We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 NKJV
This little intro to Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica tells us a lot about Paul. He was prone to continually pray for those he held in esteem. In this case, he prayed always, bringing their names before God because he could see that they were part of God’s chosen. He had evidence!
Paul lists three things that give people away as being believers: Faith, hope, and love. Apparently, this was a combination Paul liked. You remember 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” In this listing, however, he lists three behaviors that spring from these:
- Work. As James famously said, “Faith without works is dead.” If your faith doesn’t move you to action, then it has no real effect. It’s a fantasy. These folks were living out what they claimed to believe.
- Labor. Love moved them to labor. Labor means doing something that is difficult and tiring, even painful. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)” Love cost Jesus His life. A labor of love is an act of self-sacrifice for the well-being of another. Paul saw that they were loving others in a way that cost them something.
- Patience. James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2-3)” Patience means consistency under pressure. Hope is a settled confidence that the Lord will fulfill His promise. Their hope kept them steady, patient, in the face of trials. Their unwavering consistency and joy were visible. Paul saw it and it thrilled his heart.
Do you know someone who you can truly say is living their faith, extending God’s love, and staying steady when the going is tough? If so, give thanks for them today. Do you fit that description? How about you pray for yourself to excel in these three areas? As we head to church today, let’s pray for our fellow congregants, that their faith, love, and hope would move them to action. Together, let’s transfer our Christianity out of our heads and into our lives.