October 16, 2011
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

An experienced hiker will set trail markers to ensure a safe return from the wilderness. Often these markers are stones stacked as a visible, directional reference.

The apostle Paul had as his trail marker in the Christian life three words, his favorite trilogy: faith, hope and love. These virtues provided him with not only a reference point, but also the motivation to stay at the task of ministry. They enabled him to stay true to the task and faithful in service, not letting him give up.

The work of faith makes one evaluate.
Paul wrote, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith…” (v. 3). Here the word faith is a reference to a vocation or lifestyle. Because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ, his or her conduct is righteous. Consequently, the primary vocation of a believer is being a Christian; the secondary vocation is making a living.

Nothing tells us more about people than the way they work. One may work in fear of punishment, in hope of financial gain, in a sense of duty and responsibility or in inspiration by faith. A believer works not for humans, but for God.

The labor of love makes one exemplary.
Paul continued, “…your labor prompted by love…” (v. 3). A labor of love is more than a matter of feeling. Ask any woman who has endured the labor of childbirth. The child was birthed into this world. It didn’t feel good. It was work. It was a labor of love.

Once I painted the dining room of our home. My wife wanted it a certain tint of a certain color. To accomplish the desired outcome, I had to apply six coats of paint. That was not fun. It was a labor of love.

Love is best defined in actions, not feelings or mere words. I would encourage you to read Paul’s description of love in his famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4-7.

As a result of the labor of love, the believers in Thessalonica were an example to others. They “became a model to all the believers” (v. 7).
If you want to impress someone with your faith, stop arguing and debating faith and get to work showing others how much you love them.

The endurance of hope makes one expectant.
Paul finished his sentence, “…and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). The word endurance portrays a way of taking on problems and suffering that not only endures the pain but out of the circumstances creates opportunities. A person can endure anything as long as he or she has hope. With hope, a person is walking not to the night, but to the dawn.

Case in point, Paul: He endured suffering and hardship, but in each instance he found a way to communicate the gospel. So, too, had the Thessalonians. In spite of adversity, they continued to share the love of Jesus. As Paul commented concerning them: “The Lord’s message rang out from you…your faith in God has become known everywhere” (v. 8).

One in the ministry of the Lord is a dealer in hope. Jesus inspires that hope. It enables us to continue on in the face of difficulty and danger to communicate the story of Jesus. Never give up on Jesus and you never will lose hope.

When you become discouraged, and you will; when you become downcast, and you will; when you become defeated, and you will; remember God, the Father; look to Jesus the Son; and rely on the Holy Spirit, the Guide. Then, and only then, will you have the motivation to continue in the task of ministry. The triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—provides the triune attributes—faith, hope and love.

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