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Echo Evangelique

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Paul’s Prayer for the Thessalonians

Text: 1 Thess. 3:11-13

Key Concepts:

  • As a minister, Paul was truly dedicated to the Word and the believers.
  • In prayer, Paul prioritized the spiritual needs of the people above all else.
  • Love reflects the character of God.

            How does one know he/she is being called to ministry? You know you are being called when you realize that the people you are called to serve are the subject and object of your thinking. When you find yourself constantly praying and planning for them; when you miss them because you are apart. Also, when their success is your joy and their pain your sorrow, and, when you long to see their soul prosper. This is true for all those who are called to ministry. If you do not feel this way, please look for a vocation elsewhere. The apostle Paul demonstrated these sentiments for the Thessalonians. He used four metaphors which outlined his relationship with and his ministry to them. He considered them as a guardian would. Paul faithfully and jealously guarded the message of the gospel that they had received. And since they were new converts, they needed to be nourished by the Word. He nurtured them as a mother would. Paul provided them with that which was necessary for their spiritual growth as a spiritual father. And as a prophet, he was diligent in proclaiming the Word of God.

These metaphors clearly reveal the nature of ministry to the Church and the definition of pastoral care. There are two specifics requirements that we insist on in this church. They define the ministry of the pastor and that of the spiritual leaders. First is a commitment to the Word of God. This speaks to one’s level of dedication to the cause of the gospel. Paul was thus committed. He was commissioned to proclaim the gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ. He did so faithfully. And, he encouraged those who grew under his leadership to be faithful and above reproach in their service. Ministry must begin with a firm conviction and commitment to the Word of God because new converts need to be anchored in the truth of God. Integrity is also a requirement of ministry to the people of God. In first Thessalonians, Paul reminds us that we have been appointed for this. As ministers of the gospel of Christ, we are tasked with studying, teaching the people, and obeying the Word of God. Paul passed on what he received from The Lord; then he appointed Timothy with imparting the knowledge he acquired from him to others. He emulated The Great Commission of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20) in doing so.

The second essential criteria of the ministry of a spiritual leader, linked to the first one. It is one’s commitment to the people of God. There has to be great concern for their soul. Paul had deep love for the believers; he treasured them with the love of Christ. He guided them skillfully and invested his all in their spiritual growth. He did not leave things to chance but made plans for them. He spent considerable time praying for them. Indeed, we pray for those we love knowing they need God’s power, strength, and favor (1 Thess. 3:10). In order to pray for the one that you are ministering to, you must have a relationship with that person. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV). Paul knew his people and understood where they were in their walk with God. His prayers revealed his sentiment toward them but also his vision for them as a father. That is the true essence of prayer. Paul was cognizant of the fact that a believer’s most critical need is a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His prayer was focused on their spiritual needs knowing that the Lord would provide what they lacked once they were in His will. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt.6:33, KJV). Confidence in the love of God is another part that is truly necessary to our faith. Indeed, because He loves us, He does not leave us to be orphans and provides for our many different needs. Paul realized that because the Lord is our shepherd; we would not want (Ps. 23:1).

Paul’s prayers for the Thessalonians displayed his wishes for their future (1 Thess. 3:11-13). Obviously, the Word of God and prayer go together. It is not enough to teach the Word; it is also necessary to pray for the teachers and the students of the Word. Jesus prayed for His disciples. Paul prayed for the church. Both Moses and Samuel prayed for the people they served. Likewise, the spiritual leaders and pastors must pray for the people they are ministering to. Our faith never reaches perfection, there is always a need for adjustments and room to grow. We move from faith to faith. There are daily challenges to where we stand in our walk with God. Paul understood that the church would be challenged by difficulties. Thus, he prayed. His prayer is addressed to The Lord Jesus Christ and equally to God the Father (1 Thess. 3:11). This is to say that Paul is asserting the divinity of Christ by putting Him and the Father on equal footing. He prayed that God would facilitate his return to Thessalonica because his mission was curtailed by satanic interference. He engaged in spiritual warfare through prayer. Every crisis carries a series of lessons that is necessary and beneficial to the next struggle. Crisis is a trial, an adversity that is necessary for teaching and proving our character. In affliction the true self is laid bare. We are force to face who we truly are. What life does to us depends on what life finds in us. When we are facing difficulties, we either build walls or we create bridges. Some draw closer to the Lord and to others, and others flee. By now we all realize that we have no control over the crises of life. But we are in control of our moods and personalities, we can choose how to behave and how to respond to the crises around us.

Ministry is difficult and eventually the unforeseen happens. How you react to it, has to do with how the difficulties find you and where you are in relationship with God. Paul’s desire to serve did not end with his fleeing from Thessalonica. The problem disrupted his plans but his love and concern for the people remained. Right now, we are in a situation similar to Paul’s. We miss and cannot be with you though we long to minister to you during this difficult time. We must all follow Paul in praying that God allow the calamity pass and enable us to minister to His people once more. Please, pray likewise as well. The prayer for the Thessalonians continued with a petition for the abundant growth of their love (1 Thess. 3:12). This abundant love is not simply affective but that which binds us together in kinship as a family. It is an indispensable love that gives meaning to one’s life; it is for the sake of others and never for self-aggrandizement. That is the purpose of anything God provides in abundance. Jesus, after all, commanded us to love one another as He loves us (Jn 13:35). Paul is echoing this same fullness of love. It is a virtue that, more than anything else, must define our relationship as brothers and sisters. For such love overcome evil. As siblings in Christ, we seek each other’s welfare. This should start in our homes then extend outward to others. Paul’s prayer also included his persecutors. He challenges us to love them enough to pray that God changes their heart. Indeed, he prescribes kindness to everyone. Paul calls all believers to love without hypocrisy. This is not about who deserves it or not, but we love because God loves us and commands us to so as well.

What has Paul’s love done for the Thessalonians after only 17 days? They knew that Paul endured hardships for their sake. He deprived himself to provide for them spiritually. He encouraged them to do the same for others. His love meant he did what needed to be done, including disciplining them. He concluded with wishing them to be firmly established in the understanding of eschatological matters while living blamelessly in holiness before the Lord. Indeed, we are to live blameless even while facing disaster. For crises should not define us. We are not to be moved by them. Our needs should never cause us to compromise our character. We should remain true to our identify in Christ no matter where we are, no matter who is watching us or not. We should do this with the hope of He who is to come who is also our source of stability. Stability will then lead to sanctity, holiness, and assurance. Crisis should rather remind us that deliverance is coming. This doom and gloom will not last forever. May the Master find us blameless at His return. Until then beloved, remain firm and faithful. Let us keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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