June 17, 2020
Thank you for participating in prayer for revival and for our prodigals. This past week we heard of an amazing answer to one of our Wednesday prayers; to protect the individuals, I can’t share the details, but you can be sure that hearts are rejoicing over the great things God has done and is doing. A.W. Tozer said, “We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”
For the next number of Wednesdays, I would like to share a few thoughts from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. As he writes to this young group of believers, his heart is warmed with gratitude at the work of God in and through them. Right at the beginning of the book, he highlights three beautiful characteristics that he later expands on—faith, hope, and love. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 The. 1:2-3 ESV).
True faith is visible. Notice that faith comes first on the list. Faith is where their (our) journey with God began. There came a time in our lives when we turned from the lies that we had believed to serve the living and true God (1 The.1:9). That turning is faith. It is the bridge that brings us into all the blessings of God.
But faith is more than a past event. It is a present, growing, living fullness that allows God’s life to flow through us. It builds us up in our confidence and our dependence upon God, and it enables us to touch the lives of others with the same encouragement. Paul describes their faith as being “before God.” That’s good! That’s really good because it was not fake! It was genuine. It was before the all-knowing, all-seeing, eternal God. The word “before” is the Greek word (ἔμπροσθεν emprosthen) which means, “in the sight of, in the presence of, or in front of.” Their faith was lived “in front of” God. It wasn’t a put-on or a show. It was authentic and God-approved. What a great way to live!
Paul doesn’t say that he was thankful just for their faith, but also their "work of faith.” This conveys that faith is more than just an internal conviction, it involves outward action. The reality of our faith is witnessed in the life we live before God, who sees everything, but also before those with whom we interact. The way we talk to those in our home. The way we act towards those who annoy us. The way we help those in need. Our attitude toward those of a different race. The way we value our church family. These are some ways in which our faith is worked out.
Love is one of the fruits of faith. For love to be love, it must be real. The more we know God and trust His Word, (which is what faith is) the more we will show the love that God has poured into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). One of the keys to loving others is appreciating and accepting how much God loves us. In 1 Thessalonians 1:4, Paul describes the believers as loved by God. When we see ourselves as loved by God, we begin living out of our true identity. The love of God has no boundaries or limits. It is infinite and eternal. Our daily pursuit of God’s love helps us to love others more freely and fully.
To the believers in Thessalonica, Paul says, “I thank God…for your labor of love.” This was how Jesus lived. Every day, every act, every word, every deed of kindness was a labor of love. He did it because His Father loved Him, He loved His Father, He loved His Father’s will, and He loved the people that He met each day. The beggar by Jericho was not an afterthought with Jesus. He was one of the main reasons Jesus went there. The woman in Samaria was not a coincidence. Jesus arrived, sat on the well, and sent His disciples away at the precise time so the conversation with her could happen. His life was as intentional as His love. For Him, it was a labor of love. I ask my own heart and yours today, do we live with intentional love? Are we looking for ways to best reflect the love of Christ? The meaning of the word “labor” is that of painful exertion. Love is a costly thing to give away. The words, “I love you,” may come easily off our tongues, but to live them out in reality and fullness, can require great sacrifice. It cost our Savior everything! May we be like these believers, who were most known for their toil in love.
Hope is the result of a God-centered life. And we need hope that is firm. When our faith is being lived out in the love of God, hope is what will enable us to keep going and not give up. Our text reminds us that these believers were steadfast, patient in hope. It was not easy for them. They were living in the first century; persecution was widespread and yet their hope in the Lord Jesus was solid. They knew that He loved them and had their best interest at heart. We live a society that is conditioned to get things immediately, but it’s not the case in our Christian lives. God has good reasons for leaving us here in a world of darkness and difficulty. It has been the way of His saints down through the ages, and it is no different for us.
When we go through trials, whether it is persecution for our faith, or suffering from living on a broken planet, we can overcome despair by living in hope. Live in the hope that God knows what He is doing. Live in the hope that we are winners with Jesus. Live in the hope that one day the troubles and difficulties of this life will give way to the wonder and glory of His eternal presence. Your road may be rough and difficult, but keep your eyes on Christ, and be steadfast in hope. Let your life glorify God by your visible faith, your real love, and your firm hope.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel