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2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

The Prayers of the Bible  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:14
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The Prayers of the Bible 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 Summer Hill Church 29 December 2019 1. What do we really need? a. many answers i. some of you will recognise this (1) it’s called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (2) what it supposed to do is tell you the most important things that someone needs from the bottom up - so your most fundamental needs are physiological needs like food and drink (3) and then safety, love, self-esteem and then actualisation (4) so it’s a list of what you need more than anything else (a) though of course if you listen to advertisers there are a whole raft of things you need. (i) you need a new car, you need revitalised skin, you need an overseas holiday, or specially the latest iphone or pixel 4 (b) when I was following the cricket online yesterday - (c) the advertisers thought this was what I needed-can you tell what it is? (d) It’s a leather beret hat… (e) says something about what they think of me... ii. and we perceive needs that the church has too. Many of us have ideas... (1) I’ve heard people say what you need is an open front door, a better missions program, more caring for the community, more loving one another, a commitment to holiness, and a commitment to getting your hands dirty in the seamier and uglier sides of life (a) what are our needs as a church? (i) just think for a moment - if you could change something about church what would it be? (2) None of the things I said above are necessarily bad things. I think they all have good uses and right times where you can use and apply them, and I trust that the ideas you had are like that too. Good things, that could be good for us to know - and you are always welcome to chat about ideas. iii. but what we REALLY need to know is what GOD thinks we need. We may have good ideas, some even great ideas, but he has perfect ideas. b. Paul’s answer i. over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of the prayers of the Bible, which are God teaching us how to pray. They show us a glimpse of what matters to God, rather than to Maslow, or even to you and to me. (1) our first prayer is the one Helen read to us from 2 Thessalonians (a) and it’s a very brief prayer only 32 words - but it’s vital for us to hear. Specially now as we as a church start to our life BCB (2) what should matter to us - and therefore what are we looking for in someone to come and be our new senior minister. ii. so we’ll look at that this morning 2. What’s in Paul’s mind? a. thankfulness for Christian growth i. what do your prayers look like? As you pray what dominates your prayers? (1) it’s right at the moment that we pray for the fire situation, and yet again as the weather turns harsher, and our volunteer and professional firies are stretched yet again. (2) are your prayers dominated by your needs? For work and family and future plans? None of which are bad ii. but to help us understand what our priorities and therefore our prayers should look like let’s look at the background to what Paul is praying here (1) We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. vv3–4 iii. the first thing we see is that Paul is thankful for Christian growth iv. that when you look at these Christians in Thessalonica you can see signs of faith growing, and love increasing. (1) when we are asked about how we are going, do we default to health, or work, or happiness? Yeah, I’m busy. Family is well. Little Johnny is doing well at school, university and cricket and little Janie is now grown up and a barrister with a major law firm. (2) or do we give thanks for signs of grace v. of growing love, of increased faith. (1) Where does our heart land? What is our heartland (2) because Paul is clear isn’t he - he boasts in their accomplishments, but their accomplishments in perseverance and faith by enduring persecutions. vi. so as we suffer, as we struggle do we look for and rejoice in signs of growth? (1) many of you know that over the past 5 months I have been struggling with some significant issues of anxiety, and it has come up for me often (a) not just - how do I respond when I’m asked - which is - thanks I’m improving and glad to be back (2) but how do my prayers look? Am I asking and looking for growth even in the midst of this time? Am I thanking God for the growth he brings, and the changes he brings, or do I resent it and just want it to be better now. (a) and I admit, it’s not been simple for me. I would like to say that I had regularly thanked God, but I must admit that I have too often been frustrated by my incapacity and slow recovery (3) but I should be thanking God as he remoulds me, just as he remoulds you too and you too should be thankful. b. confidence in the face of God’s judgement i. he prospect of positive vindication (1) but then Paul says something extraordinary that I’m not going to have time to unpack very much (a) All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. v5 (2) the very fact that he can see signs of Christian growth in them even as they are persecuted shows that God’s choice of them is correct! It proves he has chosen them and they will be counted worthy. ii. for us that means our suffering has a glorious end. We can endure so much when we can see the end in sight. Any mother can tell you that about labour, that when you know the outcome, the suffering doesn’t become easier, but you helps you endure! (1) and so knowing that God’s choice is real and your place in the kingdom is assured, means we can suffer with a different outlook. iii. but then comes a section we find difficult, (1) He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. vv6–10 iv. we find it difficult because we feel retribution is fundamentally flawed. (1) and it is right that it’s an uncomfortable thing (a) that it feels like it’s not fair when we hear of retribution happening (i) and that’s because we hear of uncontrolled retribution I think (b) when it gets out of hand, and far more is exacted in recompense than was ever in the first offence. (i) the sense of everlasting destruction feels so awful and we cannot imagine what would mean that it could be right. (c) but I missed a really important phrase at the beginning of v6 (i) God is just. (d) standing here with human eyes and human senses of right and wrong. we have internal judgements that are twisted and marred by sin, so we can’t see what is actually right and wrong perfectly. (2) but when the day comes, all of creation will see that God is not needlessly cruel or overreacting, but we will see that he is completely right in his judgements, and we will not in truthfulness be able to say God is unfair. (a) but instead he will (v10) be glorified in his holy people, and be marvelled at among all those who have believed. v. a sense of expectancy (1) and so it is with this in mind, with this sense of expectancy and these priorities we come to Paul’s prayer. 