2nd Sunday of Advent – 2015 LSB #’s 575, 348, 336 v.1, 3
Text – 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13
… as we pray most earnestly night & day that we may see you face to face & supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God & Father himself, & our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, & may the Lord make you increase & abound in love for one another & for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God & Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
PRAYING LIKE PAUL
It was mid-afternoon in central China on May 12, 2008 & suddenly all hell broke loose. An earthquake hit with a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter scale. Concrete panels, crumpled steel, & crushed tile buried tens of thousands of human beings. People reported that they repeatedly heard their loved ones screaming, & more screaming & hopeless & ongoing screaming.
St. Paul knows the feeling all too well. The Thessalonians were his dear loved ones. In chapter two he describes this relationship as “a nursing mother taking care of her own children” & “like a father with his children.” He even writes, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Then the earthquake hit! Paul & his companions were run out of town. Luke tells us about it in Acts 17. Some of the Jews were jealous of Paul so “they formed a mob” & “set the city in an uproar.” (Acts 17:5) They cried out, “These men who have turned the world upside down have also come here.” (Acts 17:6) Paul had to run for his life under the cover of night.
Next came the aftershocks. Even though Paul escaped the Thessalonians continued to suffer persecution & trying times. Paul wrote: “You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus & the prophets & also drove us out.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14–15) There was screaming, even if it was silent screaming. The Thessalonians were buried under accusations, threats & rejection. What does Paul do for those he loved; who were suffering so much; who were being persecuted by the Jews? In the Star Wars movies, the character who becomes Darth Vader turns to the dark side of the force in order to “save” those he loved. He delivered them through powerful savagery.
At the other end of the spectrum, St. Paul waits on the Lord & prays for the people he loves. What will we do when people we love so very dearly are in the midst of pain & loss? When their world caves in? When an earthquake called unemployment, cancer, infertility or divorce rocks their world? Darkness or light? We also can pray. We can pray like Paul.
The first thing we can do is PRAY FOR PEOPLE TO GROW IN FAITH. St. Paul wrote: “Night & day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again & supply what is lacking in your faith.” (1 Thessalonians 3:10)
Some people see prayer like a heavenly slot machine. Put in the coin & pull down the handle & maybe they hit the jackpot. Others see prayer like a visit to the dentist’s office. It’s something they know they should do, but most of the time they’d rather not. Still others see prayer like a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover. It just might bring them good luck.
That’s not the Apostle Paul. He earnestly prays night & day. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 the apostle encourages us to, “Pray without ceasing.” As for the content of Paul’s prayer; he asks God to “supply what is lacking in your faith.”
The term translated “supply” also appears in the NT in contexts where fishermen mend their nets (e.g., Mark 1:19; Matthew 4:21). Paul knows that the Thessalonians have faith. He’s already commended them in the 1st two chapters for their faithfulness in receiving the Gospel, but Paul also knows this; they are lacking. Their nets need mending!
This will always be true of Christians. Our nets need mending. We all need healing.
When a Christian we know is struggling under the weight of crushed dreams, the first thing they need is a stronger faith. For that reason, St. Paul encourages us to pray that the people we love would grow in their faith in Jesus.
The second thing we do is PRAY FOR PEOPLE TO ABOUND IN LOVE. As Paul wrote: “May the Lord make your love increase & overflow for each other & for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
Here’s a question for you: What do you call it when you put on pounds but don’t gain any muscle? Fat! If people don’t increase love, all they will have is spiritual fat. If we increase in knowledge without increasing in love all we’ve got is a fat head! That’s why Paul prays that love may increase & overflow – increase & overflow.
You see, when the world collapses the temptation is to become self-absorbed. Yet, being self-absorbed never works. Let’s repeat that. Being self-absorbed never works. So we pray for people to begin, again, to live outside themselves – to serve, to assist, to help, for their love to increase & overflow.
In the third place we PRAY FOR PEOPLE TO BECOME SECURE IN HOPE. “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless & holy in the presence of our God & Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
The Thessalonians were down & out. What do people need most when they are going through tough times? They need to see the big picture. They need to see what God has planned. God’s big picture is that the suffering & death of Jesus means you & I will stand holy & blameless when Christ returns with all of His holy ones.
Five days after that massive Chinese earthquake, a group of rescue workers found the dead body of a young woman. She was in the kneeling position. Her back was hunched over supporting a crumbled ceiling; her arms stretched forward, her hands thrust firmly into the muddy earth. As the rescue workers walked away, suddenly the team leader understood. He ran back to the woman’s side & reached underneath her body.
There, in the tiny shelter that the woman created by using her body as a protective shield, was a baby. He was about three months old, alive, unhurt & sleeping soundly. Inside the baby’s clothing, was a cell phone with this message on it: “My dear child. Remember, I love you.”
In a similar, yet infinitely greater way, Jesus took the full brunt of your sin & mine. He experienced the ultimate earthquake from hell; all the weight of our shame & our guilt. His death also means that we live. His protective shield means we have been set free. God almighty says, “My dear child. Remember I love you.”
We pray for others to become secure in this hope; the hope that Christ is coming again to restore everything we have already lost, & the things we are yet to lose. All the years of pain will be erased; every tear of disappointment will be wiped away. The symphonies we’ve missed & the sunsets we didn’t see will be beautifully played over & over again!
The spouse snatched by disease will run into your arms. The health that eluded you in the winter of your life will return a thousand-fold. The friends & family members who died in the faith will sit next to you, singing in the heavenly choir, forever!
How do we come to the aid of people who are crushed by life’s random events; who are barely hanging on by a thread; whose silent screams are ongoing & seemingly endless? The power & rage of the dark side might seem more effective & immediate, but Jesus calls us to trust Him & to pray. We pray like Paul to the almighty Creator & Savior of the universe. Amen.
The King shall come when morning dawns & light triumphant breaks, when beauty guilds the eastern hills & life to joy awakes. Not as of old a little child, to bear & fight & die, but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky. The King shall come when morning dawns & light & beauty brings. Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray: Come quickly, King of kings! Amen.
 1 Thessalonians 2:7
 1 Thessalonians 2:11
 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Pastor Dean R. Poellet