“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”— 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17
The Thessalonian church was dear to the heart of Paul. Acts 17 provides the account of its founding. Paul reasoned with both Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue at Thessalonica for three sabbath days on how the promised Messiah (Christ) must needs have suffered and risen again and that Jesus is the Christ. A great multitude was converted during this time and joined themselves to Paul and Silas. Those who rejected the Gospel stirred up the city against them. These unbelievers found out that Paul, Silas, and the newly founded Thessalonian church were meeting in the house of Jason. They assaulted the house of Jason, hoping to find Paul and Silas there. Not finding them there, they brought out Jason before the city rulers and cried, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” The Thessalonian believers, desiring safety for Paul and Silas, sent them away by night.
We don’t know how long Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica. Although they preached at the synagogue three Sabbath days, it is possible that they held their church services in people’s homes for a few months afterwards. Regardless, we know they did not stay long.
Though Paul and Silas were gone, the Thessalonian church continued to face persecution. Not long after he left, Paul sent Timothy back to establish (fortify and strengthen) the church and comfort them. When Timothy returned from his mission, he encouraged Paul with a favorable message of the Thessalonians’ faith and charity. In response, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. The purpose of 1 Thessalonians was to
- Encourage them to persevere in tribulation
- Encourage them to work honestly and blamelessly
- Comfort them in the blessed hope
Some key words for this epistle are the following:
- “coming of the Lord Jesus Christ”
Not too long after Paul had written 1 Thessalonians, it appears that false teachers or busybodies took advantage of the Thessalonians’ tribulations to stir up strife. These busybodies suggested that maybe the church was at the time experiencing the wrath of God as would be exhibited in the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). Rather than looking and waiting for Christ’s return like all born-again believers should, the believers in the Thessalonian church were focusing on the world around them and were getting discouraged and spiritually defeated. When Paul caught word of this, he immediately took up his pen to write 2 Thessalonians. These Thessalonians were troubled and shaken. They were not firmly grounded. Paul, Silas, and Timothy did not have much time to work with them in their spiritual growth. We don’t even know if they had a pastor. The purpose of 2 Thessalonians was to establish them. It is interesting that although Paul commended their simple faith in accepting his words as Gospel in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, we read this statement in Acts 17:11 when Paul and Silas reached Berea: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” It was commendable of the Thessalonians to accept the words of Paul, but at the same time, they did not dedicate themselves to searching the Scriptures. These Thessalonian Christians, rather than clinging to the Word of God, clung to the words of man. As a result, these Christians lived a spiritually defeated life and were easily troubled. Key words for this epistle are “trouble” and “shaken.”
It is vitally important to grasp this simple truth. Many today are troubled and shaken because they cling to the words of man and not Scripture. They’ve trained their eyes to look around them at what’s going on in the world instead of upward for the coming of the Lord. Too many Christians are so easily distressed at the news or are absorbed with looking for signs of the antichrist. The Thessalonians were in much the same frame of mind. They were distressed at the happenings of the world and were looking for the antichrist. But Paul prayed for them in 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” It’s okay to stay informed with what’s going on in the world today if you make sure you stay in moderation. But Brother, Sister, we are to wait for the coming of the Lord! Cast your eyes upward! There is no need to be looking for signs of the antichrist. We have the promise that the antichrist or “that Wicked” will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit “be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8) and this happens when the Lord raptures His Bride. Over and over Paul has tried to drill this into their heads:
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come”
—1 Thessalonians 1:10
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
—1 Thessalonians 2:19
“To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
—1 Thessalonians 3:13
“13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
—1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
“9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:9–10
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:23
Even with all the exhortations of 1 Thessalonians, this poor pitiful flock continued to be troubled and shaken. Paul was in great distress. No minister wishes to see his flock troubled. It broke his heart to have to be forced to leave the Thessalonians to be tossed to the wolves.
Are you at this moment troubled and shaken? Cast your eyes upon Jesus! As Stephen turned his eyes upward to gaze into the eyes of His precious Lord, he was able to ignore the stones thrown at him. The apostle Paul witnessed Stephen’s stoning, and it made an impact on him.
Brethren, as we walk through this prayer for a troubled church, let’s turn our eyes upon Jesus and cast our troubles at His feet.
“16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
—2 Thessalonians 2:16–17
If I could leave you with just one thought concerning this prayer for a troubled church, I would want you to leave with this: The emphasis of this prayer is on the Answerer of the request, not the request itself. This is the message that the poor, pitiful Thessalonian flock needed to hear. What they already had in Christ was worth more than all the world.
The Source of the Blessing
“Lord Jesus Christ”
Notice first the words, “Lord Jesus Christ.” Who is the Giver of the blessings in this prayer? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ! It is at this name every knee will bow (Php 2:10). It is by this name only can sinners be saved. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We aren’t to look to our president or government. We look to Jesus! “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php 3:20).
Notice the prayer begins with, “Now OUR Lord Jesus Christ.” I’m so glad I can call Jesus mine. I’m so glad I can say with Solomon’s beloved, “My beloved is mine, and I am his!” Do you know Jesus Christ today as your personal Lord and Savior?
