Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of 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. 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
A few years back my daughter had to construct a Rube Goldberg machine for her science and engineering class. For those not in the know, it's a contraption designed to perform a simple task (like dropping a ball in a cup or filling up a glass of water) elaborately. Different actions take place along the way in a sort of domino effect - each one designed to trigger the next until the original goal gets achieved. If a single step in the system malfunctions, everything comes to a screeching halt.
Utilizing my love of Data from The Goonies as well as my many years of playing the game Mousetrap (am I showing my age?), I went to work helping Madison. Our models would start strong, but something along the way always got stuck or failed. After numerous trips to the drawing board, our machine worked, and we got (excuse me...she got) an A on her project.
As we read Paul opening up his letter to the church in Thessalonica, we see a spiritual Rube Goldberg machine taking place. A chain reaction of faith, love, and hope fueled a movement within their community — each step built upon the next. The momentum created rippled out past their church walls and into the town and surrounding areas.
What is the connection between faith, love, and hope? Why are they so often lumped together in Scripture? It comes down to this - you can't have one without the other. When one fails, everything comes off the rails. Filling our head with information about God matters very little if it doesn't lead to a response from the overflow of our heart.
We can't expect to see hope and love spring up in those places where our faith remains dormant. Instead of a vibrant relationship, we will go through the motions or get saddled with the duty, drudgery, and obligation that comes from religion.
We must remind ourselves time and time again that everything starts from an encounter with Christ. Experiencing His forgiveness and grace, along with putting our faith in the security it provides, does something deep within us. The more we get to know His heart, the more we will want to reflect it in our words and actions.
We react to His love by loving and serving those around us. No longer seeking love, we are free to give it away. We engage in the places where we have influence: our homes, our schools, our jobs, and our communities. Unconditional love prompts the work that takes place.
And, finally, with faith fueling our love, we rest on unshakeable hope. Knowing that God ultimately works for our good, as well as everyone we lay eyes on, the perspective we hold on our circumstances shifts. We recognize that everything we encounter can be a conduit for change and transformation.
We can rest in the hope that He who began a good work within us will see it to completion. When others have had their hopes shattered, we can stand in the gap, help them pick up the pieces, and point them to a better way. We become the church when we allow the chain reaction of faith, love and hope to move in everything we do.
Faith, love, and hope. Which one do you struggle to display most often and how does this influence your ability to live out the others?
In what circumstances or situations for you is there a malfunction in the chain reaction of faith, love, and hope?
God, I thank you for the work You are doing within me. Since encountering Your love, my life hasn't been the same. I want this experience to influence everything about me. May my hopeful eyes and heart filled with love make a difference in the places around me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.