Sermon for Oct 23

By on October 23, 2016

Be Encouraged

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 23 Oct 2016

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

NIV 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ¶ So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

6 ¶ But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 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.


Introduce / Establish Need


Hurricane Matthew caused a lot of destruction and put peoples’ lives in danger.  As we know, the path of the storm went through Haiti, Florida, and then up to the Carolinas.  As it was approaching Haiti, my longtime friend, John, posted that his daughter would be riding out the storm in a missionary compound and asked for prayers.  He found out a day afterwards that she was safe and a few days later, she arrived back in the States on his birthday.  Then I realized that Pat would be flying home to Florida just before the arrival of Matthew.  We started a prayer watch for her and we were all relieved to hear of her safety from the storm.  I don’t know anyone personally down east, but we collectively are concerned and pray for them as the floodwaters recede.  When we love and care for people, we are genuinely concerned when they face danger and trouble, not only from environmental storms, but also those that affect the physical and spiritual.


As we hear today’s scripture, we come to the place in Paul’s letter where he openly tells them how concerned he was for them.  In hearing this scripture text, let us be reminded of what Christian concern for each other looks like.


Into the Biblical World


In the past two weeks, we have been alluding to the visit by Timothy and his report on how the Thessalonica church was doing.  Remember, Paul had only had a short time on the order of 3 weeks to plant this church before he had to leave under the cover of darkness.  You can hear the concern in Paul’s writing that they could stand it no longer wondering how they were doing.  Unlike our day in which a phone call or email or text will get you an almost immediate response, they sent Timothy on a journey to and back to find out about their status.  Paul’s fear is that their faith would have been corrupted, thus making their investment useless.


However, we serve a faithful God, who guides his church and sustains in difficult times!  Timothy’s report brings good news about their faith and love.  Paul’s worry and concern can fade away as he finds out that they have survived the storm of his abrupt departure and have indeed become a church of Jesus Christ.


A characteristic of a loving church is to have a family relationship.  In our text we see the mutual concern, the pleasant memories, and the desire to see one another.  Especially after a forced separation and endured hardship.  When churches share this characteristic they are naturally encouraging.  One way in which they practice this encouragement is through uplifting prayer.


Paul writes a three sentence prayer which is instructive when we uplift one another in prayer.  As I looked at the prayer I saw its simplicity and specificity, which reminds me of Jesus’ instruction on prayer.


Paul prays for three things.  He prays that God would clear the path that they would see one another again.  He prays that their love would increase to overflowing for each other and everyone else.  And finally, he prays that they would be strengthened so that they would remain holy and blameless.


The point of Paul’s prayer was to encourage them to grow in their faith, by being able to reconnect and that God’s love and grace would be at work in their lives.  God did answer Paul’s prayer as we was able to see the church again in person as recorded in Acts 20.


Into Our Experience


Just as important as the historical story from the text is how the scripture is alive and speaking to us today.  What I see is the call for the church to encourage one another through fellowship, prayerful concern and care, and encouraging prayer for strength to live in the way of Christ.


I believe that God is pleased that we are a church that cares through fellowship when we come together and when we’re apart.  Our marks of fellowship are evident through our conversation, our phone calls, notes, and cards, as well as prayers for one another and help in time of need.  It is great that in the bylaws of the UMW, that on any outing there will be food fellowship!  I pray that God will expand our fellowship and give us direction to find additional ways to keep our fellowship sweet and in the Lord.


I know that we believe in encouraging prayer.  Encouraging prayer is when we pray for one another and we pray that God will help us to grow in Christ and to be able to face life’s pressures because we are strong in the Lord.  Paul shows us that we don’t need long or flowery words.  Instead we pray short, sweet, and to the point.


Encouraging prayer doesn’t have to be said in a person’s presence, but my experience is that God’s Spirit uses that prayer in a powerful way.  There is power in hearing prayers for you specifically.


My challenge for you this week is to use Paul’s 3 sentence prayer and pray for each other this week.  I’ve made it easy by putting it in the bulletin.  Let God lead you in who and how to pray for one another this week and may it be a holy habit that we encourage one another in the faith!  Let’s close as we pray this prayer together.


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