“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . .” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
What a testimony! What a way to be remembered! What an encouragement! What a blessing! Wouldn’t you like to be remembered the way Paul describes in the passage above? Paul recalls and prays for the Thessalonians and their example of three of the greatest ingredients of all Christians’ walk and witness. Wouldn’t you like to be remembered for your faith, hope and love? Wouldn’t you like the three greatest graces people recall about you to be your faith, love and hope?
But just what specifically were Paul and his co-workers thanking God for and praying without ceasing about these Thessalonian believers’ faith, love and hope? Paul and his co-laborers were praying for these believers’ work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope.
Does it surprise you that such pleasant identifying evidences in believers’ lives are intricately inter- woven with work, labor and patience? Look a little closer at this passage with me. As we stand at the beginning of a new church year let God’s word both inspire and challenge you. Let Paul’s thankful prayer do a little ministering in your own life and commitment.
Notice in this passage that Paul isn’t posing works against faith but is actually talking about the work(singular) our faith is. “Ergon” is the word he uses here with faith. Our closest equivalent in English is employment. The occupation that should employ most of our awakened hours is our very faith. The job that should occupy most of our time and pay the best benefits is our faith. It takes daily working at it for our faith to grow and mature as it ought. One of our main jobs (if not the main) in this life should be nurturing our faith.
But when Paul starts talking about our godly love (agapao) that you and I should not only exhibit but practice, he uses an entirely different word for the work associated with that love than he uses with faith. It is not the joyous job that you and I often envision with a labor of love. It is not a task made easy by our love. Rather Paul refers here to a wearisome toil. He speaks of an exhausting “kopos” kind of labor. He talks of a dragging down, beating down, laborious struggle. If you really want to understand just how exhausting this kind if labor can be just commit to loving with a godly love someone who is totally unlovable.
Paul is thankful and prayerful about these believers’ day to day work of faith, their toilsome labor of godly love and their patience of hope—“hupomone elpis” in the original Greek. It means cheerful anticipation, enduring expectation. How cheerfully expectant are you in Jesus Christ? How enduring is you confidence in the Lord?
Sometimes our Christian walk and witness just gets more difficult and demanding than we ever imagined it could or should be. Just to keep the faith some days is a struggle. It is work to keep the faith let alone grow our faith. We live in such a fallen world it becomes a wearisome task at times, just to love people as we ought. It is hard to keep a cheerful expectant disposition even though we are in Jesus Christ.
If you find yourself battling that way, may I offer you two other scriptures as encouragement and advice? The first one is 1 Peter 1:13—Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And the other is Hebrews 6: 10—For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love. . .
Ask God to not only help you but your fellow saints as well to keep you cheerfully expectant as you laboriously toil to love even the unlovely and work not only to grow your faith but to share it. I can’t think of a better way to start a new church year, can you?