Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1187 MP3 Audio File Video File

Why Pray?

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Delivered 10/08/23

Good morning, Bereans. We are back in 2 Thessalonians this morning and will begin to look at the third and final chapter of this book. In the first 5 verses of chapter 3,

Paul asks the Thessalonian community to pray for the progress of the spread of the Gospel and the protection of the missionaries entrusted to deliver its message of salvation. Paul and his missionary team lived and worked in constant danger in order to fulfill their mission.

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ESV

"Finally"—this is from the Greek word loipoi which means "for the rest." It is used by Paul to mark off his last major truth or subject. It is the beginning of the conclusion. It is also used to introduce his closing statements.

"Pray for us"the word "pray" comes for the Greek proseuchomai. Here it is in the present tense and means "continually pray and make this a constant pattern." Paul had told them this in his first letter to them.

pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV

When Paul wrote his letters to the New Testament churches, he invariably asked the recipients to pray for him. The saints at Corinth were reminded that their prayers helped him through times of difficulty: "You also must help us by prayer" (2 Cor. 1:11). The church in Rome was asked to pray with the apostle.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Yeshua the Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, Romans 15:30-31 ESV

The Thessalonian believers were continually encouraged to pray for Paul. As he ended his first epistle, he requested, "Brethren, pray for us" (1 Thes. 5:25).

In his epistles, he asked for particular and pointed intercession from the saints. In Ephesians, he requested prayer.

and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, Ephesians 6:19 ESV

In Colossians, Paul appealed for "open doors" in order to teach the gospel wisely (Col. 4:3–4).

Paul felt the need for prayer and believed it affected the effectiveness of his ministry. Paul needed their prayers. He didn't assume that his impressive spiritual gifts or his past successes would result in future success. Paul knew that he had to depend on the Lord through prayer.

In light of what we saw in the end of the last chapter, this raises some questions. Do you remember what he said to them as he ended chapter 2?

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

Some early manuscripts read "first fruits" while others read "from the beginning." The NASB has "because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." The UBS4 gives "from the beginning," a "B" rating (almost certain). Paul never used the concept of "first fruits" to illustrate election.  Paul's "from the beginning" here parallels what he says to the Ephesians in chapter 1.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love … Ephesians 1:4 ESV

The sense of it would be from the beginning of time. It would reflect God's electing choices made before time began.

So, 2 Thessalonians 2:12 speaks of the sovereign election of Yahweh. Paul also said this to them in the first letter he sent them.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV

From all eternity, God loved the church at Thessalonica. He chose them from the beginning from all the sinners in Macedonia.

So, in chapter 2, Paul talks about their being chosen by God. Then in chapter 3 he asks them to pray for the progress of the spread of the Gospel and for the protection of the missionaries entrusted to deliver its message of salvation. Many believers might ask why we need to pray for the progress of the gospel or for people to be saved if God is sovereign?

G.K. Beale writes, "Some may think that election and prayer for the salvation of the lost are incompatible ideas, but Paul puts them right next to one another, as do other biblical authors. Paul and other New Testament writers juxtapose notions of divine sovereignty and human accountability without so much as giving a hint that there is any tension."

Beale goes on to say,

The link to the directly preceding context suggests that the motivation to pray in 3:1 for the spread of the gospel comes from realizing that the only hope for lost humanity is that God has chosen them and that, as a consequence, God will work in their hearts so that they will believe. Indeed, election is the springboard for prayer that unsaved people be saved…Paul tells his readers in 3:1 to pray to God that the message of the Lord may spread effectively because he is the only one who can make it advance by causing the conversion of others. It is consistent to pray that God convert sinners if we really believe that God is the one who elects people and changes sinners' hearts so that they desire to believe in Christ.

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you know that Paul understands God's sovereignty better than anyone, and yet he says over and over that he prays for the lost. Romans 9 is one of the strongest texts you will find anywhere on the sovereignty of God in salvation.

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.  Romans 9:18 ESV

After so strongly asserting God's sovereignty in salvation Paul says,

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.  Romans 10:1 ESV

Paul declares that "God is sovereign in salvation, He saves who He wills. So, I'm praying for your salvation." Don't struggle with this; just accept it as the Word of God. Paul's understanding of God's sovereignty didn't hurt his prayer life one bit.

