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Where Work, Labor, and Endurance Come From

In my devotions, I've been studying through the Apostle Paul's letters to the church in Thessalonica. It strikes me that, for the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians, Paul doesn't make any command or exhortation; he only expresses his gratitude for their faith, recalls the powerful story of their reception of the Gospel, and describes his longing for them. After his opening greeting, Paul says, "We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 1:2-3, CSB).

What Paul recalls in the presence of God resonated with me. He's expressing to God his gratefulness for the Thessalonian church's work, labor, and endurance (if you read Acts 17, you'll see why this is so commendable). What hit me was something we've studied together in our understanding of Spiritual Growth (Transformation): we often look at the works and labors and endurance of other believers, see them as admirable and then work extra hard to copy and paste such things into our own lives.

Friends, Paul says these things come from something deeper, something within, something only the Spirit can produce in us. Their work is said to be "produced" by their faith--being convinced of Jesus and His Word creates the natural byproduct of work in Gospel ministry. Their labor (meaning suffering hardship in ministry; see 2 Cor. 6:5, 11:23) is "motivated by love"--a deeply settled love for Christ can motivate such labor. Finally, their endurance is "inspired by hope"--a living assurance of Christ's resurrection, our coming inheritance (1 Peter 1:3), and the promise of future glory (Rom. 8:18) will make trials and sufferings in this life seem light and momentary (2 Cor. 4:17) so that they are easier to endure.

Did you notice, "faith... love... hope." The big three that Paul says, when all the other gifts fade, these three remain (1 Cor. 13:13). Such faith is a gift of the Spirit (Phil. 1:29), such love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and such hope is by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 15:13). Gospel work, labor, and endurance comes naturally for those who have been formed by the Spirit in faith, love, and hope. All of this to say:

Admire Gospel work, labor, and endurance, but seek faith, love, and hope by the Spirit.

Instead of trying to copy behaviors, partner with Holy Spirit to form your character in these big three and more. Blessings!

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