How are our lives impacting others for Jesus Christ? Does our walk match our talk? Do we live what we say we believe? Can others see Christ in us? Or, is what they see our flesh?
Do we honor God by our lives, by what we say, and by what we do? Or, are we living to please our flesh, consumed with self-pleasure and with being entertained incessantly?
The Lord Jesus led me to read 1 Thessalonians 1 (Select vv. NASB).
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, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you. Vv. 2-4
Could this be said about us? If not, why not?
Our work of faith
I am reminded here of Hebrews 11, which is often referred to as the “faith chapter” of the Bible. In it we read of the faith of many men and women of Bible times. But, what we read about their faith is concerning what they did as a result of their faith, which is then what proved that their faith was genuine.
Such as, we read that by faith Noah built an ark for the salvation of his household, and that Abraham, by faith, when God called him, obeyed by going where God was sending him, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith Moses accomplished the deliverance of the children of Israel from captivity in Egypt. And, by faith the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, because the people did what God told them to do, etc.
So, our work of faith is not works-based salvation, for we do not do things for God in order to earn or to deserve our own salvation, for we cannot. But, our work of faith is the evidence, the fruit, and the outgrowth of our faith, which is realized in our lives, in our heart responses to God, by doing what he has said to do.
Imagine with me, if Noah, for example, said he had faith in what God told him, but the ark was never built, and they all drowned in the flood. Where would his faith have been then? Would it have been genuine faith?
Our labor of love
What comes to mind here is a mother giving birth to a child. That is a labor of love, for sure! I gave birth to four children, so I understand that word “labor.” Yet, we do that because we want to see that child come to life. We do it for the end result, which is hopefully the breath of life being breathed into him or her, and for the hope of what he or she can become, though we may not all think that far ahead at that moment in time.
I think that motherhood, in itself, is a great picture of our labor of love, providing, of course, that what we are doing is love, for not all mothers love their children, which is really sad.
So, when we love God, with God-like love, which prefers what God prefers, we will want to do what his word says, for this will be our labor of love.
And, when we truly love others with that same God-like love, we will invest our lives in them, in helping, teaching, ministering, healing, and comforting, etc. We will persevere in the bad times, and we will hope for better times to come. For, our goal is the end result, and so we are willing to endure whatever we must endure, if it means the salvation of souls for Jesus Christ.
Our steadfastness of hope in our Lord
Hope never gives up! It endures. It doesn’t go back and forth like a see-saw nor is it easily persuaded by the thinking and opinions of other humans. It doesn’t believe one thing one minute, and then depending upon who we are with, change gears and proclaim a different belief all together. It is consistent, persistent, determined, and utterly convinced, but not in theory, but in how that hope is being lived out in our lives on a daily basis.
This is not to say that our hope is never tested, or that we are not tempted ever to doubt God and his Word, but that, by the grace of God, we endure the test, and we don’t yield to the temptation, and we remain steadfast in hope despite everything we might see in this world, which might seem to speak the opposite of hope. Yet, hope that is seen is not hope at all. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Ro. 8:24-25).
As well, hope that is steadfast comes from God and is full of conviction, too.
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. V. 5
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear just words. I don’t want words that have no real conviction behind them, or that are not followed up with action, or that ARE followed up with action, but with actions which speak just the opposite of what the words say. Thus, the words end up falling on deaf ears, because they are just words, and empty platitudes.
God feels the same way. You know? He is not interested in empty forms of worship and of service, lacking in true repentance and obedience. He is not interested in hearing just words, either. He gets weary of our words if they are not followed with obedience and submission to his will for our lives. And, the same is true if, when we share our faith, we are just spouting off words, but what we are saying has no real substance in our lives. We can be really good at preaching, but how are we doing at living what we preach?
Are we living the kind of lives we would want others to imitate?
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. Vv. 6-10
I admit, I have a hard time understanding how any human being could ask people to imitate them. What one of us never fails? What one of us is perfect, i.e. without any sin? I’m not perfect. I am not living in willful sin against God, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ever sin. In fact, I did today.
The Holy Spirit prompted me not to say something, but I had already started saying it, so I finished. I knew better. There are no excuses. And, as soon as I finished my sentence, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about it, and I had to confess my wrong to the person to whom I was speaking, and then I confessed my wrong to God, and I still feel horrible about it. But, thank the Lord that we serve a merciful and forgiving God! Amen!
So, just because we are not perfect, does that mean that people cannot emulate us and our walks of faith? I don’t think we have to be perfect, in the sense of absolutely sinless, for us to set the right example for others. We should not be walking in sin, and if we do sin, we should humble ourselves, own up to the sin, confess it where it needs to be confessed, and then turn from it to walk in obedience to the Lord. And, that is setting the right example right there for others to follow. But, we should not be among those who say, “Well, nobody is perfect,” in the sense of excusing away sin.
So, it is important that we walk the talk, and if we tell others that they need to repent of sin, and humble themselves before God, and turn from sin, and turn to God to follow him in obedience, then that needs to be our practice, too, for Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By the Spirit we should daily be putting sin to death and living to God, for in him alone is our hope found. In him alone can we even live for him, forsake our idols, repent of sin, walk in freedom, and serve HIM in love. And, he is the main one we should emulate (imitate), too, for he alone is perfect.
In Christ Alone
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand…
Tuesday, December 26, 2017, 5:14 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this lesson from your word. Help us all, I pray, to walk in your ways and in your truth.