With this in mind, notice what Paul told the Philippians.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9 ESV

Paul is admonishing the Philippians and all believers to practice what they see in him. That would mean that we are to be people of prayer. Paul prayed for all kinds of things. He believed in prayer, and he taught that believers were to pray.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  Colossians 4:2 ESV

"Continue steadfastly" is the Greek word proskartereo. It first meant "to be strong towards, to endure in, persevere in." It came to mean "to adhere to, persist in, to continue to do something with intense effort," with the possible implication of despite difficulty. The present tense of "proskartereo" further emphasizes the idea of persistence of prayer.

Then he asks them for specific prayer in the area of evangelism.

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—Colossians 4:3 ESV

Paul, one of the strongest teachers on the sovereignty of God in salvation, asks for prayer for evangelism. And furthermore, he tells them that he prays for them.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; Colossians 1:9-11 ESV

Paul prays for their spiritual health, their spiritual maturity. This was Paul's passion—the spiritual maturity of believers. Please notice that he prayed for their spiritual needs. Rarely do we find Paul praying on behalf of physical needs. I'm sure that there were believers at these churches with physical needs. Paul didn't pray for generic church success and blessing. He ties his prayers directly to their spiritual needs. That was his passion and burden.

If you are wondering how to pray, the Pauline prayers are reliable guides. They were brief and explicit, directed to the needs at hand. He did not "pray all around the world" before coming to the point. Paul's prayers are tremendously instructive and often stand as a rebuke to the way many Christians pray. These prayers are not only brief and explicit, but they are spiritually strategic in nature. They center on the great spiritual issues facing individual believers and the body of Christ as a whole.

What is the content of your prayer life? Are your prayers characterized by thanksgiving as were Paul's? Do you pray for the spiritual health of other believers? What is more important than a believer's spiritual health? A.W. Pink writes, "How different are the prayers of Scripture from those which we are accustomed to hear in religious gatherings!"

Behind each of our requests is a desire! We often pray only for physical or material needs. But why? We believe that health and material things will bring us happiness. This is not true. Our happiness comes from our relationship with God. Paul actually gloried in his physical problems.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Why did Paul glory in his physical problems? Was he some kind of sick sadomasochist? No! He gloried in his problems because God was glorified in them.

Today, the prayer life of many Christians centers primarily on health and wealth issues. By contrast, Paul's prayers focus mostly on the spiritual needs.

We see Paul's humility in his prayers. He was dependent upon Yahweh. You have heard me say many times that prayerlessness is a declaration of self-sufficiency, which is pride! On the other hand, prayer is a declaration of our dependency. Does your prayer life declare that you are dependent upon God for everything?

Believers, we must understand that even though God is sovereign, Prayer Is Effective!

and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."  Psalms 50:15 ESV
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  Psalms 91:15 ESV
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  Jeremiah 29:12 ESV

Yahweh promises over and over to answer our prayers. Hezekiah was a man of prayer and we see the effectiveness in his prayer life. Hezekiah was the king of Judah (South) just before Israel (North) was taken into Assyrian captivity (700 B.C.):

For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, "May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 2 Chronicles 30:18-20 ESV

Please get this: Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

When Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came against Jerusalem, Hezekiah turned to God in prayer.

Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. And the LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So, he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. So, the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. And many brought gifts to the LORD to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward. 2 Chronicles 32:20-23 ESV

Hezekiah prayed to God, and God delivered Judah. Believers, prayer is effective. Hezekiah's prayers were also effective in his personal life.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign.  2 Chronicles 32:24 ESV

To get the full picture of what happened here look at 2 Kings 20.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'"  2 Kings 20:1 ESV

What would you do here? What did Hezekiah do? Did he say, "Well God is sovereign, and He said I'm going to die, so that's it. I'm dead." No, he did the same thing you would do. He prayed!

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, "Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus, says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake." And Isaiah said, "Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover." 2 Kings 20:2-7 ESV

We see over and over again in the life of Hezekiah that he prayed and God answered. It is clear that Hezekiah's prayers were effective.

