By Pastor Jeremy Bailey
The theme of our morning service last Sunday was “Evidence of Spiritual Life”. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was convinced that his readers showed evidence of being Christians. He believed that “things that accompany salvation” were present in their lives (Hebrews 6 v 9). There were three things that he looked for, and found, in their lives: Love, Hope and Faith. We find this triad of graces everywhere in the New Testament. I will give you one to get you going and then encourage you to look for more, especially in the letters. In 1 Corinthians 13 verse 13 we are told that “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I have also used another passage in the Bible, which mentions these three, as the basis for our devotions today.
Brief Devotional: Evidence of Life
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1 v 3.
Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians has long been a favourite of mine. When I started as a Pastor in a little village in Essex we spent some very blessed and happy Sunday mornings hearing the message of this little book. It is so joyful because Paul had nothing but praise for the church that had been born out of great suffering. Every time he thought of them he was filled with thanksgiving. He prayed for them regularly. When he prayed he thanked God for them as he remembered their faith, love and hope. There is no particular order in mentioning these three graces. In Hebrews it was love, hope and faith; in Corinthians it was faith, hope and love; here it is faith, love and hope! The reason there is no particular order is that each one of these must and will be found in every Christian.
But how do you see faith, hope and love? They are inward graces. They are matters of the heart. They are given by God when we are born again of the Holy Spirit and drawn to Christ as our Saviour and Lord. Nevertheless, we and other people can see that they are present. In 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 3, Paul says that their faith was shown in their work, their love was shown in their labour and their hope was shown in their endurance. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
The first phrase he uses is “your work of faith”. The NIV adds “Your work produced by faith” The word work here means a task, an action. Faith will always be seen in action. It is because we believe that we engage in various activities for the good of others and the glory of God. As James tells us, faith apart from works is dead (James 2 v 17). We see faith only when it is put into practice. It is seen in the way we live our lives day by day. We make choices and act in certain ways because we believe and trust in Jesus Christ and we want to please him in all we do.
The second phrase is “your labour of love”. Again, the NIV adds something, “Your labour prompted by love.” The word labour here is a stronger word for work. It is the word Jesus used in John 4 verse 38 when he said that others had done the hard work. It involves toil and trouble to love someone. You put yourself out in order to put them first. Love is not emotional but it can be emotionally draining! It is evidence that you love God when you love others, especially the family of God.
The final phrase is “your endurance of hope”. The word endurance is a common word in the New Testament. It means patient endurance, steadfastness, perseverance. Our hope in our Lord Jesus Christ enables us to keep going. We look ahead to the goal of our faith, which is being with Christ for ever. It is that which inspires us to endure the trouble and trials of the way.
So how do you recognise a Christian? You see someone who is living every day for the Lord Jesus, doing all they can for others because their faith is being worked out in action. You see that they believe because it moves them to live in a certain way. You see someone who loves others, not for what they get from the relationship, but for what they can give. They are hard at work for the good of others even when they receive nothing in return. You see someone who puts up with all sorts of hardship and trouble because they seem to have their sights set on something beyond this life. They live for Jesus Christ and all that he has done for them and will do for them in the future. Faith, hope and love are made visible in these ways. You see them in action in a Christian. Where you see them, you see a Christian man, woman or young person. Are they seen in you?
Brief Prayer Requests
1. The First Minister made a number of announcements last Friday in lifting the Covid 19 restrictions. Although he mentioned children’s playgrounds and community centres, he didn’t say anything about Places of Worship. However, in the written statement the Welsh Government included a paragraph that says “Faith leaders can begin to gradually resume services when they are ready to do so safely.” You may hear more during this week about what is being allowed. However, there will be some detailed guidance published by the Welsh Government soon. It is likely to include a lot of details to enable us to reopen safely. These will take some time to work through as a leadership. So please don’t expect us to open up immediately. Rather, please pray that we will have wisdom to do what is right for the good of all who gather and for the glory of God.
2. There are two groups of people in our church who need especial prayer: the very elderly and vulnerable, and the young people. Both have been greatly affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. Their activities have been severely curtailed and they have been restricted to their homes.
3. Adrian Carey Jones has sent the latest Support for Romania newsletter. In it he asks for prayer for the Emanuel Hospice and for Pastors. The Hospice has adapted so that its patients are protected. Thank God that none has contracted the virus, but of course they all “continue their steady march into eternity”. The Pastors need our prayers as many are on very low salaries already. Andrei Miraute has faced challenges as his wife Ligia’s job was reduced to part time hours and part time pay during the crisis. Like many others, they relied on her wages to support themselves.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday.
Wed 15th Acts 2 Thursday 16th Acts 3
Friday 17th Acts 4 Saturday 18th Acts 5
Sunday 19th Acts 6 Monday 20th Acts 7
Tuesday 21st Acts 8 Wed 22nd Acts 9
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 13th July 2020