Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 [ESV]
He sat across from me in my “office” in the school storage room at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He hemmed and hawed and finally said, “I hope you’ll take this in the way I mean it.”
“Yes,? I said, inviting more.
“Well, I’ve been thinking of this for a while. I want to give you this money for rent.”
Through the months following that encounter I learned more about Bob. He lived in a modest house. He had a serviceable car, and a generous heart. And he’s just one. I could name many others who have been generous with us, with others, with the church, and in support of God’s mission to save the world.
This letter to the church in Thessalonica begins with a thank-you to God for their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m struck here by how important it is to Paul that the Thessalonians not only have faith, and have embraced the Gospel message, but that that faith is active and impactful. Because they believed they acted. Because they believed they held to hope. Because they believed, they showed love – apparently for God and for each other.
There is no doubt that God saves us by grace through faith. Nothing we do makes him love us. Nothing we fail to do makes him take his love from us. Jesus died for the sins of the world. For this I am deeply thankful. Eternal blessings are promised to all who believe.
There is also no doubt that faith in Jesus moves us to work[s] of faith and labor[s] of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why Jim provided us with rent money for those two months we were in Cheyenne before I began my vicarage, and we waited for our son to be born. I do not doubt the faith of the people of that church. But I couldn’t have written a thank-you to them. We certainly did, however, write a letter of thanks to Jim!
Your acts of kindness, love, and generosity, and your attitude hopefulness don’t earn God’s favor. They flow from God’s favor to you. And reading these verses now, I want to stay strong in works of faith, labors of love and steadfastness of hope, all grounded in our Lord Jesus Christ.