constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,1 Thessalonians 1:3(NASB)
Paul prayed often for the saints in Thessalonica and gave joyful thanks as he recalled, unceasingly, the godly characteristics they displayed that so honoured the Lord. He thanked God for their work which was energised by faith, their service which was motivated by love, and their unwavering hope in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul constantly kept this little community of maturing Christians in his heart, and it was with deep affection that he remembered the three spiritual gifts and graces that were manifested in their lives. The apostle knew these spiritual qualities can only be exhibited in a life that is persevering in the faith, walking in spirit and truth, and working the works of God through the sufficient grace and supernatural power which He supplies.
Their 'works of faith' were not the dead works of the Law or the barren works of carnality. A work of faith can only be accomplished through the power of the indwelling Spirit. God has prepared good works for each of us to do, but they can only be carried out as we submit to His leading and guidance.
The faith demonstrated by these justified believers is the spiritual foundation upon which all spiritual work is anchored. Their faith was a sanctifying faith, the type of faith James challenged his readers with when he wrote: "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." It is always important to ascertain if a passage relates to initial salvation (justification) or progressively ongoing salvation (sanctification).
Faith that justifies is a work of the Spirit in the heart of a man or woman who has trusted Christ's finished work on the Cross. Faith that justifies takes place at one moment in time, when Christ is made the object of our faith. Credible faith must have a credible focus. When a sinner is born-again, their faith in Christ is reckoned by God as righteousness. They are justified.
However, the ongoing faith that sanctifies, is the work of faith that blessed Paul's heart in this verse. And Paul constantly bore in mind the Thessalonians work of faith, their labour of love, and the steadfastness of hope they had in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sanctification is a work of faith which takes time to grow and mature. It is the faith that translates into spiritual works that honour the Lord. An ongoing sanctification process takes place as the Holy Spirit works the work of God through our lives. The apostle John calls the product of this sanctification process: "The righteous acts of the saints." A 'work of faith' is a righteous act of God which He carries out through us because of our faith in Christ. When our faith rests on Him, the work we produce is HIM working through us.
Paul also remembered their labour of love. The love of these believers was not a fluctuating, emotional love or love based on fleshly feelings, stimulated by sentimentality or circumstances. Love for the Lord is a sacred sacrifice of earnest praise and grateful thanksgiving for all that God has done for us, through Christ. It is the denial of our self-life with a deep desire to do only that which honours the Lord.
Labouring in love is prompted by the knowledge that all we are and all we have is from the Lord. The more we know of God's goodness and grace towards us, the more we are prompted to labour in love for the Lord. When we begin to consider the enormity of what God has done for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died a cruel and painful death on the Cross, the more we are prompted to labour in love for Him.
The third virtue of the Thessalonians was the steadfastness of their future hope in the Lord Jesus. His many precious promises and the blessed expectation of His soon return was not founded on empty optimism or a fingers-crossed-wishful-thinking attitude. It is the unshakable confidence in the knowledge that God's Word is true. And though we may have to wait for His return, it will certainly come.
When with patience, we steadfastly hope in the Lord and stand firm on the promises of God, we have an inner-assurance in His Word of truth, for God has placed His Word above His holy name. Our steadfast hope in the Lord is the unshakable conviction that the Bible is sure.
May we follow in the footsteps of the Christians of Thessalonica whose good works were energised by faith, whose service was motivated by love, and who maintained an unwavering hope in the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May our work of faith be actively dependent on Him. May our labour of love become a living sacrifice that honours our Father in thought, word, and deed, and may the steadfastness of our hope in Christ Jesus our Lord, stimulate others to work the works of faith, to labour in love, and to remain steadfast in the blessed hope we have in the Lord Jesus, in the presence of our God and Father.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder I gain from the lives of the Thessalonian Christians whose work of faith, labour of love, and steadfast hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, is such a beautiful example of godly living that honours You. I pray that I may grow in grace and in a knowledge of Christ Jesus my Saviour and do all for Your greater praise and glory. In Jesus' name, AMEN.