hindrance that kept Paul from getting back to Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 2:18 NIV84
18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us.
Satan wants to be a hindrance to anything that might draw us closer to the Lord Jesus and to God the Father as well as to other Christians. He will do his best to put obstacles in the way that are huge and seemingly immovable. But notice the prayer that Paul gave, “Clear the way.” The word way can mean a road, a course or a conduct and a path of thinking. Our God is the way maker. He sees the beginning and the end and is capable of clearing the way. The example in this prayer is to simply ask God the Father and the Lord Jesus to do so! God will also clear the way for us to follow Him.
Psalm 5:8 NIV84
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me.
Notice what Paul does in the next verse of our text. He gives a prayer of bountifulness.

A Prayer of Bountifulness (vs. 12)

1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV84
12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
This is not a prayer for riches or to win a lottery. It is not to gain material things. It is a prayer about love. Again, this love is agape love. It is unconditional love. We have already established that the prayer is to God the Father and the Lord Jesus. The Author and Creator of Love is God the Father and the initiator and sustainer of love is the Lord Jesus and that love is infused in us when we say yes to Jesus! Paul’s prayer here is for love to increase. Increase means to super abound or exist in abundance. The prayer is to make love better by making love more. We should never be satisfied with the love we have. We should always want more with the idea of giving more away. This is a prayer of expansion. John the Baptist summarized this idea this way: John 3:30
John 3:30 NIV84
30 He must become greater; I must become less.
The opposite of love is being selfish. We must become selfless to not be selfish. Paul adds to this a prayer of excess. His desire is for love to increase and overflow. Overflow is the excess. Overflow means to exceed a fixed number or measure. I think of Psalm 23:5
Psalm 23:5 KJV 1900
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
The words increase and overflow are synonomous more or less but together they constitute a prayer petition for the most abundant blessing! The prayer of bountifulness is not that love would just increase but that it would increase and abound beyond the limits, being exceedingly great and overflowing.
Then the prayer of increase and overflow is so that it would spill out to other believers and even over to the unbelievers. Jesus also spoke about this. He said in John 13:34-35
John 13:34–35 NIV84
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 15:17 NIV84
17 This is my command: Love each other.
Paul goes on to speak for himself, Silas and Timothy by saying, “We are doing it!” Paul led by example and he wanted the Thessalonians to be like him as well. In fact this prayer of bountifulness is a prayer that is endured as we see it answered! 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 NIV84
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
Paul gets even more specific as he moves to a prayer of blamelessness.

A Prayer of Blamelessness (vs. 13)

1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV84
13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
In this verse there are four parts to this prayer of blamelessness. There is first a prayer of strength. The word for strengthen means to make stable, to place firmly or to set fast. Serving the Lord makes one stronger not weaker. Ephesians 6:10
Ephesians 6:10 NIV84
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
The prayer is that the Thessalonians, and would add Christians today, strengthen our hearts. This is not just a cardio workout, but a whole being workout. The heart in the Bible means the center of all physical and spiritual life. It is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections and endeavors. It is the essence of our being. This also means, that the heart is the natural spring and seat for unholiness. One theologian stated it this way: “The self-centered person at best will have an element of weakness and instability. But where anyone has learned to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself, then he has a firm foundation for life.” Leon Morris
The prayer request we have here is to strengthen our hearts to remove anything unholy. What is unholy in your life right now? Is it a habit? Is it a relationship? Is it doubt? Is it hanging on to some addiction that you need to let go of? The prayer of strength leads to a prayer of sanctity. You see, as we let go of unholy things we need to replace them with holy things. The Revised Standard Version says, “Establish your hearts unblamable with holiness.” Being blameless means you are striving for holiness. Holiness means set apart for God. It is a characteristic of every true believer. It is about a change of heart.
2 Chronicles 6 is a beautiful prayer of King Solomon. Verse 7 especially is meaningful to me because is a prayer that mentions a change of heart. It is a change from unholiness to holiness. It implies to me and reminds me of the definition stated earlier that the heart of man is unholy without Christ. When we pray to be blameless, we are relying on the strength of God to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1 NIV84
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
This is a prayer of service. It means to make righteous decisions, have holy motives, and to live in such a way that is set apart from this world. That means when we sin we should be quick to confess, repent and turn back to the ways of God. Why? Because the last part of this prayer of blamelessness is a prayer of the Second Coming.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV84)
13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
This preparation is similar to that outlined in Romans 13:8-10
Romans 13:8–10 NIV84
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The Lord Jesus is coming again. We do not know when but I believe with all my heart we are closer than ever. When the Lord comes, He wants us to be ready. Paul wanted us to be ready. Part of getting ready included being blameless which leads to confidence and being unashamed.
1 John 2:28 NIV84
28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
James 5:8 NIV84
8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

A Prayer of Blessedness

In closing, I see this prayer as a prayer of blessedness. It is definitely one we should make on a regular basis. It is a prayer that should be the mainstay of every Christian, for God the Father and the Lord Jesus to clear a way so that love can prevail and that our hearts strengthened so we can be blameless when the Lord Jesus returns. It is a prayer we should model as a church and as individuals. It is a prayer we should maintain as we minister to this community. We can only allow love to increase and overflow in our lives by becoming the temple in which Christ dwells. We must be prepared to be a sanctuary, pure and holy. Are you there?
10 Day Challenge: Praying these verses 3 times a day for 10 days.
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