In 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 Paul writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are two bundles of words that stand out: first, work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness (or endurance) of hope. These words have been hijacked by religious people to heap burdens on others. The second group of words you hear all the time, both in and outside the church: faith, hope, and love. These are very “Christian” words, but they’ve been gutted—look, for example, at “faith” in pop culture.
Knowing Jesus Changes Us
At the end of verse 3 the faith and love and hope are “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is not describing general principles; he is describing particular spiritual effects of being in relationship to Jesus Christ. Faith and love and hope that are “in our Lord Jesus Christ” give rise to work, labor, and endurance.
1 Thessalonians 1:3–6 refer to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The entire Trinity is involved in faith, love, and hope. They come from trusting in Jesus Christ. They are the result and evidence of being chosen (v. 4) by God the Father. And they are the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.
God Gives Us Faith
Faith is a gift from God. Hebrews 11 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The chapter describes a list of people who had faith in God and God’s actions on their behalf. That’s what faith is: trust in God and what he has done for you in Jesus. Through faith we trust in Christ. When we trust in Christ we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”
And faith produces works; that’s why the passage says “works of faith.” When we put our faith in Christ, God changes our hearts and desires so good works are actually possible (Philippians 2:13).
God’s love for us produces love in us.
God Gives Us Love
Like faith, love is a gift from God. Love was our problem. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Jesus summarizes the law of God under two commands: 1) Love God, and 2) Love your neighbor (Mt. 22:36-40). But this is bad news for us because we stubbornly rebel against God and love ourselves way more than we love others.
1 John 4: 10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love for us produces love in us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and just as faith causes works, love produces our labor.
God Gives Us Hope
Like faith and love, hope is a gift from God. We can have hope because of what Jesus did. We can have hope for the future because of Jesus’ resurrection. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Hope produces endurance. We can carry through the difficulties of this life because we know God is good and he is not playing games with our life. He has a plan for us.
God Works On Us and In Us
Because all the works God does in Christ are done for you, your sins are forgiven, you are declared righteous, and you will arise and live with him. Faith, hope, and love are possible for you because of Jesus. They are the works of God on us. Work, labor, and endurance are the fruit of God’s work in us.