….Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
1 Thessalonians 1:3
This week I want to focus on verse three of 1st Thessalonians 1. In Paul’s writings, he emphasized what the Reformers called ‘sola fide’ or faith alone. Yet Paul also wrote that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thess 3:10) Paul may not necessarily have been referring to the same kind of work there as what we mean when we talk about faith versus works, but nevertheless, faith that saves is faith that works. The Christians in Thessalonica did not just say the sinners’ prayer and then go back to what they were doing before. Not only did they turn to God from idols, but they went out and told everybody throughout Macedonia and Achaia the good news, that Jesus is risen and He is coming back. This required work, especially back then before modern transportation, before there were any laws protecting religious freedom, and before Motel 6 or Howard Johnson’s. Not only was it work to take the message and minister the gospel, but it brought persecution. (1 Thess 1:6; 2:14) Despite the hard work and persecution, however, the Thessalonian Christians loved the labor. Work that you love is not work. Paul called this unique kind of work their work of faith. Jesus said This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:29) However, once we are saved by faith we perform works of faith. The times in my life when I was the most active in ministering the gospel and when I saw the most fruit were also the happiest times in my life. If I had not really believed (had faith) in what I was doing, I do not think I would have enjoyed it. Getting called on the carpet at work for witnessing or getting hauled off to the police station for preaching may not sound like much fun but those things did not bother me. I was overjoyed for the fruit that the gospel was bearing and I knew my God was with me. It was not fun for Abraham to take Isaac and place him on the altar, but I am sure Abraham was overjoyed when God said Lay not thine hand upon the lad and gave him a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s stead. (Gen 22:12, 13) It took great faith for Abraham to do that, just as it takes faith for us to do what God calls us to do. If there was no challenge in anything God asked us to do that would be boring. In any good story there are challenges to overcome; so it is in our walk with Christ. The way things are going there may be great challenges ahead, but there is great reward when God gives us the victory. [W]ork of faith is a labor of love.
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus likened the signs of his coming to a woman in labor. The earth is in labor now, preparing to give birth to the kingdom age. When a woman is in labor, the first question the doctor asks is how far apart her contractions are. We have seen things accelerating over the last few decades and particularly in 2020. This should tell us that we are getting close. One recent news item that got my attention is a new set of guidelines for places of worship from the California Department of Public Health and Cal OSHA. Included are temperature taking (the graphic in the document shows one of the now-ubiquitous thermometers for scanning the forehead, training people for the mark of the beast), all sorts of restrictive Howard Hughes-type OCD measures, and a directive to discontinue singing praise and worship songs. This is the spirit of antichrist.
Indeed, the contractions are getting closer together and lasting longer, leading one to wonder what is coming next. A pastor in Kentucky claims to have had prophetic dreams that may give us a clue. I offer this video with the caveat that I am not necessarily endorsing Pastor Coverstone’s message or him personally. I found the video interesting but I do not know anything about him or his ministry except what I read on his LinkedIn page. As with any prophetic message, time will tell.
We don’t need a prophecy to tell us that we are in the midst of a color revolution. It is communist/ Muslim/ anarchist/ antichrist, and being carried out in the name of racism and a phony pandemic. Even Bill Gates admitted COVID-19 is not as fatal as MERS or SARS yet neither of those shut down the economy. We have a precedent for this, and it was not all that long ago: the Cultural Revolution in Red China. That may seem like an extreme comparison but if we have learned anything of late, it is that hysteria spreads just as quickly as a virus. Hopefully we are made of tougher stuff here in America than they were in China should it come to that. Whatever the rest of 2020 may have in store for us, our God is with us and He is able to handle anything that comes our way. (Dan 3:17) As the birth pangs continue, now is the time to prepare spiritually, mentally, and in practical ways as well. But what if we are being distracted from what is really important—preparing to meet our King? The Bible says we are to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith. (2 Cor 13:5) This is something we need to work out on our knees with our Bible open before us. Now is no time to be lukewarm. If there is a problem it is because you left Him, in which case He is waiting for you to come back. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. (Heb 13:5) I think we should all do a personal evaluation of our walk with Christ. In Luke 2, Joseph and Mary walked for a whole day before they realized that Jesus was no longer with them. In Luke 24, Cleopas and his companion walked for more than seven miles with Jesus before they realized it was Him. If you are not sure whether you are walking with Him ask yourself some questions: Are you willing to die for Him? Are you trusting in anything other than Christ and the precious blood He shed on Calvary to save you? If you are backslidden, that conviction you feel, is it driving you back to the Bible and the body of Christ? Or is it making you feel unworthy? That first one is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The second would be the condemnation of the enemy. Rebuke him in the name of Jesus Christ and take control of your mind by standing on the promises in Scripture. Remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Jesus is alive and He is coming back again. This is our patience of hope.
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Father, thank You that we are saved by grace through faith. Thank You for offering us everlasting life as a free gift through faith in your Son. Please prepare works of faith for us to perform and reveal your will for us that we may follow the path you place before us and labor in love. Give us patience as we wait on the blessed hope. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Coronavirus Update: It has been reported that three states account for 42% of COVID-19 deaths in the US: New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. This appears to be the result of horrible policy decisions. More here.