The Holy Spirit commended the brethren of Thessalonica through Paul’s written word in saying, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth…” (I Thess. 1:8) This speaks volumes to the labor and dedication of these brethren. Their actions spoke “louder than words” and their love and devotion to Christ was noticeable in word AND deed. What is pertinent and applicable for us is to ask, “What was at the core of them being so noticeably faithful?”
There are indeed three different elements to answering that question that are revealed in verse 3: work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope… all in Christ Jesus. The first, “work of faith”, seems so obvious doesn’t it? Yet many times it is overlooked in our daily lives. In order for us to have a “living” faith (as opposed to a dead faith) our faith must result in action, productivity… obedience! (James 2:14-26) God clearly praises these brethren here for their “work” that is derived from, or associated with, their faith. They didn’t merely claim the existence of God or declare Jesus Christ their personal Savior; their faith inspired and motivated them to be productive for the kingdom. They sought to serve and that is exactly what they did. This is something we must strive to imitate daily.
Secondly, is their labor of love. They did not serve God out of obligation.
These brethren loved God. It wasn’t just a declaration of love. They didn’t write God love letters or poems. They demonstrated their love for God through obedience, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3) These brethren knew that their labor was not in vain. (I Cor. 15:58) They also knew that they had a watchful and omniscient God who would not be unjust as to forget their labor of love. (Heb. 6:10) Certainly this motivated these brethren in their continued labor for the Lord; not merely in word as many people are accustomed to doing, but in deed and in truth. (I Jn 3:18) Let us commit to loving the Lord and demonstrating that through our labor for His kingdom.
Finally, we read of their “steadfastness of hope”. Hope in Jesus Christ is the anchor for our soul through the many troubles and trials that will attack our faith in this life. (Heb. 6:19) Just as Jesus Christ is steadfast and true, so our hope IN Him is steadfast and true. These brethren knew the humility and love of their Savior in giving up the glory of heaven to come to this earth. They knew the devotion and obedience of Christ living the perfect life. They knew of His love and sacrifice in giving Himself upon the cross for their sins. And last but not least, they KNEW … of the power and majesty Christ exhibited in overcoming death and ascending to the right hand of God in heaven. Their hope could not be shaken!
Indeed the faith, hope, and love of these brethren was GREAT! And the truth, is that their faithfulness still rings true today, 1900+ years later, as evident and clear as it did in the first century. That speaks volumes about the sincerity of these brethren in serving the Lord. But what about our faith, love, and hope? Are we imitating these brethren as they imitated Christ? Can people SEE our faithfulness? And are we serving God wholly and truly so that our light might shine forth for hundreds or thousands of years to come? Live to be that servant! No matter where you are in strength of faith, love, and hope… in Christ Jesus, be inspired to “excel still more”!!! (I Thess. 4:1)