grayscale photography of clock

“Brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”  2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

There is a cosmic clock ticking, but you and I can’t read it.  The clock is ticking down to the Lord’s return and the meltdown of this world contaminated by sin.  The apostle Paul heard the clock ticking.  He’d been driven out of Thessalonica by mob violence, cutting short his ministry there.  Now he was in Corinth, where a different set of obstacles confronted him.  There was the pagan culture with its overt sexual immorality and philosophical disdain for anything as simple as the Gospel.  There were fractures in the fellowship of believers in Corinth and an undercurrent of opposition to the apostle himself. In the first chapter of this letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “We constantly pray for you.” Now, near the end of his letter, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him and his mission, in view of the end of all things.

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly.”  Then as now, there were political obstacles to the spread of the Gospel: governmental attitudes and policies, closed borders that make mission work difficult. Then as now, there were cultural barriers to the mission: language barriers, social mores and relational networks that can take years to navigate with the Gospel.  Then as now, there were insufficient funds to move missionaries, produce Christian literature and demonstrate Christian love with humanitarian aid.  But the biggest obstacle is inside the church, indifferent Christians and discouraged missionaries.  When Jesus urged prayer for mission work, he said: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people.”  Some of those evil people were and are in positions of authority, where their demonic hatred for Christ threatens both mission and missionary.  Others, as Paul experienced in Ephesus, see Christianity as a threat to their way of life and react violently.  There were and are religious leaders powerful enough to create intense opposition to any belief other than their own – Jewish leaders in Paul’s day or Muslim leaders in our day.  When wicked and evil people find their way into a church, the havoc they wreak becomes a distraction that overwhelms the church’s mission.

Why pray?  St. Paul’s answer is, “The Lord is faithful.”  God was faithful to his promise to send a Savior for the world; and because Jesus died for all, the church’s mission is valid.  God is faithful to his promise to answer prayer.  He clears away obstacles to the proclamation of the Gospel.   He sends his angels to watch over those who witness and teach his truth.  He positions people who need to know God’s love in the path of those who are eager to share it.  He encourages missionaries and emboldens witnesses, all in answer to prayer.  So, let’s do it. . .

PRAYER:  For missionaries across the globe we pray, Lord, that they may be given open doors as well as encouragement and support.  For Christians with a faith to share we pray, that they may recognize opportunities and seize them.  For our nation we pray, Lord, that opposition to your Church will be blunted and a renewed sense of mission in the Church occur.  We pray all this because Jesus gave our mission content and authority.  Amen.

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