9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. I Thessalonians 3:9-13
The survey came in overwhelming for this week to cover the topic of reaching out to the community. Let me lay out this article of faith right out of the gate. We don’t bring anyone to faith, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians, “Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow.”
The place any outreach initiative begins, is on bended knee with prayer. You see that in the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica. There are three critical parts of this prayer that become the starting place for the church seeking to connect with its community.
- Paul prays that they might have their love increase (v.12) May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
- Paul makes an interesting request. “May the Lord make your love increase”
- What was Paul’s goal for asking this: so “he strengthen your hearts”
- How is this goal accomplished? 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
Our love increases by us showing love for others, both inside and outside the body of Christ, the church. Isn’t that the simplicity and the difficulty of the call to be a church engaged in the mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You see love is not just some mushy emotion, but it is grounded in mercy and service, as a vehicle for the people of God to demonstrate God’s love to others.
What Paul clearly shows is that if you want your love to increase that happens as we first pray for the health and well-being of other people. This is hard because is to so contrary to our sinful way of thinking. The sinner in us says our needs come first, I have been in church meetings where I hear things like this “We need to get our act together before we can go out into the community and invite people into our fellowship” Or “We have to take care of our needs before we can help those unfortunate souls out there.” Now for some people who are dealing with some severe emotional trauma in life that may be true. But for most of us, one of the best ways to gain some insights into our own life is to pray for other people.
I should warn you though if you pray as Paul suggested that our love increase. It will transform the way you view hurting people. Some bible commentators added this to this section on love:
Heubner: Love should not be scanty, poor, but rich, exuberant.
Chrysostom: Love after God’s kind embraces all. If thou lovest this man, and that man not at all, this is nothing but a friendship after a human sort.
Matthew Henry: We are beholden to God not only for the stock put into our hands at first but for the improvement of it also.—The more we are beloved, the more loving we should be.—J. L.
In praying for our love to increase, it transforms how we perceive those outside the body of Christ. It allows us to see them through the eyes of Christ, to have our hearts like his broken for those who are discouraged by the Church, distanced from God, disenfranchised from Christian fellowship. And that view of them through Christ’s eyes changes the very way we do ministry. It moves us, compels us to reach in love as Christ would guide and direct us. As my partner in ministry would say, this view leads to an attitude change and attitude change leads to a change in action.
2. Paul prays for them in light of the future. (V. 13) 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Jesus lived in the present with an eye on the future.
5 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. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 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.
The future impacts the presence! As believers, we live in the assurance of everlasting life. We live in joyful anticipation of the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because we know when he comes he we see us through the eyes of his sacrifice for our sins, His shed blood. However, for those outside this community of faith, Jesus sees their lifetime of sin, of bad decisions, their mistakes, their broken and destroyed relationships and their rejection of the forgiveness offered to them through His Son. So they face the full weight of that lifetime outside of God’s grace.
We have the supreme joy and opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit to communicate to those outside of God’s grace that Christ has come, has suffered, has died, and rose again to repair the brokenness your sin has caused and reunite you with your Father in heaven. So that when Jesus comes again we can all stand together to meet him blameless on the day of his coming. That is at the heart of our mission. To be used by the Holy Spirit to see God perform the miracle of faith and turn enemies of God into friends of God.
3. Paul Prays out of his own deep and sincere love for others.
Why does Paul invest so much of himself in others?
6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us.
He deeply and genuinely loved them. Serious prayer for others forces us to get serious about ourselves and our God. One congregation to live this out placed all the first names of unchurched people on a board as a reminder of Christ’s mission. As a reminder to place that burden of those outside of God’s grace in their hearts. If they are on God’s heart should they not also be on ours? Outreach begins with the church of God on bended knee praying for those hurting souls in our community.
May God bless you and may God bless His Church.