The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

“Ready for His Righteous Repayment” - A Study in 2 Thessalonians - Tribulation Preparation: Prayer and Discipline - 2 Thessalonians 3

Paul has reaffirmed his teaching on the purpose and particulars of the Tribulation to the Thessalonian church members. The last chapter of this epistle answers the “Now what?” question and therefore speaks to our preparation for the coming latter days leading up to Jesus return (Rapture and Second Coming). Paul closes his second epistle to the Thessalonians with encouragement for them to live on from this point with a twofold two pronged preparedness: Prayer and Discipline.





2 Thessalonians 3:1–18 (NKJV)

Finally, brethren, pray for us,

The first thing Paul asks for when he does ask for anything is prayer. Prayer was a priority for Paul. If Jesus, the Word made flesh, Immanuel – God with us, practiced a life of prayer, should we fallen people practice prayer any less? Should we not pray for ourselves and for each other? Should we not regularly seek prayer support? Prayer helps us tap into the power of God. Prayer keeps our spiritual head on straight. Prayer brings us close to God. Prayer consoles us with the heartbeat of God. Prayer comforts us in the presence of God. We need to pray for ourselves and for each other.

I recently saw a call for prayer for pastors on Face Book. This is what it said:

·         97% of all pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends

·         70% of pastors battle depression

·         7,000 churches close each year

·         1500 pastor quit each month

·         Only 10% will retire as a pastor

·         80% of pastors feel discouraged.

·         94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry

·         78% of pastors have no close friends

·         90% of pastors report working 55-75 hours per week

·         Pray for your pastor

We need to be praying for our pastors. We need to be praying for those in ministry.

Abraham Lincoln, who was president of the United States during the Civil War, once commented, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” One can only imagine the circumstances that moved Lincoln to make that comment. The apostle Paul was not a stranger to difficulty. Paul once described his ministry as he defended against false accusations. He was inspired to write:


·         2 Corinthians 11:22–29 (NKJV) - 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

That’s the short list. Paul knew there was no way he could weather the storms of ministry he faced in his own strength. He didn’t beg for money. He didn’t share these words to garner sympathy or pity. When it came time for Paul to ask for something he asked for prayer. He was thankful for the church when it met his practical needs (e.g. the Philippians cf. Phil. 4:10). But what he was quick and persistent to ask for were the prayers of God’s people.

What was it specifically that Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for?

that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you,

First, pray “that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” Paul was not praying that the word of God be worshipped but that it be spread far and wide and “glorified” (Greek doxadzo) honored, respected, praised  what it was and continues to be, God’s word! When you honor, respect and have praise for something you don’t hide your feelings about it you share them! If you are a fan of a certain team, or shoe or purse brand you share it and wear your feelings on your sleeve. You share and show to others that which you are proud of, honor and praise. Do you honor God’s word?

How is God’s word spread? A Bible is a book and while it contains a powerful inspired message from God it is still an inanimate object. When Paul therefore tells the Thessalonians to pray “that the word of the Lord may run swiftly” he is telling them to pray for people to carry that word far and wide wherever they go. Paul affirmed that the Thessalonians did just that (“just as it is with you”); they revered God’s word and spread it far and wide.

Do you spread the word of God wherever you go? I can remember the small green Gideon’s Bible I was given when I first accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. It was small enough to keep in my pocket. And I took it wherever I went. At every opportunity I would take it out and read it. When the opportunity presented itself I would take it out and share it with others. To this day I will not go anywhere with the word of God. Now that we have IPhones with Bible AP capability, there isn’t any excuse to go anywhere without the Bible. And those APs can search for verses and give definitions for words we don’t understand. Take advantage of the technology of today and “run swiftly” with God’s word.

and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.

Second, pray, “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.” Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray that he and his ministry team may (Subjunctive case) be “delivered” (Greek rhuomai) saved, rescued delivered from “unreasonable” (Greek atopas) perverse, unusual, wrong and “wicked” (Greek poneros) painful, grievous, wicked, bad, evil, depraved men. These are people who fall into a group described by Paul as “not all have faith.”

Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray that he and his ministry team would be rescued from the sea of perverse and pain producing people in the world. Paul wasn’t praying to be saved from sinners. He was called by God to minister to sinners and share the gospel of Jesus with them. But he did pray for deliverance from those who weren’t interested in the good reason of the gospel; from those who were evil, depraved, committed to their lives of sin and uninterested in repentance from their sin. Paul was asking for the Thessalonians to pray for the Spirit to steer him to good heart soil; heart soil that would receive the word of God, let it take root, and then let it bear spiritual fruit to eternal life (cf. Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8).

