A Portrait of John Wanamaker

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly

and be glorified, just as it is with you. II Thess. 3:1

From this verse Paul moves into an exhortation on daily work, vocation and calling. Consider this testimony of successful American merchant John Wanamaker (1838-1922). In 1861, he opened his first business in Philadelphia—the Oak Hall department store. He revolutionized shopping by applying price tags to his goods. The price was fair and consistent no matter who the buyer. He also allowed goods to be returned. These two aspects were revolutionary in business earning him the title “the Merchant Prince.”

Wanamaker, in 1875, purchased an abandoned rail depot, converting it to a shopping mall with an astronomical 129 stores under the one roof of “The Depot.” Soon he expanded this concept into New York, London and Paris. In 1889, he founded First Penny Savings bank, with the primary business objective of encouraging people to save. That same year President Harrison appointed him postmaster general. He founded many charities to help the hungry, alcoholics and homeless. He founded and funded a free school for people to learn the mechanical trades. It was his money which paid for the children’s wing of the Philadelphia Presbyterian Hospital.

He was a devout Christian who refused to open his stores, or even advertise on Sundays. The store in Philadelphia served as his personal headquarters. In that store he had a small, unimpressive room which was soundproof and reserved for one single use: prayer. Every day, he spent a minimum of half-hour reading his Bible and praying. He would leave that room excited to share the gospel with everyone he met. During an interview, when quizzed on this habit he responded, “If you once have the joy and sweet pleasure of bringing one soul to Christ, you will be hungry to invite another.”

Obviously, an extraordinary entrepreneur, innovator, businessman, and member of the President’s cabinet, yet these all paled when compared to what he considered his true calling. As mentioned above, Wanamaker’s great delight was sharing the gospel in his daily world and routine, and also seeing kids gain exposure and growth in the things of Jesus. He loved his work in Bethany Presbyterian Church as Sunday school superintendent (which was the largest Sunday school in the world at that time). He was asked how he had the time for such a demanding Sunday school program when he had such business demands upon him. His response: “Prayer, evangelism and Sunday school are my priority, everything else is secondary. Early in life I read, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ The Sunday school, prayer and evangelism are my business; all the rest are things.”

Boy that is good to chew on—“all the rest are things.” May we be a people who fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus, grow in grace and knowledge of Him, and love Him with our heart, soul, mind & strength… run our race well, and then when we’re home in Heaven, hear “Well done!”

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. II Thess. 3:5


II Thessalonians 3:1

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.

II Thess. 3:1

Paul gives a priority not only to the need for prayer, but also that the Word might be given weight and value. David, in Psalm 138:2, also gives acknowledgment to the high value God places upon His Word

“For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.”

A name is hugely significant—the name of God includes all the perfections of God; all that He is and all He has revealed. These include His justice, majesty, holiness, greatness and glory. And yet He has magnified something even above His name—His Word—His truth. This may be referencing “the Word”… the Son of God who was called “the Word.” Certainly, this would be appropriate and right. It would be a correct conclusion to acknowledge God has set Jesus above all else. It could also be taken to that of the written Word of God—The Scriptures which are the written word about Jesus, and of which the Word points towards.

This is of great help in firming up our salvation. Our salvation rests upon the Word, which God has magnified above His name.

With the above in mind, three quotes from saints of earlier days—

First from Jeremiah Burroughs

“It may be when there are some extraordinary works of God in the world, thunder, lightning, etc., we are ready to be afraid. And oh, the great God that doth appear in these great works! Were our hearts as they ought to be when we read the Word, we would tremble at that more than at any manifestation of God since the world began in all his works. Might we see more of the glory of God in his Word than in his works.

Second from John Lillie

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. But mightier far is the word by which a lost world is redeemed. This is the “word” that he hath “magnified above all his name,” as displaying at once the exceeding greatness of his power, the resources of his manifold wisdom, and the blended glories of holiness and love.

Finally from Oswald Chambers

“Jesus Christ says the message of the Bible is about Himself—we cannot interpret it according to any other key. ‘… no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.’ We can prove anything we choose from the Bible once we forget the message Jesus says it contains. ‘The test that you know the Bible is that you understand what it is driving at; it is expounding Me, giving the exposition of what I am after.’”

May we see the Word of the Lord running swiftly in our own lives, may He be glorified, may we grow in grace and knowledge of Him—


Do I have a choice?

…because God from the beginning chose you for salvation… II Thess. 2:13

This, and verses similar, when lifted and isolated out of the balance of the whole counsel of the Word have created great tensions and confusion for many believers. Specifically, regarding the sovereignty of God. It is clear God’s electing process occurs in the place of eternity— “before the foundation” and “from the beginning” (Eph. 1:4; John 8:44). God is God. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all the data of the universe, knowing all there is to know, including those, who in the process of time, accept Christ as their Savior. Simultaneously you and I have free will. Consider this illustration from John Phillips—

“A novice plays a game of chess with a chess master. Pieces are on the board. Each player has a measure of sovereignty over the board. Within rules, each has the power of choice and the right to decide which moves he will make. The game proceeds, but after only several moves, the chess master announces the game is over. Not once did he violate the power of choice over the novice. However, his mastery of the game and his sovereignty over the board was such that he could overrule the other’s moves.

Thus, God allows us to make our choices in life, but He overrules them. All other wills can function properly only when they cooperate with the will of God. When in opposition of God’s will, they create confusion. God is quite able to take all of those factors into account and ensure that, in the end, all ministers to His glory and to His eternal purpose. And yet never does He violate other wills to do so.

God will not violate human will. But, by the same token, neither will He allow Satan to violate it. Satan can tempt, but he can’t compel; he can persuade, but can’t push; entice, but can’t force. He could persuade Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, but he could not push it into her mouth.

This is equally true of salvation. The human will is active in the decision, to accept or reject God’s precious and costly gift of salvation. Never are we forced by the Holy Spirit. He convicts, but does not compel. He will speak, enlighten, call and strive, but never does He make the decision for us. In the end, the decision is ours. Either we say, “I will,” or “I will not,” to God’s invitation.

In the end, God endorses the decisions we make. He does not send people to hell; they send themselves. A person says, “I will not accept Christ.” God finally says, “Your will be done. Live forever without Him.”

God describes Himself as I AM. He dwells in the eternal present. Past, present, and future are human phenomena. He knows the end from the beginning. He is able to choose, elect, and predestinate because the future is all foreknown to Him (I Pet. 1:2).”

God desires that every man be saved (I Tim. 2:4). He loves you and has shown it clearly by Christ’s death on the Cross (Rom. 5:8). Next time you play chess consider these things… yet, far better is to make this day your day of salvation, accept His invitation, His love!