The Big Shift

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we saw that there will be a continued resistance to the Gospel. We saw Paul’s reason for asking to be, “Rescued from perverse and evil men” was so that he could continue to preach the Gospel so it would spread as far as possible. Paul’s desire was godly and it applied to him and his companions, but this morning, we’re going to see a big shift in this letter.

2 Thes. 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

V. 3 begins with that great word: But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Paul had just asked the Thessalonians to pray that the Word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be glorified just as it had with them. Now his prayer shifts from the persecutions he is certain to face to the ongoing persecution of the Thessalonians. He’s concerned about the propagation of the Word as a result of his efforts, but he’s also concerned for this young Thessalonian church. He doesn’t want them to get discouraged. He doesn’t want them to quit. Paul encourages them in v. 3 and provides a contrast too. Remember the last half of v. 2:“Not all have faith, but the Lord is faithful.” These two statements may seem pretty obvious, but it’s the encouragement the church needs because of the persecution. Faithful means loyal, steadfast, and trustworthy. Nothing can cause the Lord to veer off course. His way is always pure and right and is best for us. This is something that could be forgotten in the midst of persecution and suffering. Even when you think the Lord has forgotten you – He is faithful. Even when you think you’re alone – the Lord is faithful. Even in all the persecution, all the troubles, sufferings, and trials – the Lord is faithful. You can see the importance of knowing the truth of God’s Word. The Lord is going to be faithful even when we are not. You can and should trust Him.

His faithfulness guarantees: That our suffering has meaning, that our persecutors will  get what’s coming to them, and the security of our future. Remember what Paul said at the beginning of this letter in 2 Thes. 1:5-10? Take the time to read it again. A firm conviction of the Lord’s faithfulness helps us persevere during persecution and helps us keep the faith.

Since the Lord is faithful, look at what He does for us. “He will strengthen.” His love and care for us is seen not only in His judgment of the faithless ones, but in His care for the church. That word strengthen doesn’t mean physical strength. It means to cause someone to become stronger in the sense of a more firm and unchanging attitude or belief; to strengthen, to make more firm. The strengthening comes from an outside source – it comes from the Lord Himself. Strengthen is in the future tense. It means when the faithless ones attack, the Lord will provide the resolve necessary to stand firm.

In the current issue of the Voice of the Martyr’s magazine, there is a story about Dr. Rebekka, a medical doctor in Islamic Indonesia. She was imprisoned for holding a neighborhood SS for children. After her release from prison she continued her ministry. Referring to the book of Acts she defined what normal Christianity looks like for many Indonesian Christians. Speaking to the director of the VOTM, she pointed at him and said, “You may look at us as abnormal.  No, we are normal.  It is you that is abnormal.”  Persecution is the norm for Christians. Don’t be concerned with what might happen, know that when you are attacked by faithless people, God will strengthen you.

Not only will the Lord strengthen, but “He will protect.” The word protect is used by Paul in other places referring to the guarding or keeping of God’s commandments. Here though the word means to keep safe from harm or injury. It means to hold someone in close contact. Think about the President’s protection detail, or witness protection, or protective custody and you begin to get the idea of how protective the Lord is. BUT. Being in the Lord’s protective custody doesn’t shield us from persecution or suffering; His protection sustains us through it. 1 Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

No matter what is happening to us in this present world, we would be wise to remember who the real enemy is. It’s not the people that are attacking the Gospel, they’re just the instruments being used. Don’t be surprised when you are confronted with the reality that not everyone will agree with your faith. Some will say it is old fashioned. Not relevant. Not real. It’s because of the deception in this present world. Remember that the Lord is restraining the man of lawlessness according to 2 Thes. 2:7. V. 10 goes on to talk about the deception that is prevalent because of wickedness. The only way to combat the evil one is to stand firm on the truth of Scripture. Combat the lies with truth. The root cause of the persecution we endure is always the evil one, is always the devil; is always Satan.

Remember it is the Lord who is our protector. He will not let you go. He’ll strengthen and provide the protection you need when you need it.

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