“In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from the wicked and evil people, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen and guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Pastor Tom concluded our three-part series, Praying into the Mission, by focusing on protection.
Prayer is important because it takes our focus off ourselves and turns it toward God. Rather than having our thoughts consumed about our everyday cares, we start to think about the things that are important to God. Prayer has a way of orienting us toward God in the same way that a magnet orients a compass toward the north pole. Paul’s “magnetic orientation” was the honor and glory of God. As a result, his concern for his own personal safety comes second.
However, we do see in scripture prayers for protection. But what kind of protection? Here are three ways God protects us:
First, God will protect us in spiritual danger. The Lord is faithful, and he will guard you from the evil one. Our souls face real danger up until the time we put our faith in Christ. Praise God our greatest problem has been solved. Those who have placed their faith in Jesus have been rescued from the domain of darkness, and are now guarded from the evil one.
The second danger we face is bodily harm. God will sometimes protect us from physical danger, whether that would be through miraculous means (Acts 12), ordinary means (wisdom and discernment), or common means (constitutional rights). But sometimes God does not protect our bodies. Sometimes, like sparrows, God allows us to fall to the ground. He delivered Peter from prison, but Peter gave his life for God. So did Paul. So did countless other believers who have gone before us. If you are a Christian, death is not a loss. Death means you are going to heaven, to see Jesus face-to-face. And when our lives are saturated in prayer, we will be continually reminded that being called up to heaven is the greatest thing we have to look forward to. So even when God doesn’t protect our bodies from wicked people, we don’t have to be afraid.
The third danger we face is embarrassment and rejection. So often, this is the thing we fear that prevents us from sharing the gospel with others. God is not going to protect you from sounding foolish when you share the gospel with someone who does not believe. Not when you are doing it right, anyway, because the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). When you care more about what Jesus thinks about you than you do about what people think about you, then in a sense your feelings will be protected.
When we think about how much God has loved us and how little we deserved that love, it makes us want to share that love with others no matter who they are. We need to love our enemies, not build up defenses against them. And we need to persevere with endurance of Christ. Jesus endured so much in this world, and He had every opportunity to bail out. Jesus did what God sent him here to do, enduring great pain and suffering, until he gave up his final breath. Anybody can keep going when the going is easy, but when you face obstacles, rejection, hatred, and disappointment, that’s when you must endure. Sharing the gospel with others is not easy, but when you have God’s love for the people of this world, and you have Christ’s endurance, you will be able to press on.
The purpose of this sermon series was to both equip and encourage you in the task of obeying the commands of Jesus to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations. The hope is that these three scriptures from this series have given you some tools you can use in prayer and evangelism. May God be glorified in the spread of His glorious gospel!