This sermon was originally given by Reverend David Camera at River Oaks Church, Lake Mary, FL, on February 13, 2022. It is reproduced and shared on SRL's website with his permission.
1 Thessalonians 3:6-13
What brings you comfort in life?
- Valentines Day; the love of your sweetheart?
- Politics; your party in power?
- Comfort food, like cookies and cream ice cream?
How about answered prayer?
Of course, for answered prayers to bring us comfort presumes we pray, and pray specifically. Because if we never pray, or our prayers are comprehensive and vague, like “Dear lord please bless my day,” such that we never ask for anything specifically, it becomes difficult to see God at work in our lives. Vague prayers veil the hand of God.
But when we pray specifically for someone or something we can more easily see God’s hand at work, and that is incredibly comforting, is it not? Answered prayer brings comfort to our souls and invigorates us to pray all the more boldly and expectantly.
We learn in verse 3:2 that Paul sent Timothy to find out if the new Christians in Thessalonica were still holding on to their faith, or if the persecution they were experiencing had caused them to walk away from Christ.
Timothy left Paul in Athens, traveled to Thessalonica (which was 220 miles by land), and returned to him in Corinth—a journey which would likely have taken about a month. Surely during that long wait, Paul prayed that Timothy would find the Thessalonians faithful to Christ.
In verse 6, Timothy is back from his journey with his report. So verses 6-13 are Paul’s response to Timothy’s report and we see:
1. Answered Prayer Brings Comfort: v. 6-8
2. Answered Prayer Brings Thanksgiving: v. 9-10
3. Answered Prayer Fosters Prayer: v. 11-12
1. Answered Prayer Brings Comfort - v. 6-8
Timothy brings good news to Paul. The Christians are not only still following Christ, they remember Paul with fondness and wish to see him again.
The main verb comes in v. 7 - “We have been comforted.” Paul’s prayers have brought him comfort. In fact, he can say, “For now we live!” It is as if Paul can breathe again!
The spiritual concern over their faith is lifted from his shoulders!
He prayed specifically for them:
- Lord please don’t let them be moved by their afflictions
- Lord please don’t let them believe lies about me or my motives
- Lord please strengthen their faith through Timothy’s visit
And so he knows Lord answered his prayers.
Can you think back to specific prayers you have prayed that God has answered?
- For someone’s salvation
- For healing
- For a job
- For liberation from a sinful habit
- For support as a missionary
- For guidance through a difficult situation
And the Lord answers that prayer. Maybe not in the way you had hoped, but you saw the answer. That should bring you comfort. Why? Because you know by your experience:
- The Lord is near to you.
- The Lord heard you.
- The Lord showed He able to intervene.
And you need to remember these answered prayers because there will be seasons in your life when you will feel just the opposite:
- The Lord does not hear me
- The Lord is far from me
- The Lord is unwilling to intervene
And you need to battle these falsehoods with the truth of Scripture and the reality of your prior experience. Jesus taught us to pray and to never give up because He knew that we would want to give up, that we would grow weary in prayer. Don’t let unanswered prayer undermine your prayers. Remember how God has brought you and others comfort through prayer and pray specifically. Elijah was a man just like us and he prayed, specifically, that it would not rain. And it did not rain for 3 years. So he knew God heard and answered his prayers.
So Answered Prayer Brings Comfort
2. Answered Prayer Brings Thanksgiving - v. 9-10
Paul asks a rhetorical question in verse 9 to this effect:
“What sort of thanksgiving to God would be sufficient for all the joy we have because of your faith?” In other words, Paul is at a loss on how to adequately express his thanksgiving to God for His answer to prayer.
What is perhaps the most remarkable is that Paul’s thanksgiving is in response to what God is doing in the lives of others, despite his own distress and affliction.
If you can’t find something to be thankful for in your own life, maybe your circumstances are just that hard. Or the Lord did not answer your prayers as you desired, or you have forgotten what you can and should be thankful for.
You can always find reason to give thanks to God for what He is doing in the lives of others.
- Thank you Lord for her recovery, while you are still ill
- Thank you Lord for their marriage, while yours is tough
- Thank you Lord for their children, while you long for them
- Thank you Lord for the growth of their church, while yours is struggling
Actually, the ability to look outside of yourself and give genuine praise to God for what He is doing in the lives of others is a sign of spiritual maturity because it is a way we put the interests of others above our own, and so embrace the example of Jesus Christ.
Finally let’s consider:
3. Answered Prayer Fosters Prayer - v. 11-12
Have you ever told someone, “I am praying for you"? That’s great. But next time, how about telling them exactly what you are praying?
We might call these verses a prayer report. Paul tells the Thessalonians specifically what he is praying now that his prayer for their faithfulness has been answered.
First, he wants the Lord to make it possible for him to return to them (Acts 20:1-4).
The Lord answered Paul's prayer! Albeit, perhaps not in the way he had hoped, because he was again on the run for his life. In fact, he was able to return to Macedonia twice accompanied by two members of the Thessalonians' church: Aristarchus and Secundus. Aristarchus becomes part of Paul’s missionary team.
The second specific prayer request Paul makes is for increased love (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
Love is shorthand here for Christian maturity. Not a squishy feeling in your belly or Valentine's Day love. But his prayer for love has a purpose. Look at the logic in the verse. "May the Lord increase your love for one another….so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness." Love results in holiness before God. How so? The Law of God outlines the holy standard of life God requires. The first commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The s commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. So, love fulfills the law. Therefore, love leads to a holiness before God.
This is a wonderful prayer to pray for yourself and for others: "Lord, may my love increase such that my life is blameless before you and I am ready for the coming of my Savior." If you find your prayers are repetitive and stale, or you don’t know what to pray for specifically, take the prayers we have in Scripture and turn them into prayers for yourself and for others. The Psalms give us dozens of prayer models to use; as you read Scripture, pray Scripture back to God.
But if God knows all things and knows what I am thinking and what I will ask even before I ask it, what is the point of praying? That's a great question.
First, communication with God develops our personal relationship with Him. He speaks to us in His Word, we speak to Him in prayer. We don’t hear God in prayer. In prayer, God hears us.
Second, communication with God comforts us in all our cares by enabling us to lay them at His sovereign throne. As the hymn writer reminds us:
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
that calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father's throne
make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
my soul has often found relief,
and oft escaped the tempter's snare
by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
So pray. Because:
1. Answered Prayer Brings Comfort - 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8
2. Answered Prayer Brings Thanksgiving - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10
3. Answered Prayer Fosters Prayer - 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12
Pray because answered prayer brings comfort to our souls and invigorates us to pray all the more boldly and expectantly.