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]
We were enjoying a road trip with some friends, and talking about some of the geological features we were seeing. “That was made by a giant glacier,” he said. I have no doubt he is right. He is a strong Christian and an intelligent geologist. And I believe God works through means. While I might express the manner of God’s creative work a bit differently: It’s as though God too his finger and scratched out a large gorge in the earth, I might say. I suspect God’s finger was actually a glacier. For God works through means.
We’re brought to faith by means of the Word of God, the Good News of Jesus comes to us and the Holy Spirit excites faith in us. It’s not a zap. It’s not our doing. It’s God’s work through means. The same is true of geological formations, healings (often by means of medicine, and sometimes my means of a miracle), and our daily bread.
God is at work in all these things…through means more often than immediate miraculous activity. When miracles do happen (and surely they do!), it is often to point to something more important than the miracle, but to the goodness, power, and grace of God; calling us to faith.
I see that in this passage. The Thessalonians were brought to faith by the Gospel message, demonstrated with power, and by the diligent work of Paul and others. They became examples to the people there, and inspired them to labors of love, works of faith, and steadfast hope. God used them then to inspire others. And the Gospel message was not only confirmed. It was spread to others. Others were encouraged by the bold faith of the Thessalonians.
All this is so that more and more people commit themselves to serve God and wait for Jesus’ return at the end of days.
The same is true today. Our service, faithfulness, love, hope, waiting and witness is God at work in and through us. Others are blessed by our living and active faith. God works through us to bless others. God works through others to bless and encourage us. It’s a big synergy of grace, love, faith, hope, and service.
The next time you want to check out of life, or give up on hope, or withdraw from an opportunity to serve, consider how you might be short-circuiting God’s work. He will get it done, but you will be the poorer for not being part of God’s work in and through you. For God not only works through you. He works in you, for his glory and your and your neighbors’ good.