The Christians response to God
1 Thessalonians 1:3
Preached in Worcester on 11/11/07
Paul commends the Thessalonian Christians in three ways. He says we remember before our God and Father your works of faith, your labor of love and your steadfastness or endurance of hope in Christ.
I want us to examine and think about these three phrases as they relate to the Thessalonians and how they relate to us.
1) Your work produced by faith
a. He first says he remembers their works produced by faith. These were not works of merit or works they were doing to try and save themselves. The Thessalonians had shown their faith by turning from idols to God, their faith was evident to all, and they had changed their lives and now had a new outlook. The word used here for “work” caries the idea of vocation, occupation or carrier. Good works produced by faith had become their lives. Faith here is our trust and belief in Christ. The Thessalonians were commended by Paul for their faith that caused them to work. The natural outgrowth of faith is works
b. ESV James 2:18 ¶ but someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
i. That’s what the Thessalonians were doing. Now the works they were doing had to do with religious acts like coming to worship, giving and praying. The text says later that they turned from idols to God, that’s a religious thing but it also includes our everyday life. If we walk by faith, live by faith then everything we do is a work of faith. It’s my faith in Christ that leads me to work hard at my job and do the best I can, not to steal or lie. It’s because I have faith in Christ that I work.
c. Not to be forgiven or receive some merit from God. We know that’s not true. Works are not what saves a person, no matter how many good things I do I can never pay my way into God’s grace. We are saved by Grace through faith not of works. It’s by faith in Christ and what he has done on the cross which saves. Now that faith in Christ moves me to act, to come to service on a cold Sunday morning, it causes me to give of my finances which God has given to me, but also to give myself, not only do I give money but my time and my life. It’s that same faith in Christ which causes me to get to work on time. We need to be careful never to separate our lives into religious and secular. If we are people of faith that faith affects every aspect of our lives. Going to church is no more a spiritual act for the Christian than taking care of their family or doing an honest day’s work. Remember that you are a Christian not only when you walk through this building, you don’t only have works of faith when it’s a religious thing. Faith in Christ is a lifestyle. Not just Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesday night but every moment we are to walk by faith and work as if we are working for the Lord because we are. Our faith motivates us to good works and to worship by faith.
i. Think about Cain and Able. What was the problem with Cain’s sacrifice in Genesis? Was it because he didn’t offer animal sacrifice? Some think so but the text doesn’t say that. It was an issue of faith. Able had faith in God and put his faith in God and his faith prompted him to offer his sacrifice. It was the right heart the right motive.
ii. ESV Hebrews 11:4 ¶ by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, Cain had an issue of faith, Able by faith offered his sacrifice.
2) Your labor prompted by love
a. The next thing Paul commends the Thessalonians for is their labor prompted by love. Love moves us to labor (action), in fact love is an action word. Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself. It’s not warm feelings but do loving things to them.
i. C.S. Lewis said “the rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
b. You might think that labor and work is the same thing and to some degree we use them in a similar way but they are different.
i. The word work is as we said the word for vocation or career while this word labor is an intense word and it has the idea of “exhausting physical or mental exertion toil, labor” (ANALYTICAL LEXICON OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT by Friberg). The Thessalonians were being persecuted by their fellow countrymen and this may have taken many different forms from maybe a general harassment to imprisonment and maybe ever death. But the love of the Lord, Christ dying for them caused them to labor, toil work hard in all kinds of circumstances because they loved God and that love flowed to others. Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. We’re even told to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. To do that is hard work, it’s not that we can’t we can with God’s strength but it’s hard, much easier to hate people or just not care or just be selfish.
c. Love is what motivates a Christian, God’s love for us which in turn causes us to love God and to love others. We are told about faith, love, and hope in 1 Corinthians 13:13 were told that all three abide but love is the greatest. Let me ask you a question, how much did Jesus labor for us? He was in the garden then on trial and beaten then he was crucified. He gave his life out of love for us. You want to get a picture about what Christ went through for us watch the passion of the Christ and listen we are called to do the same for others.
i. ESV John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ESV
ii. 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
d. If God’s love for us has penetrated our hearts, if we have love for God then that love will drive us head long into laboring for him which means hard work and persecution in different ways. But we are told in:
i. ESV 1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all that you do be done in love.And love is long suffering.
e. Jesus said if you love me obey my commands, his command was to love one another.