In 1540, Martin Luther's great friend and assistant, Frederick Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. On his bed, he wrote a loving farewell note to Luther with a trembling hand. Luther received the letter and instantly sent back this reply:

"I command thee in the name of God to live. I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church. The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will and my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God."

These words seem shocking to us, but do you want to know what is even more shocking? One week later, Myconius recovered and died two months after the death of Luther.

If you scour the pages of Holy Scripture, you will find in a study of the prayer life of the saints of God, that most of them, most of the time, centered their prayer life around others.

I think we all need to come before the Lord asking the same thing one of Jesus' disciples asked:  "Lord, teach me to pray" (Luke 11). Maybe you've been a Christian for a while, and prayer has seemed kind of boring to you. The problem isn't prayer. The problem is you just don't realize how much God loves you. Prayer is a delight. Not something you endure; it's something you enjoy. Please never forget that prayer is effective! Now, in saying that, I'm not saying that prayer can change the mind of God or alter his plans.

Roger Nicole, the Swiss Reformed Baptist theologian writes, 

There are people who feel that unless you are prepared to say [that prayer can change God's mind and plan], there is no great value in prayer… If you believe you can change the mind of God through prayer, I hope you are using some discretion. If that is the power you have, it is certainly a most dangerous thing. Surely God does not need our counsel in order to set up what is desirable. Surely God, whose knowledge penetrates all minds and hearts, does not need to have us intervene to tell him what he ought to do. The thought that we are changing the mind of God by our prayers is a terrifying conception.

I will be frank to confess, if I really thought I could change the mind of God by praying, I would abstain. Because I would have to say, "How can I presume, with the limitations of my own mind and the corruptions of my own heart—how can I presume to interfere in the counsels of the Almighty?" No, our minds are too puny to be able to give God advice. It is almost as if you were to introduce somebody who is utterly ignorant of electronics to a nuclear weapons facility and you let that person into the operations room, though they were untrained, and told them to go on and push whatever buttons they thought appropriate. By so doing you might precipitate an accidental explosion. There is comfort for the child of God in being assured that our prayers will not change God's mind. This is not what is involved in prayer, and we are not in danger of precipitating explosions by some rash desire on our part" (Nicole n. d.).

We don't change God's mind through our prayers, but in a mysterious way, God uses our prayers to accomplish His predetermined will. Prayer, rather than changing God's mind and plan, is one of the things God has ordained to accomplish his plan.

Believers, we need to be people of prayer. But sad to say, most Christians don't call out to God until disaster strikes. There is a song out now on Country stations by Jelly Roll called, Need a Favor. Sadly, this song is true of too many of people. The lyrics are as follows:

I only talk to God when I need a favor.

And I only pray when I ain't got a prayer

So, who the hell am I, who the hell am I

To expect a Savior, Oh

If I only talk to God when I need a favor?

But God, I need a favor.

Believers, there needs to be more to our prayer life than just asking God for favors.

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ESV

What does Paul ask prayer for? "That the word of the Lord"—this phrase "the Word of the Lord" is used several hundred times in the Scripture. It is repeated over and over in the Tanakh as well as in the New Testament. It simply refers to that which is revealed by God, in other words, divine revelation. Often in the New Testament, "the Word of the Lord" is synonymous with the gospel. It is the message that the eternal Lord of glory came to this earth, took on human flesh, and suffered and died in our place, bearing the punishment that we deserved for our sins. And God raised Him from the dead.

Paul's great concern—what he first asked the Thessalonian Christians to pray for—was that God's Word "may speed ahead and be honored."  The Greek is literally, "will run and be glorified." This is the present continuous tense of the Greek word trecho. In its literal sense it means "to run," but it is used figuratively of "proceeding quickly without hindrance."

Paul is asking them to pray that God's message, the gospel, will continue to progress swiftly and without hindrance. Paul was probably thinking of Psalm 147.

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. Psalm 147:15 ESV

Paul was writing from Corinth, the city that hosted the Isthmian Games. So, he may have had in mind an athletic contest where the winning runner received the prize and was honored.

