This Sunday, we had another guest preacher teach at The Well. From the very beginning, I could sense that this man was passionate, which made our experience worthwhile. (Just a side note: If you are going to teach the Word of God, at least show that you are passionate about what you are teaching. If you want to teach like Ben Stein, please find another occupation outside of teaching the Word. Please show that you are interested in what you are talking about and provide an atmosphere in which we can journey with you through the Word of God. This will keep those who usually fall asleep during a service wide-awake and even perhaps engaged in the Word of God. Thank you).
Anyway, the passage we discussed was 1 Thessalonians. Paul started this church and left it in the hands of able-body people to lead and grow the church through the Holy Spirit. Paul though would always keep up with how the churches he planted were doing as to provide encouragement and loving support for their continued growth. This letter, like most other letters Paul wrote to other churches starts off in the same manner. The thing I like about Paul, outside of his blunt and honest assessments of the body of Christ, is his desire to put the work of God above himself. He never allowed himself to be the focus of the letter. Only Christ deserved that role, and Paul was willing to acknowledge that role with humility and joy.
Paul says that he continually and always remembered this church in prayer. I wonder if we actually believe the Word of God to suggest that Paul really did (continually and always) remember the body of Christ he mentored and loved. Why is it such a struggle to love others enough to keep their faces in our minds throughout the day? Is it that hard to put others before ourselves in order to fulfill Paul’s desire for us to be ‘continually in prayer?’ In a word: Yes. We have so much before us. Even as I sit here typing on a MacBook laptop, I wonder if I have forgotten people in which I should be continually remembering and praying for. This is what Paul did though – and I guess we would do well to do likewise.
In verse 3, there are three things in which Paul thanks the Thessalonica church for doing. These three things were the bulk of Jason’s preaching. The three phrases are: Work of faith, Labor of love, and Steadfastness of hope. It is often that we look at the words ‘work, labor, and steadfastness’ and forget the full phrases in which Paul speaks of in his letter.
The work of faith is essential in every respect to the church. It is work. Faith is not just something that happens through osmosis. It is a direct and deliberate act, in which we are challenged, formed, shaped, and transformed into the image of Christ. It is not enough to sit and wait for God to ‘give us faith.’ Nothing grows outside of an environment, which is not cultivated or worked. If the growth of plants cannot grow without the continual and practical action of working the ground, how can we ever expect our faith to grow?
Love is expressed in the same manner. Love just does not happen either. It is laborious to love others (especially those who tick us off or have wronged us). In this, we are given Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he writes, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no records of wrongdoings.” Do we actively seek to love others in this manner? I wonder if we are serious about loving others or if it is something in which we say to sound spiritual or religious. Whatever your reasoning is to love others, it was Paul’s expressed concern. He even writes at the end of a section of his letter to the Corinthians, the greatest of these things is love. Let us love as God has called us to love.
The steadfastness of hope is the final part of Paul’s encouragement. Without hope, we really have no reason to believe any of Paul’s letters. Hope gives us a purpose and a joy for the things we do. It is hope that gives us a reason to get up in the morning. Once again, without hope, we might as well crawl under a rock and die. The hope we have in Jesus is the greatest and supreme hope in which we live, move and breathe. Praise God for his hope!
I appreciated Jason’s teaching this Sunday. He has given me a lot to think about. I hope in some way, we can be challenged as the body of Christ to live in the same manner. God bless.