How would someone observing you describe your work? More importantly, what would they say about the results of your work? What are you accomplishing? What does your work really say?
My guess is that most of you reading this have struggled with these questions and others like them. We want purpose and meaning out of the things we devote our time to. For most people, the work they do for a living has a tendency to take up the most significant amount of their time. But deep down, do we really want our job defining who we are?
I don’t think so! I mean, my job is directing prayer ministry within an international campus ministry organization and I don’t even want to be defined by that. It’s not that I pray, or someone changes tires, or someone else teaches school, or raises their family, or whatever else it might be, that holds the real significance. The real significance comes when we use whatever tasks we face to bring glory and honor to Jesus.
Paul mentions this when he writes to the Thessalonians and lets them know that he is constantly praying for them. It is their work, labor, and endurance that stand out and get the attention of Paul. Not so much what they were doing, but what their work said to all who observed. Paul writes:
“We always thank God for you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 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, for they themselves report what happened when we visited you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3-4,7-9)
The work, labor, and endurance of the Thessalonians became a model for the entire region. People everywhere could look at them and see how to put into practice the gospel of Jesus that was being preached. When they turned to God, their lives were transformed and nothing would be the same again. All it took was watching and listening to them and you would see the change that had taken place and become “infected” yourself.
So how do we experience that kind of a change so that our work , whatever it is, proclaims the transforming power of Jesus? The key can be found in six words that we are familiar with separately, but rarely consider together. Work, labor, and endurance are terms we are likely familiar with and don’t really care for or embrace all that willingly. They are not things that we often rejoice over or long for more of — at least not until they are missing completely from our life.
Yet Paul takes each of these words and connects it with a word that unlocks the incredible power of transformation. Faith, love, and hope — words that we are quite familiar with from Paul. Yet words we rarely connect with work, labor and endurance like Paul does. The gospel came to the Thessalonians, “not simply with words but also with power” because their work was connected to faith, their labor was connected to love, and their endurance was connected to hope.
What does your work say? Is your work, labor and love being done with faith, love, and hope in order to unleash the power of the gospel? I pray that your work and my work says quite loudly that we are workers for God. May people see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven and say of us, “your faith in God has become known everywhere”.