St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A Pastor’s Prayer Of Thanksgiving

Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

Text: Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a nice thing to hear, if someone were to say to us, “I thought of you today.” Sometimes, we may feel as though we are all by ourselves. As nice as it is to hear someone say, “I thought of you today,” I believe it means even more, if someone were to say, “I prayed for you today.” This tells you that they took time out of their busy day to come to God’s throne of grace on your behalf and lay before him what is happening in your life. Most often, we do this when someone is having a difficulty in their lives. It’s also good for us to come to God in thanksgiving for what is going in someone else’s life, as well. In our text, the apostle Paul offers such a prayer on behalf of the Thessalonian Christians. As we study his prayer, it gives us the opportunity to pray for each other. A PASTOR’S PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING: 1. Thanks For The People’s Faithful Endurance, 2. Thanks For The People’s Growing Faith and 3. Thanks That God Made His People Worthy.

It is helpful for us to know the background on which Paul wrote this letter. Paul, Silas, and Timothy came to Thessalonica on Paul’s Second Missionary journey. God blessed the message that was proclaimed as people were brought to faith over the course of three weeks. However, the Jews in the city became upset at what was happening, so they caused a riot in the town. The believers in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas away for their safety while Timothy remained. Sometime later, Timothy rejoined Paul in Athens. In response to Timothy’s report, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write what we today call 1 Thessalonians to encourage them and to answer some questions that they had. After the letter was delivered, a report reached Paul in Athens a few months later. In this second letter, Paul reacts to what he had heard with great thanksgiving.

One thing that caused Paul to give thanks for the Thessalonians was their faithful endurance. He wrote, “Among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” (Verse 4) Just because Paul had left Thessalonica, it didn’t mean that the persecution against God’s people had ended. The Christians there were still being persecuted for their faith. Humanly speaking, it would have been so easy for them to just submit, to renounce their Christianity and fit in with the rest of the people. However, by God’s grace and strength, the Thessalonian Christians had remained firm in their faith. They served as examples of faithfulness in the face of persecution and trials as Paul interacted with other Christians. Paul thanked God for their faithful endurance in the face of difficulties.

We also have the opportunity to thank God on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith for faithful endurance in their lives, as well. There are times when they will face persecution for their faith. We might think of those Christians around the world who face a very real, physical danger to themselves for publicly proclaiming Christ as King and Savior. However, persecution comes in other forms, as well. It can come to the student who is ridiculed for their faith. It can come to the person at work, who might be ostracized because they dared to stand up and say something was wrong. There may be the family member who is excluded because they took a stand for what God’s Word says. We are so thankful for the fact that God has given them the strength to faithfully endure these tests. We pray that God would continue to strengthen them and us, as we continue to face these persecutions.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he offered this prayer on their behalf, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 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.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13) Now, after he received the report from Thessalonica, Paul offered a prayer of thanksgiving. “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” (Verse 3) He felt obligated to offer this prayer on their behalf. He was filled with joy at what he had heard about them. Despite the persecution and trials that they were facing, their faith grew. This was evidenced in the fact that their love for each other was growing. The persecution gave the members in Thessalonica opportunities to put their faith into action. When Paul heard of what was going on in Thessalonica, he had to stop and thank God for the faith that was growing in that congregation.

We have many different opportunities to grow in our faith, as well. We have our worship services, our various Bible classes, our confirmation class, and our Sunday School. Some may be taking advantage of the area Lutheran elementary schools and Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School. God also gives us the opportunity to grow in our faith through our personal Bible reading and other devotions. It can be so easy for us to take these opportunities for granted. However, think about what’s going on during those times. God is coming to the individual through his Word to strengthen their faith in him. As we realize that, how can we not feel under obligation to thank God for our growth in faith and the growth in faith of others, as well?

It is true that you cannot see faith in another person. You can, however, see the effect that faith has on the individual as they bring forth the fruits of their faith. You can see it as they live their lives thanking God for all that he has done for them. Sometimes, these fruits of faith are done in service to the church. More often, these fruits are done in the everyday tasks of life. The person is a faithful spouse, parent, child, employer, or employee. Wherever God places that individual, there they live to God’s glory. Unfortunately, there are times when we aren’t as thankful to God as we could be when others carry out their faith. Our sinful nature looks at them and asks, ‘Who do they think they are? Do they think they’re better than me?’ Or we might feel as though our fruits of faith aren’t as important as someone else’s is. ‘They do all the important things and I’m just here in my own little insignificant corner.’ Both attitudes are wrong. They fail to realize that whatever the believer does in their life of service to God is important. Rather than looking down on them as they bring forth fruits of faith, we have the opportunity to give thanks to God for other’s growing faith and love in the Lord. We also pray that God would continue to grow in this area. Paul writes this prayer, “We constantly pray for you, that . . . by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Verses 11-12)

What wonderful things to give thanks for on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith! As wonderful as these things are, there is something for which we are even more thankful, something that, if it didn’t exist, the other blessings wouldn’t exist either. Paul alludes to this in verse 11, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” What is Paul referring to? What is this calling? The calling is being called into, becoming a part of the family of God. Paul prays that God would make the Thessalonians worthy of this calling. This is what we pray for each other, that God would make them and us worthy of our calling.

If we are honest with ourselves, what would we all have to admit? We are not worthy of being called a child of God, are we? We know that we are not worthy of this honor because we have sinned against our God in so many ways. Rather than being thankful for others, we complain about them. Rather than using the gifts that God has given us to his glory, we have used them for selfish purposes. We can clearly see that we are not worthy of the calling to be included in the family of God. As a matter of fact, what we are worthy of is spending an eternity separated from God and facing the full brunt of his just wrath for our sins.

However, it is here that we have our greatest reason for thanksgiving. We, who are by nature unworthy of this calling, have been made worthy through the work of our Savior Jesus Christ. He has rescued us from our sins. He lived a perfect life, in which he was thankful to his Father, not only for the way that he provided for him, but also for his brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus then went to the cross to pay for all our sins. Every single sin was taken care of on that day, as Jesus was punished in our place. We rejoice in the good news of Easter, because it assures us that Christ’s rescue mission has been completed. The Holy Spirit has worked in or hearts and has created faith. It is through that faith that we have become the children of God. It is only through this that we, who are by nature unworthy, have become worthy of this calling into the family of God. This gives us every reason to be filled with thanksgiving.

This is also the reason that we are filled with thanksgiving when we think about our brothers and sisters in the faith. God has reached into their lives, as well. God has called them into his family. When we think about them, we are thankful that they will also be spending their eternity in heaven. Of what could we be more thankful than that? To that end, we continue to pray for them, as well as ourselves, that God would continue to strengthen that faith so that, at the end of time, we will be gathered around his heavenly throne. As we think about this, we also continue to pray that God would continue to spread his Word around the world, so that many others might be found worthy of this calling and enjoy all the blessings of eternal life with us.

Many of us use this prayer at a mealtime, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.” This is a wonderful prayer and a great reminder. Yet, how easy it is to pray those words, without thinking about what we’re saying. So, let’s just do that for a moment. We give thanks to the Lord, because he has shown his goodness and mercy throughout our lives. What are we thankful for? There are the many physical blessings that we enjoy. We also want to thank our loving God for all the spiritual blessings that have been given to us, such as the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. This morning, we have been reminded that we have another reason to be thankful. We can be thankful for our brothers and sisters in the faith. We pray that God would help them and us to faithfully endure whatever might come our way and that he would help them and us to grow in our faith and love. Ultimately, we are thankful that God has made them and us worthy of the title of Christian. May our lives be filled with thanksgiving and praise to our gracious God. Amen.