Faith, Hope and Love – Inspiration for the Christian life
It is the hope you have in the Lord Jesus that enables you to persevere, to endure to the end. Knowing the glory that he has stored up for us, the home he has prepared for us, the welcome that is waiting for us from the Lord Christ himself. Knowing that all who are joined to the Son have that promise of joy in our Father’s presence, of eternal pleasures with him. This is what can keep us going, enduring, in serving the Lord and serving others.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3:
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
There can be a view of the apostle Paul that he is this huge head full of theological concepts like predestination and election, mortification and sanctification, and a heart that is two sizes too small. That he cares about lofty ideas, but not really about people.
It’s certainly true that in the Lord’s unique gifting of Paul, as well as his providence in the training the apostle had even before he came to Christ, Paul does have this immense God-given wisdom, so that his Spirit-inspired letters have been a guide to God’s people for close to two thousand years. His God-breathed writings have been used by the Lord to keep Christ’s church on the rails for two millennia.
But the idea that Paul didn’t care about people is just blown away, all the way through his letters and the book of Acts. I love it in Acts 20 when Paul is saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders, and we’re told ‘They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.’
This isn’t how you respond to a man who doesn’t care about people. This is how you respond to someone who loves people so much that he is delighted to share not only his words, but his whole life with them – in order that they might see the truth and the goodness and the beauty of his Saviour. This weeping on the beach is how you respond to someone who is able to say, in all seriousness, ‘we ALWAYS thank God for ALL of you, mentioning you in our prayers’.
This is a man who cares about people, knowing that in God’s glorious and glorifying plan of salvation, it is PEOPLE that Christ came to rescue. And in these verses, we see a man who cares for and gives thanks for specific people. A people he cares for deeply. There’s three specific things he gives thanks for in the Thessalonian believers. And you’ll see that they relate to that trio of Christian virtues that are in First Corinthians 13, and come up many times in Paul’s writings – faith, hope, and love.
Let’s look briefly at each one – and may they fuel our prayers.
Work Produced by Faith
Paul and his companions were continually remembering before God how the Thessalonians worked, and that these good works they did were produced by their faith in Christ. Coming from a Catholic upbringing, where I genuinely thought I needed to work really hard in order to be in with a shot of God’s favour and mercy and grace, it was so precious to me when I realised the truth of the gospel. When I realised that we are made right with God by faith, apart from works. It took away so much uncertainty and anxiety, about whether I’d been good enough. Whether I’d done enough. Perhaps I felt a little something of what the Reformer Martin Luther felt when he discovered the gospel of grace, and said: “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
But of course, because we’re saved by faith apart from works, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for works.