1 Thessalonians 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have doubtless written on this verse many times before, but I can’t resist writing on it again. Properly understood, this deals with every kind of dysfunctional Christian. The Thessalonian believers were hardly dysfunctional! Today, far too many Christians simply fail to work. They show up at church when it is convenient, to receive the various things the church offers, but contributing through active participation doesn’t cross their minds. This verse calls their faith into question! If we really believe that apart from Christ we are lost in our sins and headed for hell, but that by the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made a way for our eternal salvation, then gratitude, at least, will cause us to look for every way we can find to serve Him. It is my impression that far too many church members don’t even believe hell exists, much less that they are worthy of hell apart from the grace of God. Genuine, accurate faith is going to work. Then we have “labor of love.” That expression is used fairly widely, and I think we understand it fairly well. The difference between work and labor is the level of effort involved. For example, good parenting is far too much work if it is not motivated by love. (Good parenting is ultimately less taxing and far more rewarding than bad parenting, even though it’s more work in the short run, but that’s another whole subject.) We are told to love God and love our neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40) If we are obedient to those commands, then “labors of love” will be the norm rather than the exception. Finally we have the patient endurance that can only come from genuine hope. Frankly, there’s very little patient endurance in the world today, in the Church or out of it! However, it’s still true that, as psychologists have been saying for many years, tolerance for delayed gratification is one of the greatest indicators of maturity. We live in a largely infantile society! When we have firm hold on the hope that is in Christ alone, then we can get through junk that would demolish us otherwise. In my opinion, the Thessalonian believers had discovered the keys to a happy, productive life. We would do well to emulate them!
These factors are as true in my life as they are for anyone, so I need to keep watch over myself. Is my faith keeping me active? Is my love making me willing to go the extra mile? How do I deal with disappointments and frustrations? Frankly, it’s that last point that’s the biggest issue! Just this morning the church computer has declined to boot, so I will have to deal with that as soon as possible. However, meanwhile the Lord has provided effective work-arounds, and as long as I keep my eyes on Him I don’t have to get all stirred up. The biggest thing on that front is my wife’s slate of medical problems. The devil would love to attack my faith through that, but when my faith, love, and hope are in good shape I can get through it all and be the support and encouragement she needs. We will both be much more like Christ when we’re through all of this than when we started, and that’s something to look forward to with gratitude.
Father, thank You again for Your overflowing, overwhelming grace. May I be an open conduit of that grace to all I encounter, today and each day, so that they may be led to You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!