Work By Faith, Labour By Love, Endurance By Hope
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Why Do We Do What We Do?
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 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. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NIV)
What inspired and encouraged Paul so much about the Thessalonians that he kept thanking God for them and mentioning them in prayers? A cursory look at the above passage and we may guess that Paul and his partners were encouraged by the “work”, “labor” and “endurance” of the Thessalonians.
But examine the passage closer and we’ll realise that they were encouraged by the “faith”, “love” and “hope”. It was faith, love and hope that spurred the work, labour and endurance. And these are exactly what God looks for in us; not our works.
What encourages us about our ministry today? People praying with one another because they believe prayers connect them to God and help them? People helping and encouraging one another because they believe this is God’s heart? People serving one another because they are prompted by the love of Christ? People persevering through various kinds of hardship and remaining joyful because they are inspired by hope in Christ?
Is our work for God driven by accountability or to receive validation from others of our spirituality? Is our labor prompted by guilt? Is our endurance of difficulties spurred by the quest for personal glory? If our motives are not pure and Paul were here with us, would he have thanked God for what we do?
Ultimately, how does God feel about what we do?
How Does The Gospel Impact Us?
For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 NIV)
How has the gospel impacted us? Was it simply with words or with power?
If the gospel came to us “simply with words”, it means the gospel has had no effect on our lives. They are merely words or just another story, not something that touch or impact us. Like seeds that fall on the road or rocky path, God’s word does not blossom and grow within us (Matthew 13:1-23).
If the gospel came to us “with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction”, it means the gospel has changed us and continues to impact us. The Holy Spirit also works in us to convict and touch us with the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus.
Looking at our lives, what do we reflect? Do we look like disciples of Christ that have been impacted by his words?
How Did Paul Impact The Thessalonians?
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 NIV)
Paul and his companions spent only three weeks in Thessalonica where he debated the Jews and converted many Greeks and prominent women. The jealous Jews instigated a riot and Paul had to leave for Berea (Acts 17:1-10).
How did Paul impact the Thessalonians so much in just three weeks that they “became a model to all the believers” in the region?
The Thessalonians saw the lives of Paul and his companions. It wasn’t just what Paul taught, but also what they observed about him and his companions that impacted them. If we play leadership or mentoring roles in church, how we lead our lives will influence the people we lead as much as what we teach them.
The Thessalonians became “imitators of us and of the Lord”. Note that Paul mentioned both “us” (referring to him and his companions) and also “the Lord”.
Jesus is perfect and it would be more than sufficient if people simply imitate him. But people may not know Jesus well yet, especially when they are new to the faith, and they look towards human role models. Even as we get older as Christians, we are still influenced a lot by each other. So if we play leadership roles in church, people who desire to be godly will quite naturally be “imitators of us”.
But what if there is little about us that is worth imitating? We’ll be like blinding leading the blind if we ourselves are poor examples. Paul did not just preach the gospel, he lived and walked the gospel that he taught. He and his companions were good role models because they were Christlike. By imitating Paul, the Thessalonians also became “imitators of the Lord”.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
What then is a crucial expectation we should have on one another, whether we are just brothers in Christ, or play leading and mentoring roles in church?
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NIV)
What is it in our ministry that encourages us?
Do we see work, labour and endurance in our ministry? If so, are they spurred by faith, love and hope in Christ?
Are we imitating Christ? Do people who look towards us as role models end up imitating Christ?
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.