Now Paul reciprocates his prayer request with some encouraging affirmations of his own to the Thessalonians.


But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.


What better way to speak to those whose faith and hope have been shaken by false teaching and who fear that their salvation with God was somehow overlooked or rejected? “But the Lord is faithful,” is where the focus of the Thessalonians needed to be. God is faithful and will not let them be tested and tried beyond what they are able but will help them in their time of need (1 Cor. 10:13). They and we can depend on God for he is faithful. He is true to His word and we can depend on every one of His precious promises. When you are discouraged, depressed or fear always respond by reminding yourself of the faithfulness of God.


God is faithful to “establish” (Greek steridzo) or to firmly affix, set in place, stabilize, build strong, and set a foundation with these believers. God was going to help them build their spiritual lives in a way that would keep them strong in the storm. We know that such establishing involves taking in and obeying the word of God (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). God is faithful to build us strong.


God is faithful to “guard you from the evil one.” “Guard” (Greek phulasso) means to guard, defend, watch over, protect, or keep safe. God steps in between us and the evil one Satan. There is nothing Satan or his minions of demons does to us that he doesn’t have to get the approval from God to do. Satan couldn’t do anything to Job without God’s permission (Job 1-2). That is a principle of life. And if God allows the enemy to attack or test us it is for a good reason; something that is part of His plans. We may not always understand God’s reasons for allowing Satan to buffet us, we may not always appreciate them, but we can be sure that if we were to see our circumstances from God’s perspective we would have no argument with His decisions.


And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.


Sometimes we talk about having faith in people. We can affirm people and encourage people but when it comes to trusting in people we may be venturing into dangerous territory. Peter told Jesus He could trust him but Jesus knew better (Matthew 26:31-35). Jesus didn’t trust in people. Jesus trusted in God. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).


Paul has encouraged and affirmed the Thessalonians, but his “confidence” (Greek peitho) his dependence is “in the Lord.” We should always depend on the Lord not on people. We should always encourage people to trust and depend on Jesus not on us. People are imperfect. God is perfect. People can and will let you down. God will never let you down.


Paul was confident and dependent upon God would help the Thessalonians to “do and will do the things we command you.” God was the One Paul depended on to work in and through the Thessalonians. He always trusted in God to work in and through people (e.g. Phil. 2:12-13). He always released people to the grace of God (cf. Acts 20:32). Are you trying to get people to depend on you or on Jesus? Are you depending more on people than Jesus? These are important questions.


Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.


Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” “Direct” (Greek kateuthuno) or lead and guide the Thessalonians into “the love of God.” Leading and guiding speak of relationship. God will take us by the hand and lead us if we in faith allow Him to. The Thessalonians had been falsely taught that the Tribulation was upon them. Since the Tribulation is a time of God’s outpoured wrath this meant that what they had been taught by Paul that God’s word about being saved from the wrath to come was not true (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). But worse, it would mean that if God punished His people who were saved by the blood of Jesus the same way he punished sinners then they could easily have construed this to mean God was not loving or they were not loved by God. Paul therefore prays God would embrace them in His warm certain assuring love.


And Paul prays the Lord would lead them “into the patience of Christ.” “Patience” (Greek hupomone) means endurance, patience, steadfastness, perseverance. No one knows the day or hour of Jesus return. Therefore we need to be patient and endure living in this world until He does return. We may die before He returns. In that case we will go immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Either way, either the Rapture or death before the Rapture, we trust in God to help us to be faithfully enduring whatever His will is for us.




While we prayerfully endure we are to live on with a certain attitude. Paul now turns to that attitude.

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

Paul now gives some pretty strong instruction. Paul says, “we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul takes out his apostolic authority which was substantial and then turns the authority of what he is about to say up even a notch more by commanding them in the name of Jesus. So what he is about to say is a strong order and command.

Paul commands them “that you withdraw from” (Greek stellomai) or avoid, or withdraw from “every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” No notice Paul is speaking about those in the church. He is saying this is what should be done in regard to “every brother,” or professing Christians. The issue for which we are to withdraw from a professing Christian over are those who “walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”

“Walks” (Greek peripateo) refers to a way of life. This is the way a “brother” is living. “Disorderly” (Greek ataktos) means irresponsible, idly, disorderly. The opposite of disorderly is orderly (Greek tasso meaning to arrange, fix, appoint). Paul defines this disorder as living “not according to the tradition which he received from us.” “Tradition” (Greek paradosis) is simply oral or written teaching that is to be passed from one generation to the next. Therefore, a disorderly Christian is someone who is not applying or living by what Paul has passed on to them.