i. ESV John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
ii. ESV John 14:23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
iii. ESV John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
f. We have to be careful that we don’t just have a head knowledge kind of love were we say we love people but never act on it or we say we love people in the general abstract sense but we don’t really love them that kind of love doesn’t motivate.
i. Contractor: There is a story told of a contractor who said he loved kids. One day he decided to make a sidewalk for them. He poured the concrete and smoothed it and worked really hard on it and finished it that day. That night some kids had walked through it and in the morning the contractor saw what happened and was very angry as he worked to fix it he was very loud and a man over heard him and said ‘I thought you loved kids’ to that the contractor said I love kids in the abstract not in the concrete’.
g. That’s not how we as Christians are to love we are to love not in the abstract but in the concrete, in the real world that we live in. Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words and love, remember is an action word not just a good idea. Love motivates to labor and it’s not so you can get a reward but because you love God.
3) Your endurance inspired by hope
a. The third thing Paul says about the Thessalonian Christians is their endurance inspired by hope in Christ. The reason these Christians could endure in their work or vocation of faith and their labor of love no matter their circumstances was because of their hope in Christ, they knew Christ would return now they did have some questions concerning this and maybe had some misunderstandings but they knew Christ would return and that they had been forgiven and were waiting for eternal life in heaven. It was their hope in Christ which gave them strength and patient endurance, or steadfastness to bear up under the pressures.
b. You might be able to lift 150lbs once but it takes endurance to be able to keep doing that. You might be able to run a mile but it takes endurance to run 100. You might be able to watch a child for the nigh but it takes patience and endurance to raise a child. We have the same hope that they did the hope of eternal life with God the hope of good coming to us in Christ. Now Christ is coming back and we will be with him in glory. Faith and love get us out of bed and working for the lord and hope in Christ keeps us going. Our hope in Christ keeps us strong even when the world is coming down on us.
i. This life is not all there is and Paul says our momentary struggles will not compare to the weight of glory to come. People can strip us and beat us and torture us, they can mock us and hate us and do all kinds of evil to us but as we continue in hope in Christ when we reach glory in heaven none of that will compare to the glory we will receive. Whatever your struggles are you be sure to hold on to the hope you have in Christ, you go through them with faith in Christ love in Christ and hope in Christ and when you reach glory you will rejoice.
c. Listen I understand we all get tired in the work of the Lord don’t we? I do. 2 weeks ago I was with the family of Maria on Saturday night praying with them. I get a call on Sunday morning at 6am saying Maria has passed into glory so I go over and spend the morning with them praying and singing and then I was off from there to the Southbridge church where I was preaching. Then on Monday and Tuesday I was at work and Wednesday and Thursday morning I was with Maria’s family and I helped Sarah Maria’s younger sister with a video of Maria’s pictures. The family asked me to speak at the wake on Thursday evening and to do the funeral service on Friday. Then I also needed to prepare for Sunday morning as I was preaching here. By Sunday evening I was exhausted. Many of you have weeks, like that every week or even more challenging. We will get tired in the work of God but be careful we don’t get tired of the work. Being faithful to God is tiring work and we can and do get tired but let’s never get tired of the Lord’s work.
i. Jesus came in one night from a long day of healing, preaching and teaching, and also a lot of walking, they walked a lot back then and that gets tiring. All Jesus wanted to do was rest with his disciples’ probable share a meal together and sit and listen to jokes around the fire till they all fell asleep. But they were interrupted by a crowd who had followed him to his home and Jesus could have said “I’m tired and it’s been a long day and I will see you all in the morning” but he didn’t he often got tired in the work of his father but never of the work. The hope that we have in Christ gives us patient endurance. We can endure because of the hope we have in Christ.
Our faith is in Christ, our love is in Christ and our hope is in Christ. This passage along with the rest of scripture is Christ centered. Is your life Christ centered? Does your faith in Christ drive you to good works, does your love for him prompt you to labor in love for him and others, and does your hope in him cause you to endure hardship, persecution and the everyday harassment and hassle of this world and the people in it?
Does your faith, hope, and love in Christ cause you to put up with other Christians in love, to endure and to encourage; does it cause you to give them the benefit of the doubt? Does it cause you to want to know them better?
None of us here are perfect or sinless, we are the ones who have raised our hands and said “I’m a sinner”. We know we are and that’s why we came to Christ. Now you may not like me but you’re going to spend eternity with me. Don’t you think our faith, hope, and love in Christ should move us to get to know each other better, to forgive as Christ has forgiven us and to comfort and love one another?
Jesus said if you love me you will obey my commands and his command was to love one another.