I flipped to 1 Thessalonians earlier this week. Paul opens with a sort of blessing, thanking God for them and remembering them in his prayers. In verse three, Paul says that he is, “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.”
I saw the words ‘work’ and ‘labor’ and wondered at their difference. The ‘work of faith’ uses the Greek word ergon, and here it has the sense of doing deeds that are approved by God, or the course of conduct that springs from faith in God. The ‘labor of love’ uses the Greek word kopos, which means laborious toil. Strong’s concordance describes the usage here as, “the labor to which love prompts, and which voluntarily assumes and endures trouble and pains for the salvation of others.” The phrase ‘steadfastness of hope’ uses the Greek word hupomone to describe steadfastness, and it refers to being steadfast, constant, and enduring. Strong’s concordance describes it as, “the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”
At the end of verse three, all of these things are said to be in our Lord Jesus and in the presence of our God and Father. It always goes back to Jesus, it always goes back to the cross, it always goes back to the presence of God.
Works of faith reminds me of growing in the fruit of the Spirit. Labor of love reminds me of when I did a word study on the love chapter and was confronted with what agape means- something I can’t grasp or achieve- yet not I, but Christ in me, right? Steadfastness of hope reminds me of a verse where Paul says we have this hope as the anchor of our soul.
John G. Paton was a missionary to a tribal people who were hostile to him for some time. There is a story of him hiding in a tree for some time, quite possibly facing his own death at any moment. Reflecting on that, he wrote in his journal, “If thus thrown abc upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?”
And we do. But do we know it? Jesus endured in works of faith, He endured in labors of love, and He was steadfast in hope, fixing His eyes on what lay ahead. Because He has given of Himself, we can be in Him. If we abide in Him and Him in us, we will bear much fruit, but apart from Him, we can do nothing (from John, I believe: the parable of the vine and the branches). I want to abide in Him, because selfishly it is good for me, but it is also good for others. It gives me life and purpose, and it gives others life and purpose and love. Not I, but Christ. Not looking within myself, but abiding in the Lord Jesus.
Regina Emmart is a data analyst by day and student by night. She is a first year MA distance student, and is also finishing an MS in Positive Youth Development through Kansas State. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, Jon, and she enjoys spending time with her large family.