Friday, August 29, 2014

Christ Followers’ Virtue

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Some things just don’t go together and, yet, they do go together. Take oil and vinegar for example. When left to settle, the two will separate, but when mixed together, they make a delightful dressing. The same could be said of labor and love. We tend to think of love as a spontaneous act, and labor a dry duty. It’s interesting how we separate these ideas from each another and, then, elevate the importance of one over the other. Over time, we tend to forget the one we think of as less important, and make it some kind of an enemy, as if duty could undo love or love could devalue duty. 

The apostle Paul didn’t see it like that. When writing about the Thessalonian Christ followers he said, We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father [1:2-3, emphasis mine].

They demonstrated three virtues that seemingly don’t go together: work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness [patience] in hope. Rather than exhorting them, Paul pointed out that each of their virtues was characteristic of their changed lives. For the Thessalonian Christ follower, faith, hope, and love were not merely feelings of the heart—they were demonstrated in concrete, visible ways. 

Paul gave us a clue as to how these virtues played out with them. Their “work of faith” included providing for orphans and widows, helping the poor, and giving hospitality to the stranger. Their “labor of love” involved self-sacrifice for the sake of brothers and sisters - Paul was a recipient of their generosity, even though they were actually poor! Their “patience in hope” was demonstrated in their steadfastness under the extreme burdens and trials they faced while waiting for the Lord’s return.

The early Christ followers didn’t set this good example merely through will power. No! They lived it out empowered by the Holy Spirit. The same is true for us. We have been touched by God’s grace, and the same gracious Holy Spirit works in us too!

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

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