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June 12, 2010

Building Strong Friendships in Christ

Faith, Love and Hope Today

“constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father”

1 Thessalonians 1:3, Page 1846

       Have you ever thought about what you constantly bear in mind?  At the beach, I see people constantly staring at other people.  Men staring at women, parents staring at children, friends staring at friends.  I also see people staring off in to the wild blue yonder.  What people stare at often reflects what they have running through their mind at any given time.

       Did you know that what you think about people will often determine how you feel about people?  Likewise, what you feel about people will also determine what you pray for people?  Thinking, feeling and praying go hand in hand.  All three of those things tend to influence one another.

        Paul told us he that he always prayed for the Thessalonians, and three things dominated his thinking while he prayed.  When we pray, we should deliberately focus our minds upon under the power of the Holy Spirit helping us pray (Romans 8:26, page 1769).  As Paul prayed in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (page 1846),  he thought about three things the Thessalonians did well: (1) work of faith; (2) labor of love and (3) steadfastness of hope.    Here, Paul remembers constantly their work, labor and steadfastness.  Lets look at each of them in turn.

       The term “work” here means business, employment, task and covers a broad range of actions.  So, the “work of faith” tells us that the Thessalonians applied their faith at their job, as an employee, as a boss, as a homemaker.   Paul remembered how their faith affected every part of their lives.

       Second, Paul remembered their “labor.”  Labor in this passage means physical exertion or toil.  Paul used this same root word to describe the way he worked with his own hands as a tent-maker to pay his own way, and pay for the upkeep of his fellow workers (Acts 20:34-35, page 1741; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, page 1852).  It took effort to love people.  It will always take effort to lay down your life for other people.  Paul ties the “labor” to love.  I know a man who always says that you love people when you invite them to sleep on your couch.  He means, however, that he wants his adult son, living at home with him, to sleep on your couch.   Jesus taught that loving people starts with salvation, because only people born of God and who know God love other people (1 John 4:7, page 1908).  So, if a person does not know God, they will never love, because they have not been born of God and do not know God.  The Thessalonians loved God and their love for God shined from their toil for Christ.  Paul repeatedly mentioned how he toiled for Christ by suffering hardships for the ministry,  as part of His work for Christ (2 Corinthians 6:5, page 1810;  2 Corinthians 11:23, page 1816).

       Third, Paul remembered their “steadfastness.”  He linked the idea of steadfastness to “work” and “labor” in 1 Corinthians 15:58 (page 1803): “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that you toil is not in vain in the Lord.” Only God’s power helps us attain steadfastness (Colossians 1:11, page 1841).    I often see parents holding the hand of a child while small waves lap onto the beach.  As they wade out, the little wave pose no challenge for the parent, but the child could easily be knocked over by the wave.  The parent’s steadfastness comes from maturity, size and strength.  But the child holds the hand in hope.  Because his parent holds his hand, he has a steadfast hope that things will be o.k.  As believers, when we feel the hand of Jesus holding our hands, we should have that same hope that He will take care of us, and we can enjoy the waves of life splashing up against us.  We hope in Jesus, and we long to see Him.  When we place our ultimate hope in our friends, family, spouses, or others, we miss the point that only God can be our final hope.

       So let me assemble Paul’s ideas together for a moment, just as he put them together.  We work and labor, and we continue to do so because of our “steadfastness of hope.”  Because we continue in our work and labor, we live in hope.  If you want to lose your hope, then stop working and laboring for Jesus.  If you want more hope, then start praying and thanking God for the work, labor and steadfastness of the believers you see around you walking with Jesus and living in His power.  Focus upon what Jesus is doing in the lives of the believers around you. 

       In order to build strong friendships in Christ, you will need to see the work, labor and steadfastness of Christ empowering your Christian friends.  You will see your friends most clearly when you bow your head, start praying, and encounter the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind what Jesus is doing in your friends lives.

 Application for Today

        Today I will pray for my friends.  I will be seeing their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope, even when I have my eyes closed and I am talking with God.  What will you be thinking about today when you pray?


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