Introduction. Read 2Thes3v1to5

A university student was seen with a large "K" printed on his T-shirt. When someone asked him what the "K" stood for, he said, "Confused." "But," the questioner replied, "you don’t spell 'confused' with a 'K.'" The student answered, "You don’t know how confused I am."

The passage under study strongly indicates that Paul was not at all uncertain about the spiritual standing of the Christians at Thessalonica but rather confident that they were going on well with the Lord.

The little apostle was confident of four things:

(1) The church's prayers.

Paul expected the church to join with him in praying:

(a) That the gospel might be made be made known to more and more people. He wanted it to spread like wild fire. Paul saw himself and his associates, Silas and Timothy, as God's chosen instruments in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Yet although Paul had been appointed by God for this task he did not do it in his own strength. He did not even rely on his own prayers or those of his close associates. He wanted his brothers in Thessalonica to prayer for him - to be partners with him in the grand work of seeking and saving the lost.

A story is told of the great 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon: One Sunday afternoon, a group of ministers came to the massive Metropolitan Tabernacle to hear him preach. Assuming the stout man at the side of the building wearing bib overalls to be the janitor, they asked, “Sir, would you kindly show us the power plant for this huge building?”

“Certainly,” the man replied, leading them to the basement. As he opened the door at the end of a hallway, the ministers expected to see a mighty furnace. Instead, they saw over two hundred men on their knees praying for the approaching evening service.

“Prayer, gentlemen,” he said, “is the power plant of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. It is by prayer that the Word of God becomes effective."

By the way the man in the overall was Spurgeon himself. He knew the secret of his preaching’s power. [source: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 1358.]

(b) That the gospel might be honoured. The gospel is honoured when it is accepted. Jesus, who is at the centre of the gospel, is insulted when his saving work is treated with indifference, ignored or rejected.

In the Parable of the Great Banquet three of those who were invited made pathetic excuses for staying away. Their refusal to attend indicated a fatal lack of esteem for the Master of the Feast. See exposition on Luke14v15to24.

It is not enough for men and women to believe the gospel but they should also live worthy of it. Paul told the Philippians: Whatever happens, conduct yourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ. Phil1v27. It is a gospel of liberty and we should no longer be shackled by self-consciousness, low self-esteem and the fear of man. It is a gospel of life. Christ came to give life and to give it more abundantly. We should serve Jesus with cheerfulness, confidence and enthusiasm. Above all it is a gospel of grace. God has saved us by grace. We owe every thing to grace. God has not treated us as we deserve and so we should not treat others as they deserve but show them grace. See exposition on Phil1v27.

(c) For deliverance from the enemies of the gospel. Many Christians, who desire above all else to be loved, are very uncomfortable with having enemies in the world. Rather than confront those who would deny Christians opportunities for spreading the gospel they try and accommodate them. I am reminded of the well known story:

A man and his son who were in need of money decided to sell their donkey at the marketplace. So they headed for the market which was a few miles away. Passersby shook their heads in disgust that the man would make his son walk while he rode the donkey. After hearing the criticism, the man quickly dismounted, and his son got on in his place. As they walked a little farther, they again heard people on the road murmur, “How could that son be so disrespectful as to make his father walk while he rides the donkey?” The man then joined his son astride the donkey, only to hear some old women down the road say, “How cruel of those two to ride that poor little donkey!” In response, both father and son dismounted the donkey and, in desperation, the father and son picked the donkey up, and carried it. As they struggled into the market town all and sundry mocked them for having a donkey and not riding on it.

The enemies of Jesus will criticise his followers whatever they do to please them. We need to pray for strength and courage so that we are not disheartened or cowed by those who want above all to keep Jesus hidden.

(2) God's protection.

Paul is sure God will protect the Thessalonians because he is faithful. When misfortune strikes we find out who are faithful. My next door neighbour attended the boy's grammar school at which I taught. I used to meet him at old pupil's functions which he attended with his gorgeous wife - a glamorous and colourful individual. Sadly his wife had an operation for brain cancer that left her seriously handicapped. She can no longer walk or speak very well. But my neighbour did not abandon his wife - even though her illness changed her. He has been faithful and he and his wife remain happily married.

