I want to continue with this slight commentary on 1 Thess since I think it’ll be good for myself to have some of these notes somewhere. I want to continue with the next verses of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, ESV)
One thing I’ve been learning a lot more as I spend so much of my time with so many guys in Cru is that I have been praying for them a lot more. I am finding myself giving God thanks that He has saved them, brought them to Cornell, and placed them in my life. As an intern for Cru, I am expected to impart wisdom or God’s word to students, but God has in so many ways used the students I serve to teach me ways in which I need to grow as a believer. One way is growing a heart for the guys in our ministry and growing a desire to pray for them in my daily life. Not only am I thanking God for them, but spending time to praise God for what He’s doing in their lives.
I would like to break down the phrase I highlighted above. “Work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The three words faith, love, and hope are not things that one can inherently see, but are feelings or ideas to grasp, understand, and apply to our lives. These ideas or constructs start in our minds and hearts and if they truly take root, will apply themselves naturally to our lives. It is essentially the effect of the cause of these ideas taking root in our lives. If you plug a lamp into outlet, it will give off light. This light is a physical representation of the electricity we cannot see but can observe to be present due to the light.
“In our Lord Jesus Christ”
I think that we must take hold of the knowledge that the context is that the Thessalonians are practicing and applying their belief with a foundation that their lives are in Jesus Christ. They have faith in Jesus, love through Jesus, and have hope in Jesus. Without this foundation, you can simply apply Paul’s writings to anything in your life and leave it at that. I believe God did not want to allow that to happen and thus had Paul write that clause in there. Without a foundation in Jesus Christ as our Lord, there would be no meaning in having faith, love, or hope, since these things can only be found in Him alone. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
“Work of Faith.”
Faith is simply belief, confidence, or trust in someone or something. For Christians, we place our faith in Jesus, who is the God-man who came to redeem us. Now normally you wouldn’t know if someone had faith in something unless they did something that would lead you to believe so. No one walks around with a sign or t-shirt stating what they have faith in. Now if you are lost in NYC and need to get somewhere, one thing you could do is ask someone for directions. This could end badly if you accidentally ask some tourist, but should be aite otherwise. So you get these directions, but you need to have faith in this person and their directions to you. If you’re traveling with your friend and you guys just asked this person for directions, you would know if your friend has faith in this stranger if he follows those directions and essentially, put in the “work” to supplement the faith.
The same is true with our faith, if we believe that God is good and desires to have a relationship with us, we have to “work” or do something by responding and interacting with Him. No friendship or relationship has ever been telepathic. You start, grow, and develop friendships through conversations, time, and sharing life together. If you’ve ever participated in a telepathic friendship, please tell me, I would be much interested in learning about this.
If Christians believe that God came to save us to that we can love and help those around us, then we must not simply think these things, but act upon them. God has called us to help the orphans, widows, and the oppressed. You do not truly believe in something unless you act upon it. If you believe otherwise, why do you think colleges continually use tests, papers, and projects to measure our knowledge and not simply trust us that we have gained this knowledge? If Cornell doesn’t trust that we know something unless we are tested, why should we believe otherwise with the other parts of our life?
“Labor of Love.”
People have asked and wondered about the word usage of labor for love. I think that this is because love requires an action that is deeper, stronger, and more meaningful than simply “work.” Love is such an amazing and strong word that has been downplayed in today’s society. No one truly thinks deeply about this anymore and it’s quite sad.
My parents have been divorced since I was three years old. Since then they’ve been diligent in letting me spend time with the other. I remember when I was 5 and having my dad drive me back home to my mom’s in Long Island from New Jersey. He would do this on many weekends month after month. When I moved in with my dad, my mom would go out of her way to drive me to my home in NJ from Philly just so she could spend time with me. Looking back on it now, my parents both went out of their way because of their love for me. It was hard, tiresome, taxing, but worth it.
If you love someone you will go out of your way for them. You will do things that are sacrificial to your time, energy, and personal life. You will experience pain and suffering, but you’ll know that it’s worth it because you love them. Love was never meant to simply be butterflies in your stomach, but flourishes when earthquakes uproot those around you. God calls us to love people, especially those who are hard to love. Will we labor for them?
“Steadfastness of Hope”
What exactly is this hope that Paul’s commending the Thessalonians for their endurance in?
This hope is that Jesus is truly God, Lord, and Savior of mankind. This is hope that He is the redemption of the whole word and that one day through Him, all things will be made new again. It is through Jesus that there will be no more war, no more death, no more pain, no more suffering, because we will have Him forever, and He is Peace, Shalom.
In our time at Cornell or simply college, all students hold on to the hope that at the end of their time, they will graduate proudly with the degree that they poured their heart and time into. Having been through four years of a fairly vigorous school, I’ve heard thousands (I’m pretty sure) of complaints about Cornell, the work, the sleepless nights, the suffering that they all endure. So what’s keeping students from dropping out and finding another way to living out their life? Hope. Hope that this endurance or steadfastness will grant them the crown of graduation. That they will be able to hold their degree and take pictures with their parents. That they will have the credentials to attain a job to support their life and future endeavors.
For Christians, this whole life is where we need to hold on to this hope in Christ’s return and our eternal life with Him. Why? Because we will endure pain and suffering in this life that will not end until our death. Our hope in Jesus pushes us to persevere, to endure, and to live boldly for Him. So let’s do just that!