Monday, December 14, 2009

And these three remain; faith, hope and love

Good morning my friends. I hope you had an excellent Sunday filled with worship, the Word and rich fellowship. We are moving on to 1 Thessalonians today.

Paul started many of his letters in the same manner, reminding his readers that he loves them, appreciates them and prays for them. It seems like such a simple thing yet how often do we forget to connect with people this way every day. Often for us people are simply what they do; we reduce the relationship down to the lowest common denominator which is, what we can get from that person. We use people throughout the day never taking into consideration that this is a real person with fears, hopes and dreams. We use people according to our needs and fail to connect with them. Jesus took time to connect with people. He appreciated them for who they were not what they did. That is what Paul is doing here, connecting and telling them what he appreciates about them:

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. v. 3

You have to love how Paul clearly expresses this, lending itself beautifully to a three point Sunday sermon, or at least a three point Monday blog. Do you ever just thank God for people? Do you point out to him what you appreciate about them? That is what Paul is stating here, that he tells God what he appreciates about them and then turns around and tells the Thessalonians. Imagine how empowering it must have been to a Thessalonian.

Paul expresses his appreciate for the work they do but he does so because it is a work produced by faith. This is an important distinction because the Spirit has taught us through Paul that anything that does not come from faith is not of God. That should make a few of us sit up and take notice. But keep in mind here that "work" is used in the sense of spiritual works. Unfortunately we tend to forget the distinction between our work and our labour. Still, it is not good enough to do these works for God from a man-made effort, it must be a thing of faith. The reverse is also true, it is not good enough to have faith, it must produce something. We all know the words of James:

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
      Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
(James 2: 18)

 There may be some debate over these words but if applied in the context of spiritual works I think you can more clearly understand what James is saying. Unfortunately we have reduced everything down to labour and have set aside our spiritual works.

Speaking of labour, Paul is especially pleased with the Thessalonians because their labour is prompted by love. The labour of course was their effort to win souls for Jesus. That is our mission here, to present the gospel to the lost, to make disciples, teaching and training new labourers for the Kingdom. Not the easiest of tasks and often times filled with discouragements. It is only when such labour is done with a motivation of love that it is sustainable. Any other motivation will cause us to fade away and drop off. We do it because we are loved by the Father, because we love the Father and because he has placed in us a love for the lost of this world. It is because of this love that we are willing and able to lay down our lives every day for the benefit of the lost.

This love has touched on Paul's third point which is our ability to endure. We have endurance because of the hope given to us by Jesus. If we have a mature perspective then nothing can cause this hope to fade. Hardships, trials, tribulations can only strengthen this hope as our faith increases. It is hard to understand but the nature of this hope is such that the stronger the trials the greater our endurance. Our hope is eternal life, but not just any eternal life, eternal life with Jesus. Our hope is that when our labours are finished in this place we will be called home and we will hear those great words, "well done my good and faithful servant". To hear such words spoken by Jesus gives us hope to endure any loss or trials in this place.

As you go throughout your day today consider these three things; your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope. Faith, love and hope should be seen in us every day and there should be many people thankful that it is because it produces great fruit that they benefit from. Spend some time in prayer this morning and ask the Spirit to help you do an evaluation of where you are in these things this morning. Without these being seen in us every day I am afraid we are only wasting our time.
May you have a day today that allows you to see that your work is produced by faith, that your labour is prompted by love, and that your endurance is not stubbornness but instead is a thing inspired by Jesus.

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