A Promise, A Persuasion, and A Prayer
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's second Thessalonian letter, chapter 3, that portion of the Word of God that we have been thinking about now for several weeks. We read from II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 1:

I Thessalonians 3

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

We would like for you to think with us about verses 3-5, which we call to your attention once again.

I Thessalonians 3

3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

In our last lesson, we noticed how the Apostle Paul, recognizing his great need as he ministered the Word of God, requested prayer for himself and for the Word of God which he proclaimed. One of the reasons that he gave for requesting this prayer was that though the faith was very, very precious to him and to most of the Thessalonicans, still, to a great many it was not precious. He summed it all up by saying, “All men have not faith.”

The request which Paul gave could very well have engendered discouragement in the hearts and lives of those of whom he made the request. That same sort of thing happens today. Sometimes when we request prayer for a certain project or a certain individual, someone will say, “Well, I didn't realize things were that bad.” And somehow or other we get the idea that if it is to the praying stage, then it is really a bad thing and we can be discouraged. Perhaps that is the reason that the Apostle Paul reminded them in verse 3 that though all men do not have faith, the Lord is faithful.

We believe that in these three verses Paul endeavored to lift the eyes of the people from the circumstances around them to the Lord Who is on the throne. That was a good thing, because if we do keep our eyes on the circumstances, we will be discouraged, believe me, and we will be ready to stop and give up and say, “What is the use of going on?”. So I would like to suggest to you that in these three verses of Scripture Paul lifted their eyes from the circumstances to Christ on the throne through a promise, a persuasion, and a prayer.

Promise Reflects Work of the Trinity

The promise at which we look first is indeed a wonderful thing because the first verse mentions to us the work of God in the life of the believer. The next verse represents the work of Christ in the life of the believer, and the next verse after that recognizes the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

If you are thinking, you may say, “Well, I don't see those names mentioned there.” That's right, you don't, but did you notice in verse 3 the words, “the Lord is faithful”? In verse 4 it is “confidence in the Lord touching you.” And in verse 5 it is “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” By the time we have examined these verses of Scripture you will be able to see that each individual thing mentioned in each individual verse is the characteristic of the particular person of the Trinity to whom we have referred. That is the reason that in the midst of the unfaithfulness of men, the Apostle Paul could call the attention of the Thessalonicans, and our attention as well, to the promise that God is faithful. We sing the song *ULGreat Is Thy Faithfulness*UL, and it is a scriptural song; it is true.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 1, as I remind you of the faithfulness of God, for we must rest upon this promise in the midst of the unfaithfulness of men. In I Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 9, we read:

I Corinthians 1

9God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

What is he talking about, “God's faithfulness in relation to the fellowship of which we are a part”? Glance at verse 8, where we read:

I Corinthians 1

8Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, men are unfaithful, but God is faithful. Remember that. Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 10, and notice the very familiar words of verse 13. I trust they are familiar to you; I trust you have hidden this verse away in your heart and learned to depend upon it from day to day.

I Corinthians 10

13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Regardless of the temptation, regardless of the testing, you will not fail. “Oh,” you say, “I might; I am so weak.” You are weak, but God is faithful. God is faithful to see to it that you will not be tempted above that you are able. He will either take the temptation away from you or take you out of the temptation. Now, sometimes we are not too agreeable with that last statement. We don't want to be taken out. But God is faithful; He will not fail.

Faithful to Forgive Sin

Turn to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, and notice verse 23, another promise concerning the faithfulness of God.

I Thessalonians 5

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is a tremendous thing–all of us, our whole soul, spirit and body, to be preserved blameless. We don't look at our failures; we look at His faithfulness. In verse 24 we read:

I Thessalonians 5

24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Turn to I John, chapter 1, verse 9, the words of which I trust are familiar to you. If you have not hidden them away in your heart and learned to depend upon them, you must, for it is the secret of your continued fellowship with the Lord.

John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I would not belittle any remorse that you have for your sin today. I am afraid that all too often we take sin too lightly. We dismiss it with a shrug of our shoulders. I am not at all sure that we feel as God feels about it, which is the real meaning of the word “confess.” But I do want to say to you today that if you confess your sin, you don't have to beg God to forgive you. You don't have to plead with God to forgive you; you don't have to go around wondering if He will; He is faithful. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” These verses of Scripture today should encourage us to believe what Paul said in II Thessalonians, chapter 3, if you will go back to it: “The Lord is faithful.”

Faithful to Establish Believers

Now, because the Lord is faithful, Paul expects Him to do a number of things; and I would like for you to notice two of them that are mentioned in II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 3.

I Thessalonians 3

3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

“Because God is faithful,” Paul said, “we can expect Him to establish us.” Because God is faithful we can expect Him to establish the believers. You will remember that we met this word for the first time in II Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 17, when the Apostle Paul was praying that that very thing would happen. He said, in verse 16:

I Thessalonians 2

16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, he is praying that the Lord will establish. In II Thessalonians, chapter 3, he said, “I know He will.” Because He is faithful, He can't do anything else but establish you.

What does it mean for the Lord to establish you? This word “stablish” comes from the Greek word *ULsterizo*UL which is translated “establish” here but is translated three other ways in the New Testament. I would like for you to look at those three other ways with me that we might find out exactly what we are expecting God to do when we expect Him to establish us as Christians.

Turn with me, please, to the Gospel of Luke because each one of these three words is found in this particular Gospel translated in a manner that will help us to understand it a little better. In chapter 9 of the Gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus Christ was going to go to Jerusalem. His disciples were constantly dissuading Him from doing that very thing. In verse 51 of chapter 9, we read:

Luke 9

51And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

Notice those two words in verse 51, “steadfastly set.” Those two words are the translation of our Greek word *ULsterizo*UL, the same word that is translated “establish.” When we talk about the Lord establishing us in the things of God, in our Christian faith, we are talking about Him giving us that stamina that will enable us to steadfastly set our faith toward a particular goal. When the Lord Jesus Christ, “His eyes steadfastly set toward the city of Jerusalem,” did not look to the right and did not look to the left, His eyes were straightforward, and He was determined to reach His goal. That is the thing that God in His faithfulness will do for us as believers if we permit Him to do it.

Fixed In the Things of God

Turn, please, to chapter 16 of the Gospel of Luke. Now, do not be concerned for the moment with the story that we are going to find in Luke, chapter 16, because the story itself has nothing to do with our message. We are only looking at the way in which the word is used. Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Luke describes Heaven and Hell–the rich man in Hell and Lazarus, the beggar, in Heaven. It records the conversation between the rich man and God when he wanted Lazarus to come and put his finger in water and drop just a drop on his tongue. The torment was so great. And God was saying to him how impossible that was. He gave one reason, and then in verse 26, He said:

Luke 16

26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass on us, that would come from thence.

Notice the word “fixed” in verse 26. It is our Greek word *ULsterizo*UL, the word that is translated “established” and the word that is translated “steadfastly set.” When we ask God to establish us, when we expect Him through His faithfulness to establish us, what are we asking Him to do? We are asking Him to fix us, to set us firm, so that we won't be constantly wavering this way and that. Just as certainly as there is a gulf between Heaven and Hell that cannot be changed, you and I need to be fixed in the things of God so that we cannot and we will not be changed.

Are you thinking with me? We don't establish ourselves. We don't grit our teeth and say, “We will do this.” We don't fix ourselves. It is God who in His faithfulness fixes us in our Christian experience, our faith, and the Word of God.

Turn, please, to chapter 22 of the Gospel of Luke, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 31:

Luke 22

31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren [that doesn't mean born again, but when you have gone through this test and come out of it].

Did you notice the word “strengthen” in this verse? It is our word again. It is the translation of the Greek word *ULsterizo*UL. It is the word that means “establish,” “to steadfastly set,” and “to fix.” What is it Paul is saying here in II Thessalonians, chapter 3? The Lord is faithful Who shall establish you, Who will strengthen you in the time that you need it most.

