Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3
Paul invites the believers to pray that the word of the Lord (the gospel) will spread rapidly and be glorified. What an intriguing request. My prayers most often focus on temporal circumstances that make life uncomfortable. I will ask God to take the pressure off teachers for all the demands the school system is placing on them. I will pray that God will bring healing into someone’s life who has cancer. I will continue to pray that God will restore a person to a vibrant walk with Jesus. But I don’t often have this focus that “the word of the Lord (gospel) will spread rapidly and be glorified.”
I contemplated if I would be willing to pray this for my neighborhood. But the intimidating part of this prayer is inscribed in the text itself, “brethren, pray for us….” The obvious inference here is that Paul is asking the Thessalonians to be praying he will be intentional and even aggressive about sharing the gospel in such a way that it rapidly spreads to all those in his sphere of influence. The inevitable implication, to put it in any other terms, is that God would give Paul a boldness to share the gospel so that it will not just spread rapidly, but bring forth fruit that glorifies God: that many individuals would surrender to God by placing faith in the gospel of Christ. Many of us would have no problem praying that the gospel would spread rapidly, but we might balk at the idea that God desires to use us to make that happen.
Notice that Paul asks for this prayer by appealing to how God has used the Thessalonian believers. These believers have been bold in sharing the gospel in their sphere of influence and the implication of Paul’s request is that the gospel has spread rapidly and is bearing fruit because they have been very proactive about sharing it with others.
There are some important observations to note:
First, the mission of the gospel is first and foremost a privilege of every believer, namely the Body of Christ. The gospel rapidly spreads when the whole Body embraces the responsibility and desires to participate in the privilege of sharing Christ with others.
Secondly, the spread of the gospel is not just a responsibility for super-saints or gifted believers. Many tend to default to the sovereignty argument, “if God wants my neighbor saved, he doesn’t need me to do it”. These statements, while affirming God’s sovereign purpose, are really statements of fear not faith. What believer in their right mind would not want to be used by God to bring someone to saving faith in Christ? Faith will have a very different attitude towards the gospel; there is no greater privilege in life than for God to use them, in spite of how broken he or she might be, to bring another person to faith in Christ.
Third, you cannot be committed to the gospel without facing some challenges. Paul asks that God deliver him from “perverse and evil men”. The reason for this is because “not all have faith”. This suggest two scenarios: First, some opposition is internal. As surprising as it may seem, sometimes the greatest opposition to the gospel are other believers who simply do not have the faith to believe that the gospel is powerful to do what the Bible claims is to happen. These obstacles can include internal politics, tradition, and misconception of the purpose of the church. People succumb to fear of change, power struggles and various other issues that reflect a dysfunctional faith. On the other side of the coin, some opposition is external. Not every person we share the gospel will have the faith to respond. Some may be antagonistic toward us because we share the gospel. Both can be discouraging and undermine our confidence in participating in Christ’s mission.
But Paul reminds us that the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect us from the evil one. We often feel vulnerable in the mission of Christ, but we must trust that the Lord will protect us from the evil one. The more we trust him the more freedom we will have to participate in the mission.