“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Paul loved to use this trilogy. In Romans 5:1-5 he says they strengthen believers who face troubles and difficulties. In Ephesians 4:1-6 they are the foundation for Christian maturity. In Galatians 5:5-6 and Colossians 1:3-5 they reveal the unity true believers have. No wonder Paul writes, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The Scofield Reference Bible in commenting on 1 Thessalonians 1:3 reads, “Operative faith, and laborious love, and hope-filled patience.”
The work of faith
Faith must never be seen as a system of beliefs otherwise it will be based upon works rather than grace. The Greek word ‘work’ here, ‘ergou’, speaks of vocation rather than legalism. It can be defined as “a manner of life” or “lifestyle”, therefore faith is not religion but a way of life. Our vocation (calling) in life is being a Christian. It is not something we do on a Sunday but something we live every day of our lives.
Jesus Christ must be the decision maker in our lives if we have truly chosen to call Him Lord. If we really lived like He was Lord then it would affect every part of our daily lives. Unless we do we will never be overcomers in this messed up world. It is the only way to live by righteous principles.
The labour of love
Just as most people think faith is a system of beliefs, so they regard love as emotion and feeling. The word ‘labour’ means to “toil to the point of exhaustion” (Greek: kopou). When adjoined to the word ‘love’ (Greek: agapē), it reveals the true quality of Christian love, active love rather than feeling.
Poetry, music, and films all suggest that love is a mysterious, uncontrollable and emotional display of deep feelings. The Bible uses the word on a completely different level. It is not an uncontrollable urge, but rather a personal choice or act of the will. The Christian faith can never be used to get in touch with our feelings, because feeling is based on chemistry and events. Paul is stating that love is hard work. This is what Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The day it becomes easy is the day it ceases to be love.
There is a time for love to get tough and deal with the unpleasant issues of life. Therefore agapē love is not unconditional as some say. Sometimes God requires us to confront problems in a way that might appear to the emotions to be harsh and unloving, but is really active love working for the best possible motive. This love imitates the nature of Christ. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
The patience of hope
The whole world operates in despair and fear, so no wonder there is so much mental illness and anxiety today. Literally, people have no hope. “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). The world is fed a steady diet of corruption and bad news. Some try to avoid this hopelessness by diverting their attention to pleasure or work. They think that if enough money could be attained then they could have hope for the future, but many multimillionaires will testify against this delusion. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
If our hearts are fixed on Christ then we can never be hopeless and our lives will not be filled with the fear of moths, rust and robbers. Our hope remains strong in the midst of anxiety all around. Our hope is not a fantasy or some religious yellow brick road. It is not based upon feeling, theories or doctrines, but on Jesus Himself and on Him alone. This hope transcends death itself because it looks beyond life to eternity. This patience (Greek: hupomonē) means longsuffering and endurance. The one whose life is grounded in Christ finds strength to endure through any task or problem. Every crisis and difficulty is viewed as an opportunity to serve God.
For many people religion is on the level of feeling and emotions and thus is never raised above the basic animal instinct of the fallen nature. These three elements of the Christian faith reveal that it is set apart by itself. “Remembering in the sight of God – That is, praising him for it. Your work of faith – Your active, ever – working faith. And labour of love – Love continually labouring for the bodies or souls of men. They who do not thus labour, do not love. Faith works, love labours, hope patiently suffers all things” (John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament.)
The outliving of what God is working in us is not sentimentalism but an act of the will in obedience to Him. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13) … “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27).