Sermon Details




“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

You get a glimpse here of the bond of love that ties the apostle Paul to these believers.  They loved this man who’d told them the good news of Jesus Christ by which they’d been saved.  And he loved them.

Paul says, “Pray for us.”  Who is the “us?”  The “us” is Paul, Silas and Timothy (1:1).  Paul is saying, “Please pray for me and for my team.”

Why pray for us? 

Is this Paul making much of himself?  Is there some self-interest creeping in here?  Absolutely not.  Notice what he says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly” (3:1).

Paul, Silas and Timothy had been called by God and recognized by the church to give themselves full time to the work of ministry, so that the gospel may spread rapidly, not slowly.

There is a message: “The message of the Lord,” the Word of the Lord,  which is the gospel.  And there are messengers–Paul, Silas and Timothy.  The calling of the messengers is to give themselves fully to the work of the gospel, so that the message may advance quickly, not slowly.

The word that is translated here “spread rapidly” is literally “run.”  Pray for us that the gospel may run!  Pray that it may move fast.  Then Paul says something else, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored” (3:1).  The gospel is honored when its power is evident in transformed lives.  James Denney says…

“A message from God that did nothing would not be [honored].  It would be discredited and shamed.  It is the glory of the gospel to lay hold of men, to transfigure them, to lift them out of evil into the company and likeness of Christ…”  When [the gospel]… brings the power of God to save those who receive it, it is clothed in [honor].” [1]

Nobody would honor the gospel if it didn’t make any difference in people’s lives.  So when Paul says, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored” (3:1), he is saying, “Pray that many may hear the gospel and experience its power.  Pray that the fruit of the gospel will be manifest through transformed lives.”

Priority #1: Advance the Gospel

Pray that the gospel may spread rapidly and bear fruit

“…just as it was with you” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

You’ve seen what Christ can do through His gospel in your own lives.  You’ve experienced this.  Now pray for the fruit of ministry in the lives of others.  Pray not only that the gospel will be proclaimed to all people, but that it will bear fruit in them, just as it did with you.

Ask God for this.  This is who we are.  We are people who want the gospel to “run” in the greater Chicago area and around the world.  In a day when many churches are declining and many other churches have abandoned the gospel, we want to do all we can to see the message of the Lord spread.  We don’t want to see that happen slowly or incrementally, but rapidly.  We want to see the fruit of the gospel’s transforming power in the lives of many people.  Pray for this.  Ask God for this.

The gospel spreads rapidly through people

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Notice the combination—it’s not just, “Pray for us.”  It’s not just, “Pray that the gospel may spread rapidly.”  Paul says, “Pray for us that the gospel may run.”  This is the key point for us to grasp today.

The message is of no value to people without messengers to bring it.  How can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15).

The key point of this passage is that the gospel spreads through people.  It advances rapidly through people who are called by God and recognized by the church to lead this work.  That is why Paul asks for prayer for himself and for his team, so that the gospel may move forward with speed.

I’m going to make an application of this to all who serve as pastors and missionaries, all of us who have the privilege of working vocationally in Christian ministry.

A reality check for people in vocational ministry

Definition:  A pastor or missionary is a person called by God and recognized by the church to give their life so that the gospel may run!

For all of us who have the great privilege of serving as pastors, missionaries or some other vocational Christian ministry, our calling is to live so that the gospel may run, that the Word of God may spread rapidly and bear fruit in transformed lives, just as it did with you.

This is a reality check for all of us in full-time, vocational ministry.  Am I living today in such a way that the gospel may run?  Is there anything in me that is hindering the rapid progression of the Gospel?

Every time I go into a meeting, every sermon I write, every difficulty I deal with, I need to have it clear that all of this is so that the gospel may run!  If I no longer see that, then I have lost touch with my calling.

Pray for those who are called by God, trusted by the church…
…with the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming the gospel

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Pray for pastors.  Pray for missionaries.  Here’s the strategy: If you want to see the gospel spread rapidly, pray for people who have been called by God and recognized by the church to lead that advance.  Our pastors need your prayers.  Our missionaries need your prayers.  I need your prayers.

1. Why I’m asking for your prayers

If you give to the church you will have received a letter from me a few days ago.  If you receive E-mails from the church, then you received a letter from our church chairman inviting you to a town meeting.

With the full cost of three sites, our fixed costs next year are going to be significantly more than this year.  But right now, our income is behind our expenses and a long way off our budget.

The members of our Board are wise, prudent and godly men, and they’ve rightly said that, given our present income, we will need to cut at least half a million dollars out of our projected costs for next year.

Sixty percent of our budget is in our staff, and at least a further 10% is in support of our missionaries.  So, whatever we have to cut, 70% of it will have to come from our staff and our missionaries.

Some of you might be saying right now, “70% of our budget is in people?  Is that right?  Is that what we should be doing?”  Absolutely!  The gospel spreads through people.  And here is the reason:  We want to gospel to run, not walk.  We want it to move swiftly, not slowly.

