Summary: There are two main causes of paralysis in the Christian - attack of the enemy or lethargy of the spirit. Learn how to combat both.
There are two dangers that we face as Christians - attacked by the enemy we become paralyzed - or not motivated to keep going we become lethargic.
Paul finishes up his second letter to the Thessalonians by giving them some warnings about the present. He’s spent most of the letter warning about the future - the lawlessness that will usher in the Anti-Christ. But seeds of that evil were present in their midst as they are in ours.
The two warnings involve the reality of struggle against the enemy as you live your Christian life - and the struggle against the tendency towards lethargy.
1 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Verse 1: This should be a constant prayer of all of us - even though we know that the enemy will do everything in his power to slow the spread and dishonor the gospel. Paul was having that very struggle in Corinth, as he wrote this letter.
Verse 2: Because of this he asks them to pray for deliverance - these people had heard the gospel but had not honored it with faith. There is some particularly dangerous about someone who has considered and yet rejected Jesus Christ. It’s as if something snaps and the enemy gets a hand hold that lets them say and do things they wouldn’t otherwise.
Verse 3: The good news is that despite the faithlessness of men - we don’t need to let that get us down because our Lord is faithful no matter what to do two things:
Strengthen: the Greek word means to set in a particular direction. It reminds me of cement drying. Usually when you pour cement you have to wait a period of time for it to strengthen - but if you add calcium it acts as a catalyst to dry it in just a few hours - so Jesus is like our catalyst - we point the direction of our lives towards faith in Him and He gives us strength to set that direction so that it is unchangeable.
Protect: The Greek word is "to watch." Sometimes when we suffer from attacks of the enemy he makes us feel isolated and alone - and perhaps a little resentful of the Lord for letting us get in the situation in the first place. God doesn’t promise to keep us from trouble - but to watch over us in trouble.
Jesus said: John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Verses 4 - 5: Paul is glad at the thought that the important things he has shared with them have been received and they will continue to operate that way - what way is that? Love and perseverance. They are the two hallmarks of a maturing Christian. Love in that we live in a selfless manner where the needs of others take precedence over our own needs. And perseverance in that no matter what the enemy or the world throw at us they don’t throw us off from staying steadfast with the Lord.
I think also we can take heart in that God’s love is also ours to draw from and Jesus’ perseverance when we feel like we can’t go on any more.
So now Paul, given that backdrop, is going to lower the boom on behavior that is not going to help them grow - a small group of them who decided that freedom in Christ must mean freedom from doing anything.
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."