Faith, Hope, Love -- 1 Thessalonians

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Senior Member
Aug 20, 2011
Most of you won't take the time to read this, but for those who do I hope and trust in the Lord that it will bless you as it did me.

We are in 1st Thessalonians today, Paul is writing here to a church, he founded by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the town of Thessalonica. Paul had been worried about the Thessalonian believers, possibly because he had spent such a short time teaching them. Soon after he had arrived in Thessalonica, possibly as little as four days, jealous Jews riled up a mob and for his safety and the safety of the believers there, he fled to Berea. Paul had desired to return to them, to teach them and to help them to grow in their faith, but he was hindered from going. It says in Chapter 2, verse 18 that Paul wanted to come but he had been hindered by Satan, or more directly, physically by Satan’s followers, the people persecuting Paul and following him from town to town trying to silence him. So Paul instead, sent Timothy to find out the health this group of believers and more importantly the state of their faith. When Timothy returned, Paul wrote this letter in response to the glowing report he received about his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. He starts the letter with a passage labelled, “Their Good Example” in the New King James Version and “Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ Faith” in the NIV. So the question is what was so special about this church? Lets find out, reading from chapter 1, starting at verse 1.

1 Paul, Silvanus (also known as Silas), and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 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, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

What an amazing reputation this church had. Paul says, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” This is Paul we are talking about, and their faith left him speechless. So let’s look at what they were doing and how we might grow in our own faith, so that the Word of the Lord might sound forth more mightily from our fellowship as well. In verse three, Paul focuses on three things that the Thessalonian believers were doing, their “Work of Faith, Labour of Love and Patience of Hope.” I find it interesting if not surprising that the three points here are Faith, Hope and Love, as this is not the only place where Paul brings up these three cornerstones to the Christian Walk. In 1st Corinthians 13, often referred to as the love chapter, Paul says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So let us follow the order laid out in 1st Corinthians, looking first at their “Work of Faith”. So what does this mean? Well in the NIV the wording is a bit different; it says “work produced by faith”, which gives us a fuller picture of what Paul is talking about. The Thessalonians weren’t just sitting on their hands and saying we believe, they were getting out into their community and making a difference. Many Christians seem to forget this concept of our faith producing works. Too many people I have met, that claim to believe, will point to Ephesians 2:8-9 and say see I only have to believe to be saved. Well Ephesians 2:8-9 does say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” But they conveniently forget about verse 10 which tells us: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Yes our salvation is a gift from God, but God doesn’t want to leave us at that point he wants us to get out there and do the good works. Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans about an “obedience that comes from faith”. James the brother of Jesus reiterates that either faith or works by themselves are useless, he says, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. But someone will say, “you have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” Biblically good works is the expected and necessary result of faith in Jesus. If you are not doing the good works God has for you, then your faith is dead. As John says “He who says, “I know Him (that is Jesus),” and does not keep his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.” As Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” We need to be more like the Thessalonians, get out there and show people that you believe don’t just keep it private or just Sundays. Think about it, the Thessalonians were being mistreated, persecuted and killed for the sake of Jesus and they were still putting themselves out there, sharing their faith and doing good works. If they can do it so should we, we who have it so much easier than they.

Let us move on now to the “Patience of Hope.” What does it mean to have patience of hope? It means that they were looking towards the hope they had in Christ and persevered even more because of it. All throughout the New Testament we are told to persevere, Paul uses a race analogy in 2nd Timothy where it says, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” This doesn’t mean pushing on for the sake of pushing on, I am sure you all know those people, who are persevering, but have a giant frown permanently etched on their faces. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that we are to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” We are to be joyful in our suffering, but many will say but that’s too hard. People at school or work laugh at me, joke about me or even physically hurt me because I am a Christian. But you have to remember that Jesus never said it would be easy, He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Hold fast to that, it will be tough but God has overcome and is in control. Hebrews 10:32-35 says, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” The writer of Hebrews is saying don’t forget the hope you received and the pain and suffering you went through because of it, accept this suffering and persecution joyfully. It will not be easy, but look to your hope and at what is promised in verse 38, “`But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” It says persevere or be destroyed, be like the Thessalonians and more importantly Jesus who did not shrink back even when faced with one of the most horrific deaths known to man. Peter tells us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Know your hope and you can cling to it.
And now last but certainly not least we come to Love. The Thessalonians were commended by Paul for their “Labour of Love” or their “labour prompted by love”. So what labour are we talking about, what were they doing that was so special. This was a church that, as I mentioned before, was a harshly persecuted church, but despite that was evangelical. They embodied what Jesus commanded in Matthew 5, that we should “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. There is no greater love than that for your enemies, those who hate you. Jesus himself was the perfect example of that love, he came to earth to suffer horribly and die for sinners, the enemies of God. Not only that, while on the cross he showed love for those who had just beaten him and sentenced him to a horrible death, he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. It is easy to love those who love you, its take Godly Love to show that same love to those who hate and persecute you. This was the kind of love the Thessalonians were showing. They were also showing love for their brothers and sisters in faith, though suffering financially because of persecution they gave generously and joyfully to the “great collection” that was taken up for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. The apostle John says in 1 John 2, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” We need to strive to follow what God has commanded and then we can have what the Thessalonians received, which was the love of God being made complete in them.
God wants us to grow in our faith, to do the works he has set out for us, to endure persecution with hope, and to be filled with Love. It all starts with submission to Him; we need to accept and believe in the gift that he gave us on the cross. When we do that we open the door of our lives for God to start working on us. This does not mean that we sit on our hands and wait, we need to get out there and show love, share hope, and when we do that our faith will grow. Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”(Luke 6:38) And He says twice in Matthew 7, that “By their fruit you will recognize them”, Jesus was talking about us, his disciples. What fruit are you showing? Does your life display any of the fruits of the spirit? If not don’t wait for tomorrow, start by showing love today. As Paul says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”(Ephesians 5:1) “For you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”(Galatians 5:13) “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”(Colossians 1:10-12)