God will never forget about us, abandon us or write us off. We can sing in confidence:

          Abide with me, fast falls the eventide;
          The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
          When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
          Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

The apostle is confident that God will strengthen the Thessalonians in their conflict with wicked and evil men the viciousness of whom owes much to the malice and spite of Satan. God strengthens us through his word, a hymn, the example and encouragement of fellow believers and by his Spirit.

Our great enemy, the evil one, does his outmost to undermine our faith and sow seeds of mistrust and doubt. He did this in the garden at the very beginning and he does it still at every opportunity. But God has his own way of reassuring us of his tender love. I know a woman - fast approaching forty - who was in a terrible state over still being single. She had prayed and fasted over many, many years for a husband. The woman had also taken practical steps like joining a Christian dating agency. She told me that her faith almost failed her. One Sunday I preached at her church on Jesus' words: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Mt7v9to11. At the end of the service tears were streaming down her cheeks. God used this promise of his Son to restore her faith. When many months later I attended her wedding these words of Jesus were written in tiny letters at the bottom of the order of service sheet.

(3) The church's obedience.

Paul was glad that the Thessalonians were following his instructions. A teacher is always gratified when this is true of his pupils. On the whole a fresh intake of pupils, bright eyed and bushy tailed, keen to make a good impression on their new teachers will be obedient. Many start well!

Paul however was confident that the Thessalonians would continue to do the things we command. v4. Now, I found that quite a number of boys and girls who started well in their new school did not continue well. This can also be true of Christians for the following reasons:

  • Forgetfulness. I used to tell my new pupils how important it was to underline all headings with a ruler. It is important because the heading introduces a new topic. But after a while little boys forget what their teacher told them about headings! Christians, too, forget what they are taught about forgiveness, money, prayer - and so on.

  • Familiarity. The novelty of being in a new school wears off! The children become familiar with their surroundings and with their teacher. It no longer seems so important to make a good impression. Children can become blasé about their relationship with their teacher. Familiarity can even breed contempt! Paul suffered from this in the church at Corinth. Other influences crept into that church and Paul began to lose his authority.

  • Arrogance. As children get older some begin to think they know better than their teacher. They believe that they have outgrown the childish rules of their teacher. Whether they underline headings surely should be up to them! I can assure the reader that it was never up to them!!

    Many Christians suffer from arrogance. There was a disruptive faction in the Corinthian church who considered they could do just as they liked. Paul told these cocky, superior, Christians that they were still babes in Christ.

    Today there are plenty of Christians who don't attend church if they have 'something better to do.' Many more only attend once in the week. Private prayer is skimped, rushed or put off. Giving is minimal.

Well I hope Paul's confidence in the Thessalonians was well founded. There are always pupils who start well and continue well. So there are Christians who make steady progress toward maturity. But there are others who need to be reminded regularly, firmly and maybe even sharply of the basics: regular church attendance, the crucial importance of public and private prayer, generous giving to the Lord's work and the necessity to put the interests of God's kingdom first.

(4) Christ's abiding influence.

(a) Jesus, himself, is a constant reminder of God's love for us. Paul wrote to the Romans: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Rom8v31. John assures us: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Jn3v16.

God's love should inform all we do and say. A lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the century was quite wealthy but also quite frugal. The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home. Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?” “Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”

Some Christians are like that Irish lady. They may have the occasional glimpse of God's love. They might be fleetingly aware of it in a church service - but they do not stay plugged into it.

We need to allow Jesus, the tangible evidence of God's love, to change our lives. Adelaide Pollard put it like this in her well known hymn:

            Have Thine own way, Lord,
            Have Thine own way;
            Wounded and weary,
            Help me I pray.
            Power, all power,
            Surely is Thine;
            Touch me and heal me,
            Saviour divine.

(b) Jesus, himself, is a constant reminder of the importance of perseverance and endurance. The writer to the Hebrews wrote on behalf of Christian Jews who were experiencing much persecution and turning back to Judaism. He urges them: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of out faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb12v2and3.

Christians are NOT to be wimps. In the words of William Barclay: The outward characteristic of the Christian is that when others break he stands erect and when others collapse he shoulders his burden and goes on. With the love of God in his heart and the strength of Christ in his life a man can face anything. Thank God for that great cloud of witness to prevailing faith - AND may we be among their number.

(With thanks to Dennis Davidson and Jeff Strite on sermoncentral for illustrations.)

ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net