Loved with everlasting love
Led by grace that love to know
Gracious Spirit from above
Thou hast taught me it is o!
Oh this full and perfect peace!
Oh this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His and He is mine.
Things that once were wild alarms,
Cannot now distrub my rest,
Closed in everlasting arms,
Pillowed on his loving breast
Oh to lie forever here,
Doubt and care and self resign,
While he whispers in my ear,
I am His, and He is mine!
—George W. Robinson, 1890
Paul is here putting the exclamation mark on this Giver of blessings. Our Lord Jesus Christ HIMSELF—Nobody else but Jesus! The writer of Hebrews in describing the work of Jesus says, “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High” (1:3). After describing the humanity of sinners, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say about Jesus, “he also himself likewise took part of the same” (2:14). He continues, “for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (2:18). To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16) and “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means” (2 Thess. 3:16). Every work of Christ deserves an exclamation mark!
Jesus said “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Hebrews 1:8 says, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” There is no question about it. Jesus Christ is God and is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. No, I don’t understand the trinity, but I know it to be true. When we see the words “and God” in this prayer, we are reminded of the power of our Lord. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Whenever I think of God’s creative power, I can’t help but be reminded of a verse most precious to me:
“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
— Genesis 1:16
I went for a while not realizing how badly I needed glasses. When it reached the point that I could not make out anything on the chalkboard in school, I figured it was time that I bought some glasses. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I took a trip with my pastor to the backwoods of Mississippi right after I got my glasses. We pulled up to the house we were going to be staying at, I stepped out of the truck, and looked up to the night sky. I had never before seen so many stars. It was overwhelming! I felt so small and insignificant. Tears began to stroll down as I stood there weeping in awe at God’s creative power. When I spoke with my pastor about it, he directed my attention to the words of Genesis 1:16, “And he made the stars also.” I know God had everything all planned out and that nothing was just an impromptu act on His part, but after displaying the glory of the sun and the moon, it was as if the creation of the stars was the least of His thoughts. Scientists have no clue how many stars exist! Every day they are making new discoveries. But as incredible as the stars are, it was just a brief part of creation. Here is what is even more amazing: God bent down to the ground to take a handful of dirt to lovingly form the crown of His creation, man. God cared more for man than the stars of the sky. I know we haven’t gotten far at all into this prayer, but how long has it been since you took some time to glory in God’s power? He is worthy of all praise! The God who simply “made the stars also” delights in the prayer of the upright (Prov. 15:8).
“even our Father”
We are now directed to the Father as the source of this blessing as well. The false gods of the heathen couldn’t be approached. The heathen nations in the Bible heaped to themselves idols representing vengeful and hateful gods. Although our God will indeed exact vengeance, the Redeemed can call Him Father. Many children throughout the world today do not have a hiding place and refuge they can turn to in their families. But to all who call upon the name of the Lord, God is Father. When we are discouraged, we have a Father. When we are scared, we have a Father. When we are distressed, we have a Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).
What We Have
After addressing the Giver of blessings, Paul then mentions in this prayer for a troubled church what God’s children are in possession of already.
“Which hath loved us”
He begins this portion of the prayer with the words, “which hath loved us.” Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” I am so thankful for the love of God! I am so thankful when the Lord of old appeared to me to manifest His everlasting love to me! If you are saved today, you have at this moment the everlasting love of the Father. If you are lost, it is this same everlasting love that draws you to Christ. Accept this amazing love today! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Think about the love of a father. A loving father will provide comfort in pain and sorrow. A loving father doesn’t want his child to be confused. A loving father wants his child to grow into maturity. And a loving father wants his child to grow up in purity and holiness. Our Heavenly Father is all this and more! When we lose a loved one, our Father is there for consolation. When we are confused with doubts, know that our “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Our Father wants us to know His will and have peace! Our Father wants us to grow into maturity (Heb. 6:1). And our Father wants us to live holy and blamelessly (Heb. 12:5–11).
In this prayer for a troubled church, the emphasis is not so much on the request but on the attention to the Answerer of the request. Paul wants this troubled flock to realize that God loves them.
“Hath given us everlasting consolation”
We not only have the everlasting love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we have everlasting consolation as well. I want to direct your attention to two parts of this “everlasting consolation”—the Living Consolation and the Recorded Consolation.
I love looking into the etymology of our beautiful English words. This word “consolation” in its English etymology means “with soothe.” It is very similar to the word “comfort” which means “with strength.” These two words really mean the same thing with slightly different connotations. In “consolation” one’s troubled heart is calmed and soothed, and in “comfort” one’s broken heart is strengthened. The Greek word behind both “consolation” and “comfort” is “paraklesis” which means to “call to one’s side.” We find a derivative of this word in John 14:16–18:
“16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
— John 14:16–18
Our Comforter is our “Paraklete.” He is our Living Consolation! He strengthens the broken heart and soothes the troubled heart. If you are saved, this Living Consolation, the Holy Spirit, lives in you. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)If you are saved, Christ is in YOU! (Col. 1:25–27) Dear friend, are you brokenhearted? The Holy Spirit is your Living Comforter. Are you troubled? The Holy Spirit is your Living Consolation. It is easy and natural to lean on earthly friends or distract our minds with lighthearted TV, books, and other earthly pleasure. But if you are saved, you have the blessing of the Indwelling Comforter. Reach out to Him today for your consolation.