3. What does Paul ask for? a. that God may make you worthy of his calling i. With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, v11a (1) because he knows that growing in Christ is what’s most important, and that we will be vindicated ii. then what matters is that we live up to our calling. (1) not live this way so that we’re called, but live this way because we are called by God. You are a holy people - God has called you to be his holy people, so live it out! iii. be humble, gentle, kind, self-controlled, joyful, faithful, patient - those fruit of the spirit that are marks of being Christian (a) not mainly that we are successful, or popular, or even nice people. In fact, if we are persecuted it’s because people don’t think we’re nice. They must think we are offensive. iv. and that’s clearly how the Thessalonians were viewed, and as we come to the end of 1600 years of western Christendom we will find ourselves as Christians viewed more and more as offensive. (1) whether it’s for our view on morality, or sexual behaviour, or the ultimate fate of those who don’t know Jesus v. and it is EXACTLY this that Paul is praying for us. Not necessarily to be easy to live with, but godly people, whose lives reflect the calling to love God with all our heart mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. vi. and if this is what we are to pray for ourselves, then loving our neighbour as ourselves means wanting this for them as well. Do you pray for your neighbours, friends, workmates, that they may know Christ. (a) and he also prays that what we want will come true b. by his power he night bring to fruition… i. and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. v11b (1) not just everything of course. But our desires for goodness, and actions prompted by our faith! (a) I remember when I was a young Christian I was told that I would get anything I wanted provided I believed. (b) based at least in part on verses like Mat 21 (i) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22 (c) All I had to do was believe. And I got into this desperate spiral of trying to believe harder and harder so I could get what I wanted. (i) which for 19 year old me was a black Holden Sandman with a chrome 5l V8. (d) we are all very glad I didn’t get it, but I really did beat myself up because I really tried to believe as hard as I could for it. (e) Then someone showed me Psalm 37:4 (i) Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (f) Which at first glance I thought YES - there’s the key - take delight in the Lord! So I started to think - how do you do that! (2) but what I didn’t do was really read the text, and my friend pointed out, that if I truly delighted myself in the Lord - what would I want? (a) Well I would want the the things the Lord really wanted, and it crashed in on me it probably didn’t include a black holden sandman (3) which truth be known, was all about trying to attract certain women. (a) so it really was better for me in the long run ii. but when we align our desires, our delights, our wants truly with the Lord then he will delight to give us the delights and the desires of our hearts iii. i.e. (11) every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith (1) do you see? God delights in answering prayers that are for the good of his people, for YOUR good in HIS eyes. Do you dare pray for that?... (2) but this prayer also has a goal 4. The goal of Paul’s prayer a. that God may be glorified i. and that goal is that God may be glorified (1) We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him,. v12a ii. that’s what should guide all our prayers - that the outcome would be that God would be glorified. (1) while I find it very hard to see how God would be glorified through him giving me the car, (a) it IS when we endure the hard times, and come out the other end trusting in God even more, leaning on him even more. (2) Trusting less in ourselves and our own abilities. Then God is glorified! iii. and when God is glorified through us, then he also shows his glory in us. (1) Paul puts it well in 2Corinthians 12 - reflecting on how his weakness brings about God’s glory (a) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (b) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Corinthians 12:9–10 iv. God’s power is shown most clearly when we are weak, because then it is all about him and not about us. (1) And so we should delight in “weaknesses, persecutions, difficulties” because then God’s power is most shown in us. 5. What do we really need a. the work of God i. so then reflecting on this, what do we really need? We need the work of God in us, rather than our own strength. (1) Because he has assured our future, that he is in control and will bring glory through the hard times and persecutions in particular ii. then what we should be seeking is to grow in that (1) I have put it in the passive here, but I want to put it more actively iii. what do you really want. What is that moves you and drives you. (1) when you think about God - what do you want. b. the power of God i. I think most of us want to be in touch with his power, to be someone who really experiences the power of God, however you may think about that. (1) and so often we long for this, desperately reach out for it, but are disappointed (a) because we don’t understand what God’s power is really about ii. we make God’s power about us, and what we want and bringing about our ideas. And we are constantly frustrated because we don’t see it in us. (1) but God’s purposes are very different than ours. His purpose, (2) his plan is for our holiness to his glory! Not our what we think we need for our comfortable life. (3) it may well be best shown by hanging on to faith by your fingernails in the face of severe persecution, (a) or putting up with ridicule and even hatred because of your Christian views in our secular society. (4) and so his power is shown in our faithful perseverence. (a) And our commitment to doing good, even when things feel unfair because we know that God is just, and God is bringing about his justice in the world. (b) But it may be justice that we don’t comprehend now - but it will be clear when Jesus comes again to judge. (5) and so we pray and sing now of God’s glory, but we sing knowing that we don’t know everything we can know, just everything we need to know to live godly and holy lives. (a) and that God in Jesus is incomprehensibly good and wise iii. Sing shortly a wonderful song... (1) Immortal invisible God only wise In light inaccessible hid from our eyes (2) Most holy most glorious the Ancient of Days Almighty victorious iv. that’s what God is like, he will work in us as we press on, as we persevere, as we endure, as we continue to do good in the face of opposition v. and so (1) Your great name we praise. (a) and then see where the hymn writer takes us in the last verse (2) All praise we will render O Father of Grace Till one day in splendour we see face to face (a) He has perfectly captured this prayer. Perfectly captured that we can’t in the end know all about God, but that we praise him and look forward to the day he shows his righteous judgement, and we will all marvel (i) and is that the way we pray, is that our heart’s longing. Is that who we want to be, (b) Connection cards - if you want to know more (3) Lets sing this prayer
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