Ingredients for Success

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"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 1:3 NIV

In this passage of scripture Paul touches on three things that come out of a healthy Christian life and also what is at the root of each of these things:

  • Our work produced by faith
  • Our labor prompted by love
  • Our endurance inspired by hope

For the first of these three, I think of how scripture says in the book of James that faith without works is dead. The two are always linked together. When we depend on faith alone but are not willing to tie it to action it produces nothing of value to anyone, it is only a thought. On the other side of the coin, when we depend on works alone, we leave out the most important ingredient...God. Without faith we cannot please Him because our works will be tainted by human weakness and our natural sinful nature.

Next he refers to labor. That word, of itself, has no positive connotations for me. We all like to enjoy, as the saying goes, "the fruit of our labor" but from my perspective, the fruit is much easier to enjoy than the work that it takes to produce it. When it comes to sacrificing so that others will benefit, we probably wouldn't do it if we didn't love whoever we were "laboring" for. We want to see them benefit so we are willing to sacrifice for love.

The last thing that Paul addresses is endurance. It takes endurance to live our lives the way that Jesus would want us to because the Christian life certainly isn't the easy path. Hope brings purpose to our work and our labor. Without hope in Christ, I certainly would be living my life differently. If I believe there is no God, then it makes sense to believe there is no eternity. Without eternity the only thing that matters is the limited amount of years that we have on earth, and how many of those we have, none of us can predict. And without being held accountable to Christian standards of living it leaves only me and the belief that the universe revolves around my needs. Living the Christian life goes against our selfish human nature so it takes endurance to keep on living that way. Having hope in Christ elevates His purposes above ours, so even though it is hard to live in a self sacrificing way, we are willing to do it because of Jesus and the unnatural love for others that His Spirit in us brings to our lives.

Lord, as we go about our business today, may we all keep a consciousness of these three blessings, faith, hope, and love, and the wonderful things that they produce in our lives. Amen

 

Inconvenience

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My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. James 2:1 NIV

As Christians we hold this standard because Jesus holds it. He always stood in defense of the person with the least advantage. Whether it was the poor or the widow or a child he spoke against the mistreatment of them, or viewing them as less important. This is a principle that is not hard to agree with. The worldly way is to take advantage of that person and see what you can get from them to feed selfish pride. The Christian way is to help them because they are disadvantaged.

Even though we agree with Christ's example we don't always follow it. How many times do we just ignore the person who is not a part of our own little group of friends or walk right past someone who is in need of help because we don't want to be inconvenienced. Over the thirty plus years that I have been a Christian there is one truth that becomes more and more apparent to me over time and that is this; Living the truth is not convenient. Believing it is a lot easier than living it. The book of James talks a lot about "faith and works" and how they need to be working together to have any value. It takes very little effort to believe something but it takes a whole lot more to put it into action. That is where it can become inconvenient and that is where we can make the choice to separate our actions from what we say we believe because we don't like to be inconvenienced. Nobody does. When I think about what Christ endured because we were disadvantaged in terms of salvation it makes those small inconveniences seem miniscule. 

Lord, may I choose today, to be inconvenienced. Amen. 

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