We often recoil and resist the idea of discipline. When we hear the word “discipline” we think of drill sergeants, teachers with whips and rulers, and maybe overbearing overlords. We have a lot of negative responses and visual thoughts connected with this word. But really the word “discipline” is derived from the word disciple. A disciple is one who follows and lives by the teaching of their master. A disciple is one who disciplines their life according to their Lord.

There is a fallacious false teaching that order and the work of the Holy Spirit are contradictory. But really when we look at the Bible which is inspired by the Spirit and look at the plans of God we see orderliness everywhere. We see an order to the creation that was made in parts of six separate days with a day of rest on the seventh. We see an order to the lineage of the Messiah, i.e. through the line of Abraham. We see chapters devoted to the building plans of the Tabernacle and Temple. We see an order in the calendar of God’s people and Feast Days and the particulars of a sacrificial system. We see a meticulous attention to the fulfillment of prophecy. We see an order to the death, resurrection and then waiting in Jerusalem for the baptism with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. There is no disorder in what God does. The only disorder we see is associated with Satan and sin. Therefore we need to understand that order is spiritual and disorder is unspiritual.

The most grievous evidence of disorderly conduct is when a professing Christian who “walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” Paul is not speaking about incidentals of disobedience to God’s word. Paul is talking about a way of life adopted by a professing believer. He is talking about someone who claims to be Christian but willfully disregards the word of God in some lifestyle or habitual way.

When do we “withdraw from every brother” who “walks disorderly”? At what point and for what reason do we walk away and avoid a brother or sister in the Lord? I think such a question can only be answered as it relates to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are to leave the 99 and search out the lost sheep according to Jesus (cf. Luke 15:4-7). But there is also a time when repeated corrections and instructions are disregarded by a professing Christian that because of their disorderly lifestyle they should be avoided. I would say that such avoidance and withdrawal is not something done in anger or vengefulness but it is done in love to discipline a brother or sister in hopes that they will get right with God. Sometimes love does have to be tough. Sometimes it is very hard to enforce God’s truth in love. But we must do so in faith trusting in God’s word. We are to obey God’s word and the leading of the Spirit and leave the outcome to God. If we act in good faith praying throughout that is all we can do.

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

Notice Paul is not a “do as I say and not as I do” apostle. Paul led by example. He was able to say, “you ought to follow us.” Paul is going to speak about having a hard working attitude and his teaching had weight and substance because Paul himself was diligent and hard working. There is nothing more repulsive than a lazy lackadaisical minister. Really laziness and lackadaisical should never be mentioned in the same sentence with anyone serving the Lord or living for Jesus. Even the appearance of such things should be avoided.

Paul wasn’t “disorderly,” he lived out the word of God. He didn’t free-load and live off other people. He “worked” (Greek kopos) or labored to exhaustion, labored and worked until weary. Paul worked “with labor” (Greek mochthos) or labored, toiled, exertion, and hardship. And he did this “night and day.” Paul was known for being a hard worker. What are you known for? Are you a lounger or laborer for the Lord?

Paul’s motive in all of this was “that we might not be a burden to any of you.” Paul was careful to never take advantage of people. He never wanted to be a burden to those he served. Paul added, “not because we do not have authority,” or that he had a right, as a servant of the Lord to be supported by those he ministered to. The minister of the gospel should be supported by the church or those they serve (1 Cor. 9:4, 6-14). But the greater purpose for Paul was “to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” Paul was willing to go above and beyond to serve in ministry even if it meant self-sacrifice and additional hard work. There is a time when the pastor or minister assesses their life circumstance and ministry and says, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables,” and “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-7). But the pastor and minister should always be asking what impression, what godly example of Christlike sacrifice am I making on those I serve.

Ministry is not for the faint of heart or those seeking an easy way of life. Ministry is hard work physically, mentally and spiritually. There are times when the pastor has to clean the urinal and times when he has to baptize new believers. And it is all part of the calling of God and service of Christ.


10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.


