remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4 RSV
Last night (July 10, 2011) I watered the garden by the light of a beautiful sunset. This morning, the summer day is overcast and rather dreary. It occurred to me that the clouds that made the evening sky so glorious were the very clouds now making the new day seem dull and dreary. Maybe ministry is like those clouds. When I first embrace ministry it is glorious, but the daily grind can wear me down and leave me wondering if I have bit off more than I can chew. How do I continue on?
Your work of faith: The word translated work is ergon (er'-gon) and is a noun. It gives a name to what we do. The ministry you are called to is your work of faith. The men who wrote this letter assured the believers of Thessalonians that they are, "...constantly remembering you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith..."
When the assembly of Thessaloni'ca first received the Gospel they experienced three weeks of jaw-dropping excitement. Even those who did not go on to believe must have felt some joy of discovery as they dove into the Scriptures to argue their answer. Even so, it is important to remember that they were not given the commendation of being noble for searching the Scripture to see if what Paul was saying was true (Acts 17:10-12).
Now when they had passed through Amphip'olis and Apollo'nia, they came to Thessaloni'ca, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. Acts 17:1-4 RSVWith a "great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women," SOME of the Jews in the assembly believed that Y'shua/Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for. Why do I say that they have been waiting for the Messiah? Because God had entrusted them with the oracles of YHVH/God. (Romans 3:2). When YHVH spoke, it was the Hebrews he spoke to. They were the people whom YHVH instructed with his word, they were responsible to memorialize and obey it. I do not want to be too harsh on the Hebrews, I know the church of today has been instructed to watch for his soon return and to walk before him in faith, Too often we concern our selves with issues that are so petty that we forget to watch in faith. It happens. Those who believe receive the Word with joy. They accept not only the call to salvation, but the ministry, the work of faith, work that will define their earthly life.
Labor of love: When I first read this passage I wondered to myself, what is the difference between "work" and "labor"? Here in Thessalonians work is your ministry. I expected labor to be what I did to accomplish that ministry, but it is more than that. kopos (#2873 kop'-os) is toil, but this toil saps our strength and leaves us weary (Zodhiates' NT Word Study). At the end of the day, it leaves us unable to rest (No rest for the weary). The "work" embraced by faith results in "labor" sustained by love. Even if the bright clouds that prompted the work seem to become dull and heavy, we carry on because of love knowing that rest will one day come.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" Revelation 14:13 RSVSteadfastness of hope: hupomone (#5281 hoop-om-on-ay') this is not talking about people, it is about our endurance in the work we have been given to do. What keeps us going when someone else seems to have more interesting work or when we just want a break, a vacation to refresh our self? Steadfastness, remembering the faith and love that did not run from the cross. Y'shua knew times when the crowd made him weary. He knew times of temptation to be discouraged because they did not understand him. He must have felt tempted to slide out from under the yoke given to him by his Father. But he chose to endure, to be steadfast.
...let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1b-2 RSVJesus is my example. He remained "steadfast" for the joy, the "hope" that was before him. He asked God to show him if there was any other way to accomplish this work. There was no other way or the Father who loves him, who loves us, would have opened the way to an easier path. "...for the joy that was set before him endured ....despising the shame..."
Remember to pray, remember that others are praying for you, and you pray for them. There is work that is a privilege, glorious work embraced by faith, laborious work that must be continued in love, steadfast because of hope, the joy to come. I am in a dreary time but there are those who pray as I must also pray for them, for the love that keeps us going. One day there will be rest, on the other side of those clouds.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1 RSV
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 RSV