121202 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Last Updated on Monday, 03 December 2012

Text: 1 Thessalonians 3:9 – 13
Theme: "Oh Lord, Hear Our Advent Prayer!"
1. Supply What is Lacking in Our Faith
2. Help Us Live for You

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 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.

As was mentioned at the beginning of our service, this morning we begin another Church year. This morning is also the first Sunday in the season of Advent. Advent is that time in the Christian Church year when we focus on the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Part of our focus during this Advent season will center on our studying and reading of God's Word, not only here at church but also privately in our own homes. Not only is this a good time for us to spend time in God's Word, but it is also a good time for us to spend time in prayer.

Certainly our Lord desires that we spend time in prayer each and every day. But during the season of Advent, what are some appropriate things for us to include in our prayers? Without giving it much thought, most likely we could come up with a long list of things to include in our prayers during this time of year. At the top of that list would be a prayer of thanks: thanks to God the Father for sending his Son, Jesus, to take away all of our sins; thanks to God the Son, Jesus Christ, for willingly coming to this earth to win forgiveness of all our sins; and thanks to God the Holy Spirit for creating saving faith in our hearts through his powerful Word. But what else? What other things might we include in our prayers during the season of Advent? God's Word before us this morning offers us two important points to include in our Advent prayers. So together we pray to the Lord: "Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer. Supply what is lacking in our faith, and help us live for you."

It is the Apostle Paul's desire to visit his fellow believers soon. What is it that Paul wants to do when and if he could come and visit with his fellow believers? Does he simply want to have a friendly visit with them; to talk about the weather and what they have been up to lately? No, Paul sates it this way: "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith." Paul wanted more than just a friendly visit with the Thessalonians. He wanted an opportunity to supply what was "lacking in their faith"; that is, to continue instructing them in the Word of God. By the grace of God, the Thessalonians were believers in Jesus Christ as the only Savior from sin. However, they were in need of more instruction in God's Word; instruction that Paul greatly desired to offer them face to face.

What about us who are gathered here this morning? Are we eager to study the Word of God here at Church and in the privacy of our own homes? Or, is Satan tempting us to think, "I am in Church each week. That should be good enough." Each and every one of needs to pause in our busy day-to-day lives, especially at this time of year, and pray: "Oh Lord, hear my Advent prayer. Supply what is lacking in my faith." How will the Lord do this? How does our faith grow and become stronger? It is only by the Word of our God. By God's grace alone saving faith has been placed into our hearts. This faith is a living thing. Like all living things, it needs to be fed or it will die. Just as a plant without water will quickly shrivel up and die, so our faith will quickly die if not fed by the "water" of the Word of God. Each and every one of us, from the person who is in every worship service and Bible class offered here at church, to the person who spends hours in the Word in private, to the person who rarely hears the Word of God, needs to hear this Word of God from 1 Corinthians 10, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" It is God's Word, and God's Word alone, which can supply what is lacking in our faith. For it is only the Word of our God that points out to us the great need we all have for a Savior from our sins. It is only in God's Word that we hear the wonderful Good News of a Savior in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is the Good News of the Gospel which alone fills our hearts with joy; joy knowing that all my sins are freely forgiven through Jesus Christ; joy knowing that all my fellow believers enjoy that same forgiveness of all sins; joy knowing that when the Lord Jesus comes again all believers will join together in singing eternal praises to the one and only true God in the mansions of heaven. Yes, it is this Good News of the Gospel message that supplies what is lacking in our faith.
Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer! We certainly pray that the Lord would hear our prayers this Advent season that he might supply what is lacking in our faith through his powerful Word. But what else are we able to include in our Advent prayer? What else would be a God-pleasing thing to pray for at this time of year? God's Word before us says that part of our prayer will include asking the Lord to guide us in living a life that is pleasing to him. So we ask: Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer. Help us live for you.

In the final three verses of chapter three before us, we read a three-part prayer of the Apostle Paul. He begins, "Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you." In the first part of Paul's prayer he reminds his readers of the close personal relationship believers enjoy with God the Father and God the Son. The second part of Paul's prayer is that the Thessalonians would be motivated to live lives that bring praise and glory to God alone. "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." Paul prays that the Lord Jesus would motivate the Thessalonians to show others around them the same love that Paul showed to them. Finally, Paul prays, "May he (the Lord Jesus) 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." Who is Paul referring to here when he says that Jesus will return with "his holy ones"? Certainly it would be Biblically correct to say that this is a reference to the angels that will come with the Lord when he returns. But here, in the context of chapter 3, it seems that Paul is referring to believers in Christ. How is this possible? How are believers in Christ able to be "blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father" and be referred to as "holy ones"? The answer to that question does not lie in the people and what they can do. The answer is found only in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ alone who makes sinners holy and blameless; for it is Jesus Christ who alone won forgiveness of all sins.

As we come to our Lord Jesus and say, "Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer. Help us live for you", this offers us a good opportunity to review for ourselves the role of good works in the life of believers. There are those who feel that they can win the favor of God much the same way they can earn favor with people on this earth. What is one way to get on the "good side" of a person? When you want to please a spouse, you do those things and say those things that you know will make the other person happy. When you want to please your parents, you go out of your way to be nice to them, to do the things they ask you to do gladly and willingly. When you want to please your teacher at school, you complete your assignments faithfully and pay close attention in class. When you want to please your boss at work, you make an extra effort to do your job the best you can and hope you get noticed. In all these cases, an effort is being made on the part of a person to please another person; to win their favor by something they say or do. But is this how it is in our relationship with the one true God? Are you and I able to win his favor? Or, does the Bible tell us all too clearly that because of your sinfulness and mine "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags"? And in the book of Proverbs we read, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." The Bible is clear that if left on our own, there is no way we could earn the favor of our God. You and I are able to call the one true God in heaven OUR Father, and Jesus, God's Son, OUR Savior only because of God's grace to us. It is God the Holy Spirit who comes to us in his Word, places saving faith in our hearts and makes us part of our heavenly Father's family. We have favor with our God only because of what Jesus Christ did for us. It is in response to this great love shown to us that you and I desire to live for our Savior. We will show Christ-like love to our fellow believers and others we come into contact with each day, not so that we can say, "Look at me Lord! Look what I am doing for you!" Rather, we do these things to say "Thank-you, Lord! Thank-you for all that you have done for me!" Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer: Help us live for you.

With the blessing of the Lord, together we are able to look forward to another year of God's grace to us during this new church year. As we spend time in his Word, God's promise is that he will strengthen and keep us in our faith. Throughout this coming year, as we continue to rejoice in all that our gracious Savior-God has done for us, we will lift our voices in worship, in praise and in prayer. "Oh Lord, hear our Advent prayer. By the power of your Word supply what is lacking in our faith, and help us live for you. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen."

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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