I know that there are some people who will say, “We have too many staff.”  If that’s what you think, I have one question for you:  Would it matter to you if the gospel advanced incrementally or slowly or not at all?  Are you praying that the gospel will spread rapidly?  Does that matter to you?  And if you are praying that the Gospel will spread rapidly, how do you think that will happen?

Here is how Paul said it would happen: “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly” (3:1).  God has given us pastors and missionaries who’ve been called and gifted to lead the way in making this happen.  Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly!

The reason I’ve been carrying such a heavy burden this week is our staff’s great commitment to see the gospel run.  Some of us have volunteered to take a pay cut.  Some have come and offered to do what they do for nothing.  That’s how committed our people are that the gospel should run!

We do not have a single person on our staff who is lazy or selfish or greedy.  We do not have a single person who I would want to lose.

2. What needs to happen?

We need evidence of commitment this year that will allow the Board to set a budget for next year.  That will continue the rapid spread of the gospel that’s already happening here at The Orchard and around the world.

Our financial year closes at the end of April, so here’s why I am asking you to pray:  We would need giving of about $1.5 million over the next 10 weeks to make our budget for this year.  That would mean the weekly offerings being double what they normally are for the next 10 weeks.

I have one more thing to say about this:  Some of you might reasonably be thinking, “Has he not heard that we are in a recession?  Does he not know that what he has just described is happening in businesses all across the country?  Does he think the church is exempt from the realities of the world?  Is that what he thinks?”

Let me tell you what I know:  Some of you have said, “Colin, pray for me today.  I have to let some of my guys go and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”  Others of you have been on the other side of these conversations, and that is harder still.  I know that.

So why should it be different here?  The resources that are needed for the rapid spread of the gospel through The Orchard, here and around the world, have been given to us in this congregation.  Today is not the time or place for me to demonstrate this, but I assure you, it is true.  The money is here.  And it is not in the hands of a few; it is in the hands of the many.

Candidly, my greatest fear in speaking to you today is that some people, who are least able, may extend themselves more than they should.  I hope you will not do that.  If all of us do all that we can, we will have all that we need to do all that the Lord is calling us to accomplish—and to accomplish it this year, next year and on into the future.

If you are new to the church, we need your help.  Put your giving where God is putting you.  Pray for us that the message of the Lord may run!  Notice, the relationship is not a one way street.  On either side of Paul asking the people to pray for him, we see that He is praying for them…

The pastor is praying too

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself… encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

The man who brought the gospel to these people is praying for them.  We find Paul praying for them again, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

The love that Paul has for these people is written all over these verses.  There is absolutely nothing “professional” about the relationship between Paul and this congregation.  He loves them.  His request for prayer is sandwiched between his own prayers for them.  It’s beautiful.

It is a wonderful thing to have godly pastors who pray for you.  One of our pastors came to tell me this week about a dearly loved member of our church who went to be with the Lord just a few days ago.  I was touched by the news.  But I was struck by something else—the tears that were running down the pastor’s face as he told me.

That’s how it was with Paul:  He asks for prayer for himself and for his team so that the gospel may advance, and his own mind and his own heart are pledged to these people.  Notice how Paul turns from “us” to “you…”

“Pray for us (3:1)

“That we may be delivered” (3:2)

“The Lord will protect you (3:3)

“Confidence in the Lord that you are doing…” (3:4)

I want to end on this note today: “We have confidence in the Lord” (3:4).

That has been such a help to me this week and this is the word that I want to leave with you today.  The reason we can have confidence in the Lord is that “the Lord is faithful” (3:3).  John Stott says,

“God will not allow either His Word or His church to fail.” [2]

The Lord is faithful to His people and He’s faithful to His church.  That’s why Paul says, “We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing, and will continue to do, what we command” (3:4).  He knows God is at work in these dearly loved people.  God’s faithfulness is seen not only in what He does through His Word, but also in what He does through His people.

The bond of love between faithful pastors and a faithful congregation is a beautiful thing—a partnership of pastors, missionaries and people so that the gospel may run and be honored.

Has the Gospel borne fruit in your life?  Has it brought you to a place where you are driven by a passion to see this Gospel run and bear fruit in the lives of others?  Does this pulsate in your heart?  Have you felt the wonder of the redeeming love of Christ in your own soul to the point where you feel that it is worth great sacrifice to bring this love to others?  Has God’s grace become so amazing to you that your heart burns to see the gospel—not walk but run, not spread slowly but spread rapidly in your lifetime?  I pray that God will light that flame in all of our hearts for the sake of Jesus Christ and for the advance of the Gospel.

[1] James Denney, “Epistles to the Thessalonians,” The Expositor’s Bible, p. 362, 1947

[2] John Stott, “Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians,” Bible Speaks Today, p. 134, IVP, 1994


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