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Visit jamesbest.net/artwork/sermon-illustrations-2023.

In an article published on February 14, 2023, on religionnews.com, Bob Smietana explains what has led to a revival that has been held at Asbury University for more than a week, holding round-the-clock prayer and worship.It began February eighth when students at Asbury University gathered for their biweekly chapel service in the 1,500-seat Hughes Auditorium. As usual, they sang, listened to a sermon, and prayed. “This has been an extra-ordinary time for us,” Asbury President Kevin Brown said.

The revival has disrupted life and brought national attention to Asbury, an evangelical Christian school in Wilmore, Kentucky, about a half-hour outside of Lexington. Videos of students singing, weeping and praying have been posted on social media, leading to both criticism and praise. News of the revival has also drawn students and other visitors to the campus to take part in the ongoing prayer and worship.

“We’ve been here in Hughes Auditorium for over a hundred hours — praying, crying, worshipping and uniting — because of Love,” wrote Alexandra Presta, editor of The Asbury Collegian, the school’s student newspaper, who has been chronicling the services on campus. “We’ve even expanded into Estes Chapel across the street at Asbury Theological Seminary and beyond. I can proclaim that Love boldly because God is Love.”

How did this happen? The best answer is this is how God chose to respond to their prayer. Prayer set the table; God served up a revival.

Prayer is the channel for our worship and God’s provision.

CONTEXT – The word FINALLY here is used in the classical Greek sense of introducing a new topic, not signaling the end of the letter. That proves Paul was a Baptist because I’ve heard Baptist preachers use the word “finally” and be nowhere near the end of their sermon! It also means that Paul was satisfied he’d addressed the false teaching on Jesus’ Second coming and was ready to change subjects.

1. Paul’s prayer requests. (1-2)

Paul asked for prayer for his preaching in three ways. (1) One, THAT THE LORD’S MESSAGE WILL SPREAD RAPIDLY. This evokes Psalm 147:15, HE SENDS HIS ORDERS TO THE WORLD – HOW SWIFTLY HIS WORD FLIES! Paul also asked the Roman and Ephesian believers to pray for him to have boldness in proclaiming the word (Romans 15:30-32 and Ephesians 6:19-20).

Two, THAT THE LORD’S MESSAGE WILL... BE HONORED WHEREVER IT GOES. Taken together, these two phrases make us think of a track meet, where the swiftest runner gets the prize, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26.

Three, that the LORD’S MESSAGE will have the same success it did with them. The Greek indicates Paul prayed this would be a continuation of the success experienced in Thessalonica.

Paul asked for prayer for his protection. (2) Paul asked TO BE RESCUED FROM WICKED AND EVIL PEOPLE. Isaiah 25:4 praises God for being a REFUGE and SHELTER from the OPPRESSIVE ACTS OF RUTHLESS PEOPLE. The word WICKED identifies his opponents as capable of outrageous and harmful acts. The word EVIL speaks of people who are thoroughly corrupted by sin and capable of corrupting others. Acts 16:19-23 and 1 Thessalonians detail how Paul and Silvanus were persecuted in Thessalonica by people who rejected the Gospel.

Paul wrote that not everyone they encounter will be a BELIEVER. This is an obvious understatement! At the time of this writing, Paul & Silvanus were ministering in Corinth. They met opposition from the Jews there who objected to their preaching that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18:4-7).

Paul must have found this discouraging because the Lord appeared to him, to encourage him: ONE NIGHT THE LORD SPOKE TO PAUL IN A VISION AND TOLD HIM, “DON’T BE AFRAID! SPEAK OUT! DON’T BE SILENT! FOR I AM WITH YOU AND NO ONE WILL ATTACK AND HARM YOU, FOR MANY PEOPLE IN THIS CITY BELONG TO ME.” (Acts 18:9-10) The result of that vision was that Paul took courage and obeyed the word of the Lord, as verse eleven states: SO PAUL STAYED THERE A YEAR AND A HALF, TEACHING THE WORD OF GOD.

2. Paul’s promises. (3, 5)

(Paul’s pastoral care for the Thessalonians was deep: he turned immediately from a request for prayer to an assurance that God will deliver them from their persecutors.)

Paul promised then that God will similarly protect them from evil. (3) THE LORD IS FAITHFUL. In contrast to people who are too often unfaithful and unreliable – God can always be relied upon. God can be relied upon to supply all we need to be obedient to His will. HE WILL STRENGTHEN YOU. This is inner security, where GUARD is outward security. HE WILL... GUARD YOU FROM THE EVIL ONE. The word for GUARD is often used in a military sense of protection from violent assault.

Paul prayed for their spiritual growth. (5) Spiritual growth is, first and last, a work of God in our lives. It is very appropriate for Paul to have written these three prayers in this way.

First, MAY THE LORD LEAD YOUR HEARTS INTO A FULL UNDERSTANDING... OF THE LOVE OF GOD.

Second, MAY THE LORD LEAD YOUR HEARTS INTO A FULL... EXPRESSION OF THE LOVE OF GOD.

Third, MAY THE LORD LEAD YOUR HEARTS INTO... THE PATIENT ENDURANCE THAT COMES FROM CHRIST. This is the ability to endure suffering in the spirit that Christ showed when He suffered the cross.

WE ARE CONFIDENT IN THE LORD. Paul praised them for being reliable because they are truly IN THE LORD. God gives His people all they need to create confidence.

YOU ARE DOING AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO THE THINGS WE COMMANDED YOU. The focus of Paul’s confidence was on their obedience. They could be relied upon to do God’s will.

Prayer is the channel for our worship and God’s provision.

Dwight L. Moody was a twentieth century evangelist and founder of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. On a trip across the Atlantic helped the crew and other volunteers put out a fire in the hold of the ship by being part of a “bucket brigade.”

As they stood in the bucket line, a friend said to Moody, “Let’s go up to the other end of the ship and pray.”

Moody, exercising his customary common-sense said, “No, sir, we will stand right here and pass buckets and pray hard all the time we are doing so.” Prayer and action go together.

We don’t pray because we want God to do something for us, we pray because we want to do something for God. We pray to figure out what His specific will is, then we pray for strength and wisdom to accomplish His will, then we pray again to thank Him for using us to accomplish His will. Prayer is the first and best part of every step of faith. This passage is a good example of the power of prayer.

RESOURCES:

Asbury revival anecdote from https://religionnews.com/2023/02/14/asbury-revival-why-are-students-at-a-small-christian-school-in-kentucky-praying-singing-round-the-clock-for-a-week/, retrieved on 16 February 2023.

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 16, 2008, 1-2 Thessalonians, Philip W. Comfort.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, 1980, 2 Timothy, Ralph Earle

Moody anecdote from David F. Burgess, Encyclopedia of Sermon Illustrations (Concordia, 1988), retrieved from https://www.logos.com/grow/sermon-illustrations-on-prayer/ on 17 February 2023.

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