1 Thessalonians 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
This verse should settle the perennial “faith vs. works” argument, and the fact that argument still exists shows that people aren’t as familiar with the Word as they think they are. As this states very clearly, genuine faith causes us to do things (works), and genuine love causes us to put our all into it (labor). On top of that, if we understand what God has prepared for us in Christ, we will be able to make it through any trial because of the anticipation (hope) that we have of God’s resolution to it all. Looking at it that way, we can gauge our own spiritual development fairly easily. Looking around, we can easily see people who seem to be deficient in one or more of these areas, but judging others isn’t our job, as the Bible says in multiple places. However, we can and should encourage each other to grow in faith, love, and hope. Such encouragement will do far more to correct undesirable behavior than trying to deal directly with the behavior. And always, we need to remember that we ourselves will always have room to grow in each of these areas, which should keep us from pride.
As a pastor, encouraging spiritual growth is the biggest part of my job description. At the same time, people tend to expect (demand) perfection from me in each of these areas. Since even Paul didn’t have it all together, (Philippians 3:12-14) their expectations are certainly misplaced! It is certainly desirable that I be as far along the road as possible in each of these areas, and indeed it is encouraging to look back and see that I have progressed, but any temptation to pride is quickly checked when I stumble over really trivial things. Just as I tell others to do, I need to be consistent in taking my eyes off of myself and fixing them on my Lord Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) When I do that, He surprises even me by the things He does through me. Yesterday was a good case in point. We had some new people in the service yesterday who arrived a little late, so I had no interaction with them until after the service. It turned out that for one of them, my sermon couldn’t have been any more direct and personal. That was manifestly not anything I could have planned, since I had never met that person, much less known their background or that they would be in the service. God doesn’t miss a beat! My job, when I was preparing the message, when I was delivering it, and always, was and is to listen obediently to my Lord and yield myself fully to Him. That will produce the work, the labor, and the endurance that He desires.
Father, thank You for Your wonderful patience and faithfulness toward me. Thank You for using me yesterday. Your appointments are the best! Help me be available for each of the appointments You have for me today, so that I will keep growing and keep doing Your will, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!