We not only have Living Consolation, we also have a recorded consolation. This recorded consolation is indeed everlasting. It was manifested to us in the past, available to us in the present, and will be with us throughout all eternity. Take a look at our past consolation:
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”
My name is in the Book of Life! No man can blot it out! (John 3:16; Revelation 3:5; John 10:28) It was settled right there when I called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This everlasting consolation was settled in the past!
Now see our present consolation:
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
I realize we have a promise of a future reign with Christ on a literalearth, but here in Ephesians 2:6 we find that we have right now a present consolation in our standing with Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” To be justified in the sight of God under no condemnation is a blessing! Are you troubled? If you are saved, you can lean on the present consolation we have in Christ Jesus. Now notice the future consolation:
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Are you right now troubled and shaken? If you are saved, you have a recorded consolation. You have a security that can never be taken away. The worst thing that could happen to a saved person is to die and enter into the arms of our loving Lord in heaven! What consolation! What love divine!
“And good hope through grace”
We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. We have everlasting consolation both Living and recorded. The third gift Paul makes mention of in this prayer for the troubled Thessalonians is “good hope.” Again, the main reason why the Thessalonians were troubled was because false teachers had directed their eyes away from the Lord to their present afflictions. Here, Paul is reminding them that they have a hope! Titus 2:13 says,
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The “hope” of the world is not confident. The hope of the Bible, however, is a confident expectation. This hope does not make ashamed (Rom. 5:5; Php. 1:20). When I say that I have a hope that Jesus Christ is coming for me, I am not doubting one bit. I am confidently saying that, without a doubt, Jesus Christ is coming for me! Thank God for the good hope through grace we have in Christ Jesus.
Without the Book, we couldn’t know about the Blood.
Without the Blood, there would be no way for the Blessed Hope.
Without the Blessed Hope, there would be no reason for the Book and the Blood!
Praise God for that which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ, and God, even our Father!
What Is Added
I want to enforce the idea that the emphasis of this prayer is on the Answerer of the prayer, not the request itself. But in this prayer for a troubled church, Paul makes a twofold request for them: (1) comfort their hearts and (2) stablish (or establish) them in every good word and work. What is interesting to note is that these requests were already fulfilled before Paul prayed this. So in making these requests, Paul is praying for an additional bestowal of these graces. He had already stated that the Thessalonians were in possession of “everlasting consolation” which uses the same Greek word as this word “comfort.” Here in this request, Paul is praying that God would add even more. I would guess that there are those reading this who have right now a troubled heart. You have Living Consolation abiding in you right now. You have a recorded consolation secured in heaven. This prayer requests that God add an extra dose of comfort. In the passing of a loved one, it is not out of place to have sorrow. Israel mourned for the loss of Aaron 30 days. Israel also mourned for the loss of Moses for 30 days. God knows our sorrows. Our natural bodies will at many times succumb to the sorrows we experience in our daily lives. We may miss the touch of the Comforter who currently resides in our hearts. We may lose sight of the eternal security we have in Christ Jesus. So even in the light of these comforts, I pray God would add a touch more. I pray you would find grace to help in your time of need (Heb. 4:16). Pray this for each other. If you know of a brother or sister in Christ whose heart is troubled, pray God would add to them another dose of comfort. Know that the same God who has given us everlasting consolation on the mountain of joy will have everlasting consolation for us in the valley of trouble.
Lastly, Paul prays that God would stablish them in every good word and work. Here it is expected that the Thessalonians continue to work and live for the Lord. There may be times when the child of God will fall on their face in failure. The heart of the Redeemed can falter and be troubled. But God expects His work to continue. The Thessalonians were troubled, but they were to continue to work and live for the Lord. In the midst of this work, Paul prays that they would be established. Paul had already sent Timothy to establish them in the faith and his efforts were met with success (1 Thess. 3:2, 6-8). Now, Paul was praying they would be established even more. I believe what was happening was that their feet were indeed established and planted, firmly held by the Lord Jesus Christ. But in turning their eyes upon the world and their afflictions, they were acting as though they lost their balance. When Peter walked on the water, the Lord in His love and grace was keeping Him secure. When Peter saw the wind boisterous, he began to sink, but he was safe enough to cry, “Lord, save me.” There was no exclamation mark in the cry. Although he was beginning to sink, Peter was established in the ever-protecting hands of the Lord. Are you worried right now with what’s going on in the world? Are you troubled at your present affliction? I pray as you continue to work for your Lord that He would settle your troubled heart. I pray you would be established in every good word and work.
What a prayer! In this Prayer for a Troubled Church, our eyes are directed to Christ, His love, His everlasting consolation, and His good hope.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
—Helen H. Lemmel, 1922