Paul lays down the principle and standard especially for those in the church. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” This is pointed towards those who can work but who “will not work.” There is a place for helping those who can’t work for some reason. The church should have a benevolence program. Government subsidies and social services were initially well intentioned. The problem is that social services have become a substitute for work. Some see their knowledge of the social service system as their work. Their “work” is to work the system. Government feeds into this circular imprisonment because a populace that depends on the government to eat and live is more likely to vote in politicians who will meet their “needs.”


Those Paul calls out here he refers to as “busybodies” (Greek periergazomai) meddlers, busy-bodies that move around but accomplish nothing, those involved in useless unnecessary busyness. The opposite of a busybody would be someone who is always engaged in something productive, something that is aimed at eternal worth and spiritual edification or meeting the needs of others. The alternative to being a busybody is to “work in quietness and eat their own bread.” And Paul commands and exhorts “through our Lord Jesus Christ” these busybodies to “work in quietness and eat their own bread.” That is something we should consider today.


Are you a busybody or diligent worker? Are you looking for a handout, living off of others while you could be working yourself? How would you describe your attitude in this area?


13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.


What about those who are being taken advantage of? Even in Paul’s day taxes were high. In the church there were those who worked hard while others loafed. Predo’s Rule of business says 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Sometimes it seems like that could be applied in the church. Paul encourages those who are diligent and hard workers and tells them “do not grow weary in doing good.” To the Galatians Paul said, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10). Don’t give up, work hard and press on in what God sets before you to do. The harvest is coming.


14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.


Paul is to telling the Thessalonians to see the busybody and lazy Christian as no longer being a Christian. He is saying “do not keep company with him,” for a purpose, “that he may be ashamed.” “Ashamed” (Greek entrepo) means be put to shame, ashamed, not have respect, not reverence. The person who will not work is a person that does not have the power of God or presence of God in their life. There is something missing; it is the approving presence of the Lord. Hopefully the person with the disorderly and questionable way of living will be ashamed of not being what God wants them to be.


There is a principle to understand here. The Spirit makes His presence known as we step out in faith . When we work in faith we create an opportunity for the Spirit to make His presence known through our work. Therefore, if we do not work we do not have opportunity for the Spirit to make His presence known and we lack His presence in our lives. For the Christian that is something to be ashamed of. This is the underlying principle behind Paul’s instruction on how to deal with or discipline the disorderly and lazy Christian.


But its important to remember that Paul adds, “yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” “Admonish” (Greek noutheteo) means admonish, instruct, counsel, put into mind. We are to correct and counsel brethren who are acting in unchristlike ways. Again, it is important to follow the leading of the Spirit who always works to restore and edify (build up) not isolate and eliminate.

16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. 17 The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


Paul closes with a benediction praying that the “Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.” Their peace had been disrupted. They were pained by persecution but that pain was compounded with the effects of false teaching that tried to steal their peace. Paul has a closing remedy for this.


Paul prays their peace would be restored. And the peace he offers comes from a personal relationship with “the Lord. . . Himself.” The pronoun “Himself” used by Paul is a very personal comment. It’s as though Paul were saying, “The Lord Himself, personally, is going to give you peace.” When our peace is disrupted there is no better remedy than being reminded and knowing Jesus Himself is there with you. That is a peace producing awareness. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). If He is there, no matter what we are going through, we can be at peace.


But you think, “I feel so alone. How do I know Jesus is with me?” The Bible says He is. The Holy Spirit makes His presence known to us wherever we are (Psalm 139). Jesus Himself said He would always be with us (Matthew 28:20). When Paul was a bit rattled by problems in Corinth Jesus spoke to Paul and said, “I am with you and no one will attack you to hurt you” (Acts 18:10). When we are alone and afraid Jesus says the same to us.


There is a poem that has become a classic called “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. It  illustrates the presence and care of Jesus in hard times.




Footprints in the Sand


One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you."[1]
-          Mary Stevenson



Someone has humorously but insightfully added to the poem the idea that there were times when instead of just footprints there was a line in the sand. When Jesus is asked the meaning of the line He responds, “That was when I had to drag you.” Jesus is always with us; even when we don’t want Him. Jesus has the peace we need. If you are going through a hard time, run to Jesus, walk with Him, let Him carry you when needed, and don’t drag your feet.


Paul notes that this letter is written “with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write.” He said this to show that this was not a pseudepigraphal writing but the real deal genuine letter from him.


He closes in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of God’s word is delivered and implemented by the grace of the Lord. To that we join Paul saying, “Amen.”

No comments:

Post a Comment