This past week I was in Clayton, OK speaking at a youth camp. One afternoon I went with a youth group that I had gotten to know to a lake not far from the camp’s grounds. The electric guitarist from the band, my friend Mason, was partnering with me to destroy young men in several rounds of chicken fights out in the murky water. Our final round was an awe-inspiring come from behind victory, as I as the base was fully submerged under water but stood strong in the sand. After my almost drowning (not to be dramatic), we retired on top of the world. Our conversation turned to working out, something Mason does a lot of and is really good at. I shared about the one time in the year 2021 that I went to the gym to lift. Mason mentioned in passing that my body type was one in which if I got committed to working out that I could see a lot of growth. Without skipping a beat I informed him that I don’t care enough to work out. Or in other words, I don’t love it enough to pursue growing in it.
We act upon what we love.
We labor towards what it is that we love.
It’s how we’re wired. And according to 1 Thessalonians 1, our love for God and others should lead to laboring alongside God and for others.
Paul gives thanks for three characteristics that the church in Thessalonica was known for.
We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Labor motivated by love.
The Christians in Thessalonica were known for this. What about you? When people look to you and your community of faith, do they see us laboring for one another?
I can’t claim to love my wife Jamie and then never show it via my actions.
In much the same way I can’t claim to love Jesus and His bride if I never show it via my actions.
If we love sports, we’re going to spend time watching them whether in person or via the media.Our kid’s participation in practices or games will trump other commitments we have in our life.
If we love earthly pleasures, we’re going to spend time and money preparing for vacations and going on vacations. These things of earth will trump other commitments we have in our life.
If we love money, we’re going to spend time working as hard as we can to earn more money and the love of money will trump other commitments we have in our life.
If Paul was to look at the modern church, he’d likely see a lot of labor motivated by love for vacations, sports, and excess.
Gone are the days where the commitment to one’s local body of believers trumped any other commitment. In a modern church context worried about the deceptive and destructive throes of legalism, the thought of deep commitment to a church body is seen as just a legalistic tendency of a bygone era. I would argue however that a deep commitment to a local church isn’t being legalistic, it’s being obedient.
Obviously, love for God and neighbor isn’t relegated to just attendance in a church on a Sunday morning. No, it’s much deeper than that. It shows itself in acts of service, evangelism, and intentional discipleship.
At Camp Minnetonka this week I saw so many adults who had given up a week of work not to go on vacation but to come intentionally invest in students by partnering alongside the pastors and youth pastors of their church. And it made my heart swell with joy.
Do you want this labor motivated by love for God and others?
And thankfully 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us the answer as to how to get it.
Not by working hard. But through receiving it via the Spirit.
our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b
The Holy Spirit brings the power.
Chuck Swindoll says “these qualities could only come from the work of the Spirit in the lives of genuine believers.“
We all have room to grow in this. But that growth comes from the Spirit. The growth comes through communing with God.
And once we catch the fire of love, we share it with those around us. We model it.
My parents taught me to love God and others via the local church. That meant getting up at 7 AM for Sunday School after getting home from a Rangers game at 1 AM. That meant opening up our home for staff members, Sunday school classes, and students. That meant discipling younger believers. I watched and watched and watched. The fire was lit in me. And I want Gracie to grow up in a home where our commitment to the Lord and His people is shown by our wallets, schedules, conversations, and relationships.
I want her to see a labor of love.
In His Name,
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