Summary: There are three virtues in which we all need to seek to be growing.
Paul was thankful for the Thessalonian church. He mentions three things about them that he was thankful for: 1) their work of faith; 2) their labor of love; and 3) their endurance of hope.
It has been pointed out that this is the same means by which Jesus evaluated the church in Ephesus in the book of Revelation:
“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance . . .” - Revelation 2:2 (HCSB)
There are a variety of means for evaluating a church’s health, and practically all of them are worthwhile, but at the very least, a church would do well to evaluate itself by the marks that Paul considered and Christ commended - our work, our labor, and our endurance.
It is important at this point to emphasize that a church is made up of individual members. That means then, that if a church is going to be commended for these three virtues, then each member of that church family should seek to be growing in each of these virtues. As the old saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” If every member of our church family were as committed as I am, would our church be one that is commended?
As I often like to say, “We haven’t achieved perfection, but we’re trying to walk in the right direction.” The Transformed Spiritual Growth emphasis we’ve just completed is an example of our trying to walk in the right direction. We can know we’re headed in the right
direction if we’re seeking to grow in . . .
1. Our work of faith.
The NIV says, “your work produced by faith.” What Paul is speaking of is the same thing which James mentions when he says:
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” - James 2:12 (NLT)
James says that the evidence of a genuine saving faith are works that are consistent with our faith in Christ. How do we know whether a
person’s faith is a saving faith or just a superficial belief in God that has not really resulted in a change of heart? We only know it by the way that person lives.
“But someone might argue, ‘Some people have faith, and others have good works.’ My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do.” - James 2:18 (Easy to Read)
Faith is an invisible thing, like the wind. You can’t see the wind. The way we know the wind is there is that we see its affect on other things, like the branches of trees bouncing back and forth. We know the wind is there by witnessing it’s affect on other things.
Likewise, saving faith produces a desire to obey the commands of the Lord; and is revealed as we learn how to fulfill this new desire of living in obedience to Christ’s commands. If we truly have a saving faith, it should be evidenced by a growth that produces works that please God.
“My brothers and sisters, God called you and chose you to be his. Do your best to live in a way that shows you really are God’s called and chosen people.” - 2 Peter 1:10 (Easy to Read)
The only way for us to confirm that we’ve met Christ is that we desire to live for Him. That doesn’t mean we always get it right. That doesn’t mean there might not be season when we aren’t living for Him. But if we truly know Christ, we cannot continue to disobey. We’ll eventually return to Him and seek to live for Him. But make no mistake it, if we claim to know Christ but aren’t seeking to live for Him, it is serious cause for doubting the genuineness of our claim that we know Him.
A young believer visited an elderly Christian who had faithfully served the Lord. They sat on the porch with the older man’s dog sitting at his feet. The young believer asked, “Why do you think so many professed Christians pursue living for Christ for a year or two after their conversion, but later quit and end up living just like their unbelieving neighbors?” The older Christian said, “One day I was sitting here with my dog, when suddenly, a large white rabbit ran across the field in front of us. My dog jumped up and took off after that big white rabbit. He chased the rabbit with a passion. Soon other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran across the field! But gradually, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, until only my dog continued pursuing the white rabbit.” The young man replied, “What’s the connection between a rabbit chase and the pursuit of God?” The older believer answered, “The other dogs didn’t continue the chase because they had never seen the rabbit. It’s the same with professed Christians who quit pursuing Christ.”