A Labor of Love

“...remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

IT IS SOMETIMES ASTONISHING TO SEE WHAT RESULTS COME FROM THE EFFORTS OF THOSE WHO ARE POWERED BY LOVE. When Paul wrote to his Christian friends in Thessalonica, he was writing to people who had begun to suffer persecution as soon as they had become Christians. And yet their love for their new Lord was such that they were not only surviving but thriving. Paul was delighted to pray for them and give thanks for the good things that were coming from their love: “We are always thankful to God as we pray for you all, for we never forget that your faith has meant solid achievement, your love has meant hard work, and the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all” (J. B. Phillips’s paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 1:3). The work of these disciples was a work of faith, their labor was a labor of love, and their patience was a patience of hope. These are the true springs from which the highest kind of effort and sacrifice always flow.

We need to bring genuine love for God more to the center of our own motivation. Yet we must be careful. In the warm glow of our love for Him, we must not conceive of God as a doting grandfather, willing to accept anything our sincerity chooses to offer Him. Being moved by love does not mean being presumptuous. God is still God, and it is still His prerogative to say what is required from us. If the true worship of God comes from a spirit of love, it also comes from a respect for truth (John 4:23,24).

Yet as our reverence causes us to take God with utter seriousness, how much difference it will make if our love causes us to seek Him with utter thankfulness. Let us never trifle with our responsibilities, but let us also never forget the manifold goodnesses of God that have made us want to accept those responsibilities. When the final tally is made, our labor will matter little if it was not a labor of love. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

“Love is a far better sustainer than fear. Fear enslaves, but love persuades. Love takes possession of our soul, and we begin to want goodness for itself. God is a kind and faithful friend to those who sincerely become his friend” (François de Fénelon).