The verb honored here is the continuous present of doxazo ("to honor, magnify, praise"). The idea is that God's message, and thus God Himself, may be honored among men as they recognize its authority and submit their lives to its glorious truth in faith.

Before people can ever respond favorably to the gospel, God has to open their blind eyes and draw them to Christ:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV

Paul knew that if God did not open the hearts of those who heard him preach, they would never respond. Acts chapter 13 (verses 44 through 49) gives us a picture of what he has in mind.

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. Acts 13:44-49 ESV

Notice verses 48 and 49: "and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region…" This is exactly what Paul wants the Thessalonians to pray for.

Then Paul adds, "as happened among you"—this recalls the amazing success of the message in Thessalonica as described in the first chapter.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV

This is the kind of response Paul and his team wanted to see wherever the gospel was proclaimed

and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.  2 Thessalonians 3:2 ESV

First, he asks for the success of the message, and secondly, for the safety of the messengers.

"That we may be delivered from wicked and evil men." "May be delivered" is the aorist passive subjunctive of the verb ruomai ("to deliver, rescue, preserve"). This tense and the article with two adjectives show that a specific incident is being referred to in Paul's life. He may be referring to this:

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Yeshua that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Yeshua and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 ESV

Paul's petition here echoes Isaiah 25:4 (LXX),

For thou hast been a helper to every lowly city, and a shelter to them that were disheartened by reason of poverty: thou shalt deliver them from wicked men: thou hast been a shelter of them that thirst, and a refreshing air to injured men. Isaiah 25:4 Brenton

This affirms that God is the one who rescues his people from danger. The verb "may be delivered" (ruomai,) is used in many ancient texts, both Greek and Jewish, to describe the way a deity preserves someone from danger.

Paul says that these men were wicked and evil. The Greek word for wicked is atopos which literally means "out of place." While atopos can mean "wicked" or "evil, " its uses inside and outside of the New Testament tend to revolve more specifically around notions of "out of place, unusual, out of the ordinary"

The three other New Testament uses support this (Lk 23: 41; Acts 25: 5; 28: 6). Of the eight times atopos appears in the Greek LXX, it refers to people who are out of place in God's moral order because they have violated it.

"Evil" is poneros, which, in the physical sense, means "painful, virulent, serious, spoiled, worthless." Ethically, it means "wicked, evil, base, vicious, degenerate." It often refers to an active malignant kind of evil, one that affects others in some negative way. These people were probably unbelieving Jews.

Then Paul adds this, "For not all have faith"— G.K Beale, commenting on this, says, "'The' faith (he pistis, with the article) in Paul can designate either objective (Gal 3: 23, 25; 6: 10) or subjective faith (Gal 3: 26; Eph 1: 15). Yet, faith with the article within the Thessalonian corpus always refers to the readers' activity of believing (1 Thess 1: 3, 8; 3: 2; 3: 5-7, 10; 2 Thess 1: 3)."

This is certainly a clear Scriptural declaration that Universalism (all will be saved) is not true. Because faith is used here in the sense of salvation.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV

"But the Lord is faithful"the "but" here signals a contrast with 3:2: the faithless opponents from which Paul prays for deliverance are contrasted with the Lord's faithfulness in stabilizing and protecting the readers from the evil one.

Paul may be thinking of Lamentations 3 when he talks about the faithfulness of the Lord when Jeremiah writes with tears as he watches the temple being destroyed and Jerusalem being burned.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

In the book of Psalms, which recounts more than any other book in the Bible, the struggles of the godly and their total dependence upon God's faithfulness, we find reference to God's faithfulness some forty times.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!  Psalms 40:11 ESV

Consider for a moment the absolute necessity of the faithfulness of God in every aspect of our Christian life. Everything rests upon the faithfulness of God. The Scriptures tell us that God is faithful in regard to: (1) completing His salvation (1 Cor 1:9); (2) aiding Christians to resist temptation (1 Cor 10:13); (3) fulfilling His promises (2 Cor 1:18; Heb 10:23; 11:11); (4) vindicating believers who suffer (1 Pet 4:19); and (5) cleansing Christians from sin (1 John 1:9).

