As I dive into scripture, particular verses are often pointed out first by God and then by friends. I have spent the last two days examining one passage a friend sent to me: 1 Thessalonians 1:3 “We 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.” Though this verse seems simple enough when read, it holds a treasury of keys to Christianity. To understand scripture clearly and have it speak to your heart it is imperative that you read it, read it again, look at the context of the verse, read it again in context, chew on it a little while, stew over it and let God reveal to you the beauty of His Word. So let’s dissect this and behold the glory of God.
The verse starts with “We remember before our God and Father…” Paul was indeed referring to the fact that he is continually praying for and about the people of Thessalonica, remembering them before God and Father. Why not just reference God and not Father? Paul was devoted to God, walked intimately with Him and was obedient to the point of death. God was not some foreign entity that was unreachable. Yes, God is beyond us and beyond our comprehension as our minds are so finite and He is so infinite. However, God is indeed the Father of all creation. He is our Father, the God who disciplines us when we sin, the God who loves us when we fail, the very same God who bestows gifts of blessings as would a father to his son or daughter. God is not only the God of the universe and all creation, He is also our intimate Father, there to protect, guide, and grow us into mature men and women of faith. Back to the thought of remembering people in prayer: Scripture tells to pray continually, without ceasing, giving thanks for everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and to bring our requests before the Lord of Heaven (Philippians 4:6). Paul was doing just that for those who were building the churches of that time. He not only took his requests and petitions before God, but he lifted others up, gave thanks, and rejoiced with God for all they had done! How many times have you done that with God? When was the last time you rejoiced and thanked God for the friends and family in your life that have been such a blessing? For that matter, when was the last time you rejoiced and thanked God for those in your life who challenge you and help shape and build the character of God within you? Is it hard yes to do? YES, but necessary indeed.
The first thing Paul mentions in prayer is the people’s “work produced by faith.” The work of those in Thessalonica was true works of the heart, works that were devoted to God and revealed the faith they had in their Lord and Savior! Their works were not done to boast of what they could do or to be praised by others, but instead were works that were done under the influence of God’s grace and love for them. Philippians 2:12-14 states: “Therefore my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear (reverence and awe) and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” We act and do in order to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives and the lives of others, not because we have to but because we acknowledge through faith the wonderful things God has done for us. So, take some time and examine the motives behind why you do the things you do? Are you doing things to please God and bring Him glory? Or are you doing things that please you and bring you glory? As with anything done in the Christian life, motives of the heart are seen by God, so truly He will see your works and know if they are of Him or filled with self gratification.
Paul also remembers the people’s “labor (work) prompted by love.” Again, this is not a selfish love, hence the reason Paul is remembering this before God and Father. This work that was being done by the Thessalonians was actuated by a love of God. This was not a shallow, self serving love, but rather a love for others souls. It was a love that worked energetically to promote the glory of God and to bring salvation into the lives of those around them. They toiled not for an earthly reward, but out of a love for others, driven by the love of Christ sacrifice for them. So despite, hardships and difficulties, they were able to endure for the tenderness of Christ was in their hearts. When we place the true love of God within us, the work we do is no longer laborious! It is a joy for we are working for the Lord and not men (Colossians 3:23). Though the works of the Thessalonians benefited the people around them, their true motivation was the love of God and the joy of Christ’s salvation. Do we love with all our heart? Scripture speaks strongly on what love is and isn’t and what fruits are produced through real love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, love is not envious, proud, self serving. It does not behave rudely nor seek its own, it is not provoked. Love is defined as being kind, patient, thinking no evil, rejoicing in truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, and never failing (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Can you honestly say that the love you hold has been all of those good things and has avoided all the bad things? I can’t! I have had my moments where my love was used selfishly or where it was simply absent and ill thinking. Again, I encourage you to search your own heart and see how far from God’s definition of love you are. What are you going to start doing to align your love with the neverending, unchanging, unconditional love of God?
And you thought this small, simple verse was cut and dry!! Keep digging my friends, keep digging! Paul goes on to finish this verse with the Thessalonians “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” What is hope? It is both a noun (a feeling) and it is also a verb (an action). As a noun, hope is described as a feeling that what is wanted can be had or a feeling that events will turn out for the best. When we think on eternity and what God has planned for us, do we not have a hope, a hope that Christ’s sacrifice indeed paved the way for our eternal life? Don’t we not know, deep down inside our very soul that all events will indeed turn out for the best? After all, if your hope is built on Christ than all things will work for your good (Romans 8:28). In its verb form, there are several definitions: to look forward to with reasonable desire and confidence; to believe, desire or trust; to feel that something desired will happen; to place trust or to rely in. Wow! Sounds like the promise of eternity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We indeed have an insatiable desire in our hearts, a desire that something will happen, a desire that produces a great confidence in the promise of eternity. When we hope, when we believe, when we place our trust in and rely on the fact that Christ died for us to bring us that much closer to the glorious throne of God, we hope. So, to hope is to feel heart and soul, and to actively desire to be with God in eternity! It is because of this hope that the people of Thessalonica endured the reproaches, afflictions, and persecution of this life and stood firm, not shaken by this world. Their hope enabled them to endure and look forward beyond all present circumstances to the manifestation of Christ’s coming and the promise of eternity. Is your hope securely grounded in Christ or is it based on what you see? If you find yourself shaken, worried, and losing hope, than it may be time to strengthen your foundation and secure it in the things of eternity.
As is easy to see, every God breathed scripture is chock full of pearls of wisdom. All we need do is take the time to dig, to pray, and seek what it is God desires us to learn. As for me, this entire passage speaks to the labors we do because of what God and His son have done for us. We love, not in our own power, but because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In return, we are spurred on to good works because of the love in our hearts. And it is through actions that God is glorified and we are renewed with hope, which produces stronger faith. God is a God of completion and as we can see, love produces works and those works renew our hope, and that hope strengthens our faith, which in turn creates more love. How awesome God is!! It all interconnects together. Remember this, faith without action is dead (James 2:26)…so get off your butt and live the life that God has given you and live it to the fullest! Pray for others, hold fast to your foundation of faith, love everyone (even your enemies) with all your heart as God loves you, show your love through deeds well done, and hold to the hope of Christ and an eternity with God!
And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13