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Faith, Love, and Hope

Faith, Love, and Hope

Words of Faith 3-1-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA) - Melbourne, FL      

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940

(321)-259-7200

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, and our website, and our church app excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.  

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Today we will begin devotional studies and reflection in the book of 1 Thessalonians. This powerful letter is one of the earliest written by the Apostle Paul. It presents both a challenge and direction for us from the first century for living a transformed life in the twenty-first century.  JDH

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

    Paul, Silas and Timothy,

    To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Grace and peace to you.

    [2] We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. [3] We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

     In about 50 AD, the Apostle Paul started writing letters to some of the churches that had begun as a result of his missionary journeys.  Two decades had passed since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  The early Christian movement had impacted not just Jerusalem; it had spread across the Roman world. 

    Paul (Saul of Tarsus) started out as an ardent enemy of this new Christian faith until the Lord Jesus Himself confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  Paul very quickly became a great weapon against the darkness as he spread the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentile world.

      The letters to the Thessalonians are among the very first that Paul wrote.  Paul had preached in this city of about 200,000 on his second missionary journey.  While preaching Jesus as Messiah, Paul had been accused of preaching another king besides Caesar (Acts 17:7). The very young Thessalonian church continued to experience persecution after Paul's departure.  He wrote this letter as an encouragement pointing them to the future hope that is offered in Jesus.  Much of this letter expressed thanksgiving to and for the people in Thessalonica.  It is a letter of friendship and praise meant to lift these new believers and help them through difficult times.

       Thessalonica was a natural place to evangelize in the first century.  It was the primary seaport for the region of Macedonia on the Aegean Sea, and it was on the main road from east to west in the Roman Empire.  It was a bustling city with all the sin and temptation of a seaport.  People of various backgrounds had grown weary of the mixtures of false religions that circulated in that day.  Disillusioned with the immorality and strange idolatrous religions many had turned to the synagogue and were receptive to the message of Jesus brought by Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

       Paul opened this letter of encouragement with a simple greeting expressing the grace and peace of Jesus.  In a sense, everything begins and ends with the grace and peace of Jesus.  This is our starting and ending point.  In a world that is rarely gracious or peaceful, we need this anchor as our starting point each day. If we don't have grace and peace in Jesus, perhaps we need to stop and find where we left it.

       The words of thanksgiving are particularly compelling.  Not only had Paul and his team remembered the Christians at Thessalonica in prayer, but he also gave thanks for their character in holding strong even in times of persecution.  Paul gave thanks for three specific qualities—work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in Jesus.

       We know that Paul is never going to preach a "works righteousness." But it is impressive that his initial thoughts focus on the ‘doing’ of the Christian faith.  Following Jesus in such a pagan culture was difficult.  The first phrase refers to ‘work’ as an occupation.  Faith causes us to have a different occupation.  We may continue to do the same job, but our new occupation is that of a disciple working for the Kingdom.

       The second phrase uses a different word for work, which the NIV translates as labor.  It means hard toil that reduces strength or painful labor that brings weariness. Paul speaks of the strenuous labor that brings us to the end of ourselves. This hard labor for the Kingdom can only be prompted by love. Paul was aware that the new Christian life these people were trying to live was not at all easy.  It required sacrifice and challenging work that sometimes was painfully wearisome.  But the love of Jesus was the driving force that kept them going.

        The third phrase speaks of endurance inspired by hope.  The Greek here means a cheerful or hopeful endurance.  The word speaks of enduring constancy and patient continuance.  The reality in Thessalonica was that there would be a long wait in hoping for the return of Jesus.  The believers longed for the victorious return of Jesus, but the plan of God saw that in a more distant future.

         What we have are three powerful word images of Christian living that accurately reflect the reality of walking with Jesus in the 1st century or the 21st.  There is Kingdom work that is now our primary occupation. The labor of the Kingdom will bring us to the end of ourselves.  But we have an enduring constancy for the Lord because of our hope in Jesus.

          Paul eventually wrote to the Corinthian church about faith, hope, and love as the three enduring qualities of life in Christ.  Those are not empty phrases.  In the church at Thessalonica, we see the brass tacks of Christian living-- faith produces work, love prompts labor, and hope inspires endurance.  

 

        Heavenly Father, thank You for Your gift of grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I know that I cannot be saved by works.  I also know that I need a faith that trusts You for my new occupation as a disciple.  Give me love that carries me through the parts of life that wear me down and calls me beyond the end of myself.  Give me hope that will carry me with constancy and endurance.  In Jesus' name.