|Volume 24 Number 3 March 2022
That’s a phrase that I’ve found myself using a lot – especially with a 3-year-old. He’s always wanting to do something – to go outside, to go inside, to ride his truck, to play in the sprinklers, to mow the grass, to trim the bushes, to climb stuff, etc. We can’t do it all, and so, he hears, “Just wait,” a lot.
It’s hard to wait, though, isn’t it? It’s especially difficult when we’re forced to wait for things out of our control. God’s plan doesn’t work on our timetables. It works on His time.
Today, for what do you need to “just wait”? For what have you tried to work in the past when you needed to wait? How will today be different?
Work, Labor, Patience
When Paul, with Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy wrote the first epistle to the Thessalonian church, they were impressed with the faithfulness of the church through persecution. The Thessalonian church started with persecution from envious Jews (Acts 17:1-8). Some Jews, Greeks and leading women of the city were persuaded (Acts 17:4) and this stirred up the angst of the Jews who wanted to keep their traditional status quo. They ran the missionaries out of town. It is likely these incidents to which Paul obliquely refers in his statement that the Thessalonians had “received the word [of God] in much affliction” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NKJV).
In the midst of several compliments regarding their steadfastness and evangelistic nature in Chapter One, Paul specifically noted an intriguing trifecta – their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Some have noted the parallel with 1 Corinthians 13:13. There, Paul highlighted the virtues of love among brethren, prodding the Corinthians to exercise love rather than selfishness in the exercise of their gifts in the worship of the local church (in the broader context of 1 Corinthians 12-14). He spoke of how the temporary spiritual gifts, which were miraculous, would eventually fade, but faith, hope and love would remain.
Some have also suggested a progression in this 1 Thessalonians 1:3 wording that suggests an increase in intensity. The work of faith is the beginning. Faith demands works; without works, faith is dead (James 2:14-26).
This one great truth has volumes written on it, deservedly so, for many say that works have nothing to do with faith. Even a subtle three-word reference like the one in this opening chapter of the Thessalonian epistle proves that it does. Sarcastically, James challenged, “Show me your faith without your works…” (James 2:18). Such can’t be done. If there is faith, it must be accompanied by works, behavior and obedience.
The Thessalonians started with a “work of faith” but then progressed to a “labor of love.” When persecution makes life difficult, it is no longer enough to simply obey; work becomes laborious in the face of opposition. That, then, progressed to the “patience of hope.” Labor requires patience when there is no immediate relief from the opposition and trials one encounters.
The tentacles of the pandemic are far-reaching, testing the physical capacity of individuals and the patience of the populace. Christians are not immune from the disease, the grief and the divisive politics. Many sorrow like they’ve not sorrowed before in their lifetimes. It is not uncommon to hear the expression, even from the eldest, “I’ve not seen anything like this before.”
It might be good, therefore, to take a reminder from the early Christians that not only is steadfastness possible through such circumstances, but abounding can also still be a goal. Later in the first chapter, following that trifecta, Paul complimented Thessalonian brethren for being joyfully exemplary in evangelism.
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8)
There is no need – and really, no excuse – to wait until trials pass before resuming zealous activity in the cause of saving souls. Though not easy, hearts must be stalwart and encouraged to exercise the “patience of hope.”