Faithful to Keep Us From Evil

Going back to II Thessalonians, chapter 3, notice the last phrase which suggests the second thing that we are going to consider that the Lord in His faithfulness will do for us:

I Thessalonians 3

3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Notice what God is supposed to do for the believer because He is faithful. He is supposed to keep you from evil. What about the word “keep”? It is a translation of the Greek word *ULphulasso*UL, and it is a word that speaks of God being constantly on guard for the purposes of deliverance. Notice now in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke how that word is used so that we can understand what we are talking about when we say that God is faithful to keep us from evil. In chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke, verse 8, we read, concerning the so-called Christmas scene:

Luke 2

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Did you notice that phrase there, “keeping watch”? That comes from the Greek word *ULphulasso*UL which we are talking about, the very same word that is translated in our text “keep.” The shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks. What were they doing? They were alert to be sure that some wild, ravenous animal did not come in and steal away one of the flock. They were keeping watch.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to II Peter, chapter 2, and notice verse 5. In II Peter, chapter 2, we have a record of how God does not overlook sin and God does not ignore judgment. In verse 4:

I Peter 2

4For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
5And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Notice the word “saved” in verse 5. God saved Noah from the judgment that was coming. That word “saved” is our same word *ULphulasso*UL which is translated “keep,” “keeping watch.” What are we saying when we say that God is faithful to keep us from evil? We are saying that God keeps watch over us and that the very moment that the evil is to pounce upon us, God saves us from that evil. He is able to do that. He is faithful.

The word “evil” is a word that we have met before in this study. As a matter of fact, it is the very same word that is translated “wicked” in verse 2 of II Thessalonians, chapter 3. It is the Greek word *ULponeria*UL, and because of its construction it can also refer to the evil one because it is presented in the masculine. You can read it: “The Lord is faithful to keep watch over you, who shall establish you, and will keep watch over you, that He might save you from the evil one.” That is the Devil himself. We know from the Scriptures that the Devil is a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour, and the Lord is able to save us from him. Thank God for that. I am no match for the Devil today, but my God is. He is faithful, and I have this promise that He is able to establish me and He is able to keep me from the evil one.

Paul's Persuasion Related to Christ's Work

Because of this promise, the apostle could speak of a deep persuasion which he had, but the persuasion is related not to the work of God primarily but to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you notice II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 4, where he said:

I Thessalonians 3

4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

The Apostle Paul said, “I have commanded you some things, and I am going to command you some other things. Commands were given to be obeyed and I know that you are going to obey these commands which have been presented and which will be presented.”

Someone says, “Paul, how could you be so very, very sure about this particular thing? How do you know for sure that these Thessalonians are going to obey these commands?” Well, in verse 4, the first statement, he said, “Because I have a lot of confidence, that's why. I have a deep persuasion that this thing is going to be true.”

Turn, please, to II Timothy, chapter 1, verse 12, that you might see that this was a deep persuasion on the part of the apostle. II Timothy, chapter 1, verse 12:

I Timothy 1

12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Notice the word “persuaded.” It is the same word that is translated “confidence” in chapter 3 of the Thessalonian letter. It comes from the Greek word *ULpeitho*UL which means to be “absolutely persuaded.” Or to “have the fullest confidence it is possible to have.” Well, someone says, “He is sure taking a lot for granted. Doesn't he know how fickle man is? Doesn't he know how weak man is? How could he say he is persuaded that they are going to do the thing which God has commanded?” Well, let's face it. The apostle was no fool. In his letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verse 3, he said, “I have no confidence in the flesh, not one bit of confidence in the flesh. I am not persuaded that the flesh can do anything. I am not persuaded that the human heart can accomplish anything at all.” Well, is he contradicting himself, then, to be so confident here in II Thessalonians, chapter 3? No, not at all. Look at the verse again and you will see what he is talking about. In verse 4, he said:

I Thessalonians 3

4And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.

He was not placing his confidence in them. He had learned a long time ago that it would not work, but his confidence was in the Lord touching them. Oh, I wish you could learn that lesson today; I wish you could learn that lesson concerning the people for whom you pray. How discouraged you get sometimes when you see them fail. You say to yourself, “What is the use of praying? They keep on doing the same old thing. What is the use of praying? It doesn't look like it is ever going to be real in their lives. I just don't have any confidence in them anymore.” How often have you said, “They have lied to me so much and they have told me so often, I just don't have any confidence.” Well, praise the Lord if you get to the place where you don't have any confidence in them. You have come to a good place. Now, put your confidence in the Lord for them, and you will be amazed at the difference. Believe God and His Word as to what He is able to do for them and in them.

Confidence In the Lord

Do you remember what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, and verse 6, concerning this very thing? Having his confidence in the right place, listen to what he said: “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Notice, he didn't say, “I am confident that you are going to turn out all right.” He said, “I am confident that the Lord is going to see to it.”