"He will establish you and guard you against the evil one"the word "establish" is from the Greek stērizō which means "to support, stabilize, establish, fix, strengthen." In the Septuagint (LXX), this term is used of establishing something like a city. It is used 14 times in the New Testament and in all but two of its uses, it is used metaphorically of providing some form of spiritual stability or strength.

The verb sterizo is employed frequently in those contexts where someone is in danger of falling in some way or other. In the New Testament, "sterizo" points to the process of establishing someone in the faith, especially in the face of apostasy or persecution.

"Guard"—is from the Greek phulassō which means "to watch, to carry out the function as a military guard or sentinel, to keep one's eye upon that he might remain safe." Phulasso is used to describe the shepherds while "keeping watch over their flock by night." In Luke it's a military word, "to guard or watch over."

The faithful Lord will establish and guard His own, "Against the evil one"—behind their unbelief and their evil activity is the evil one himself. "Evil" is again the Greek term poneros, but here it has the article, ho (poneros). This is a common name for Satan in the New Testament and calls to mind his character and constant work of actively causing evil, especially against the people of God.

Here we see the faithfulness of God tied to the protection of the Thessalonians in the midst of their sufferings: he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

Paul believes that God elects people for eternal salvation and that he is faithful to such an unconditional choice by first calling them to faith by the Spirit and then by giving them the ability to persevere through opposition to their faith until the end of their lives.

And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.  2 Thessalonians 3:4 ESV

"And we have confidence in the Lord about you"this is a perfect active indicative, an action that occurred in the past and has now become a state of being. Paul's confidence was "in the Lord" but also in these believers.

"That you are doing and will do the things that we command"— "command" is a military term. It is used four times in this context (cf. vv. 4,6,10,12). This shows Paul's authority as an Apostle. This term could refer to (1) Paul's teaching when he was with them; (2) his first letter, 1 Thessalonians; or (3) his current instructions, 2 Thessalonians.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV

These new believers were under attack, both from direct persecution and from dangerous false teaching. In that context of spiritual battle, Paul prays that the Lord will direct their hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Notice in this verse that we have, "May the Lord…of God…of Christ" The ambiguity of the term "Lord" is obvious. In the Tanakh it is always Yahweh. New Testament authors often quote passages from the Tanakh where they attribute actions of Yahweh to Yeshua. The fluidity may be purposeful because the original, inspired New Testament author wanted to affirm the Deity of Yeshua and the unified action of the Triune God.

"Direct" your hearts"— this is an aorist active optative, which reflects a prayer. It is another military term, "make straight by removing obstacles." Paul used this word in 1 Thessalonians 3:11, where he asked that the Lord would "direct our way to you."

"To the love of God"—this genitive phrase can be understood as objectively or subjectively, that is, God's love for us and our love for Him. In context God's love for us fits better.

"And to the steadfastness of Christ"—the word steadfastness is from the Greek word hupomonē which means "endurance, constancy." This noun comes from hupo, ("under") and from meno ("to abide, remain"). It speaks of remaining under a trial without giving in; of an ability to endure or remain or be steadfast regardless of the intensity and length of the testing. Hupomone is used in relation to the various kinds of trials that we all face in life as human beings (e.g., sickness, pain, financial loss, death of loved ones, warfare, physical and spiritual weaknesses, and persecution).

There is always a temptation to give up when things get difficult. Hupomone has the idea of "to remain under pressure or trials." It means continuing even when everything inside us wants to quit. It is the fortitude that not only survives trouble but is made stronger by it.

This phrase is used nowhere else in Paul's writings. This genitive phrase can mean the believers' steadfastness like Christ's steadfastness or the steadfastness that Christ gives to believers.

Notice how the KJV translates this verse.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5 KJV

The King James Version and a few commentators understand this to mean that we should wait patiently for Christ's return. But it's more likely that Paul is praying that the Lord will direct our hearts to focus on the steadfastness that Christ displayed as He faced the cross.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

Yeshua's example of enduring the cross for our salvation should encourage them and us to be steadfast when we're under attack for the sake of the gospel.

The apostle's request is that the Lord direct the Thessalonians' moral life in such a way that they exhibit love and perseverance.

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