Author’s Note: This was originally posted on the church’s web site.
Sometimes the stuff of church becomes routine, even for the pastor. But it’s truly an honor and a privilege, a sacred calling even, every time I get the chance to preach and teach God’s word. I’m commanded by God to faithfully explain His word to you. That’s something I can never afford to think of as routine, and something you shouldn’t take for granted, either.
On Wednesday night I got to preach from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, in which the apostle Paul expressed some pastoral desires for that church. Remember, he had planted the church, but only got to stay with them for three weeks before being run out of town by Jewish persecutors. Still, Paul had a pastor’s heart for these people. That’s the whole letter… his heart being poured out to teach them the truth, and in the process guard them from error. And at the start of what we know as chapter three he turns toward some of his heart’s desires for these relatively new believers.
As a pastor myself (as your pastor if you’re a member of Bethlehem), these are things I desire for you as well.
1. I need you to pray for me.
Specifically, Paul desired their prayers so that the gospel would spread rapidly and be glorified (well received). I certainly desire that, too. Of course, I desire your prayers in general. Please pray that I would be holy, that I would do all God calls me to do, that I would be wise and courageous and faithful, not to mention a good husband (pray for Liz, too) and father (pray for my children). But also pray that I would preach the gospel, the whole counsel of God really, and that you and the church and any who come in would receive it positively (that is, the way it needs to be received — with obedient faith). Pray there would be no hindrance to this happening.
2. I need you to put your faith in the One who is faithful.
I can’t strengthen and protect you from the evil one. Only God can. So if you want to flourish spiritually and if you want to see Bethlehem grow in all the right ways, don’t put your eggs in the Matt Privett basket. When hard times come it’s not me that gives you strength and protects you. God does. Trust in Him. Believe in Him. Know that He and He alone builds you up on the inside so that you can stand firm (i.e., be protected) when hard times come. Plus, I’m a sinner. I’m not perfectly faithful. But Jesus Christ is!
3. I need you to obey what you are taught.
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to continually do what they were commanded. He taught them God’s word and and they were to follow it — again, with obedient faith. Likewise, I need you to obey what I teach (Heb 13:17); not because I teach it, but because what I teach is the word of God.
You make sure I’m faithfully doing that by the way (Acts 17:11). If I start teaching something contrary you need to talk to me about it.
But as long as I’m faithfully and rightly preaching and teaching God’s word, you need to… no, you must, under God… obey what is taught. After all, it’s not Matt Privett’s word. It’s God’s word.
4. I need you to grow.
Paul wanted the Lord to direct their hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. He wanted them to understand so much what God had done for them at the cross and the empty tomb that they would better comprehend His love for them, and thus return that love back. The more we grasp the love of God, the more we are compelled to love Him.
Likewise, God is patient with us. Jesus is patient with us. And the more we understand our own sinfulness and grasp how patient He is, the more we will patiently endure trials, tribulations, and all manner of things, because we’ll be relying on Christ — His strength, not ours. And in the process, we will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Pet 3:18).
I need you, Bethlehem. I need these things from you. And you need them, too. It’s not for my glory and not for yours, either. It’s for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So as you consider 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 and what it’s saying, ask yourself: “Am I fulfilling these pastoral desires Paul had for the Thessalonians, and Pastor Matt has for me? More importantly, these things my Lord Jesus Christ has told me to do. ”
Know that I’m praying for you, beloved. Pray for me. And let’s glorify God together.