From: Chris Dodds
This Sunday we will light the third Advent candle, the candle of joy, because Christmas assures us of that God will turn our mourning into dancing, and every tear shall be wiped away, in the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ. This great joy is something to be announced to the ends of the earth so that others may also receive this good news and share in it. Lord knows there is no shortage of mourning and tears that need turning. This is Paul’s prayer request to the church in Thessalonica in today’s NT reading - “pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you…” (3:1). It’s a prayer for the advance of the gospel, that others may also come to know the joy of the gospel, to be transformed into people of love for one another and steadfast faith, as had happened to those in Thessalonica who heard the word and responded in faith (1.3-4).
As I reflected on this passage I thought of our missions partners around the globe, and for the work of prayer that must supplement our financial support for them. The prayer Paul asks for is a simple two-part prayer: 1) that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, 2) that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men. There’s a tendency for us to take both of these things for granted in our context. In a somewhat “post-Christian” New England, we may underestimate the power of the word to speed ahead and bear fruit, yet when we look back at the book of Acts, this was the testimony of the church, that even under severe persecution, the word went forth with power, bringing about new creation, transformed lives and joy. This continues across the globe today and our missions partners are on the frontlines of this work. Praise God! Let us pray this Advent, and every day, that many will know the joy of the gospel through these ministries. As for delivery from wicked and evil men, again we can take this for granted in our context as we proclaim Christ, but for many of our missionaries, the threat of persecution, imprisonment and death, is very real. It’s a reason I’m particularly compelled by our special Advent offering this year. What a joy to partner with Sarah and Mohsen who minister to Iranian refugees in Turkey, and disciple new believers for gospel ministry in places where the cost could very well be imprisonment or worse. As we respond generously financially this Sunday, may we also respond generously and faithfully in prayer.
Lord may your word speed ahead and be honored, and may your servants be delivered from wicked and evil men.
I’m husband to Kara, Father to an unborn son or daughter due very soon, and part of the great New Zealand diaspora. I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity to serve as Assistant Pastor at Church of the Cross here in Boston. You’re a wonderful family to us.