As a parent, that gives me a great deal of comfort. I don't like to say anything about my children because I think it puts a hardship on them. I thank God for them, and I love them devotedly. and I have great hopes for them, and I believe in them. But I have never fooled myself for a moment. I don't believe they are going to do what is right because I trained them right. I don't believe they are going to do what is right because they know what they ought to do. I don't believe they are going to do what is right because they have been told what they ought to do. I believe they are going to do what is right because I have confidence in the Lord that He will not fail me and that he will perform the work which He hath begun in them.

I say to all of you who are parents, if you have trained your child in the Word of God on the basis of the Word of God it is a lack of faith, it is a lack of belief, it is dishonoring to God if you say you don't know how your children are going to turn out. If you have confidence in the Lord for them, then have that confidence in the Lord. And I say this reverently, don't let the Lord alone about them. Remind Him that He is obligated to keep His Word and He will. Paul said, “I have confidence in the Lord touching you.”

Paul's Prayer for God's Direction

There was a promise. On the basis of the promise, there was a deep persuasion, and now he is going to pray again. Paul was a praying man. In verse 5, he said:

I Thessalonians 3

5And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

You may not recognize this as a prayer the way it is written in our translation, but if you were to look at it in the original text what he is saying is, “Oh, God, please direct their hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ. Lord, guide their footsteps into the love of God. God, set a straight course for their feet.” That is the real meaning of the Greek word *ULkateuthuno*UL from which this word “direct” comes. “Lord, set a straight course for their feet.” I like that. You don't know what your loved ones are going to do. You don't know what those for whom you are burdened are going to do. A pastor doesn't know what his people are going to do, but he can always pray that the Lord will set a straight course for their feet. He can always pray that. “Set a straight course for their feet.”

In this particular instance, Paul mentioned where he wanted Him to direct them, where he wanted God to set a straight course for their feet. What was the goal? The first thing he mentioned is, “to the love of God.” Now, this doesn't mean “love for God.” We all need love for God; there is no question about that. We ought to search our hearts constantly because there are so many demands for our love. The world demands our love; things demand our love. There are so many demands for our love, we ought to be always checking up to see whether or not we have the love for God that we ought to have. But this particular passage of Scripture is not “love for God,” it is the “love *ULof*UL God.” And what he is saying is, “Oh, God, set a straight course into your love for them,” because he knew that if the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, everything else will be taken care of. Set a straight course into the love of God.

Directed Into Endurance

And then, the last thing that he says in verse 5 is, “Direct them into the patient waiting for Christ.” Now, I love this phrase, and I almost hesitate to say what I am going to say because I love this phrase so much. But actually, that isn't what the original text says. It is wonderful to be directed into the patient waiting for Christ. I am waiting for Him, and that is the thing that keeps me going–to know the Lord Jesus is coming. I wish that other folk could be directed into the patient waiting for Christ, so it is all right to pray that way, and that is the reason I say I hesitate to say what I am going to say, but I must say it because I think it needs to be said. I think we need it because it might be easier for us to patiently wait for Christ than to do the thing that the text actually suggests. Sometimes you know, some of us don't want to face realities. Sometimes some of us don't want to get in the thick of the battle, so we just talk about Jesus coming again. We get our eyes in the sky instead of facing facts like we ought to. What does this say? “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the endurance of the Lord Jesus Christ,” because these two words “patient waiting” are the translation of one Greek word which means “endurance.” For example, if you will notice in chapter 2 of II Thessalonians, verses 9 and 10:

I Thessalonians 2

9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Endure. Endurance is the thought of the word. How we need to be directed into that endurance! Do you know some of the things which the Lord Jesus Christ endured? I would suggest when you have time that you get a concordance and you check the word “endure” and you check the word “endurance” and you notice all of the things which the Lord Jesus Christ endured and yet remained victorious. Because of the joy that was set before Him, we read in chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews, He endured the Cross, despising the shame. Notice again in that same portion of the Word, “He endured contradiction of sinners against Himself.” He endured a whole lot. “Now,” Paul said, “I am asking God to direct your footsteps into that same kind of endurance.” If we had the endurance of Christ, then it wouldn't matter that there are unfaithful men about us. We could believe that God is faithful.


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