We christian mysticism 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 1:2-3 (TNIV).
We read here Paul’s thankfulness for the believers at the capital of the province of Macedonia, for he and the faithful there had experienced much vigilant opposition (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 1:6). At Thessalonica there had been rioting and revolt. This had all been brought about by Satan’s virulent presence there at the time–through some jealous Jews who’d ’rounded up some bad characters’–and this even prevented Paul’s planned return (Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thess. 2:18).
Paul is ironically humble and thankful regarding these trials, however. Though he is ‘orphaned' and effectively separated from the Thessalonians ‘for a (short) time–even an hour,' he reflects thankfully on their mutual faithfulness in the Holy Spirit.
And this seed-bed environment of ‘severe suffering,’ together with the welcoming of the Holy Spirit with joy manifest through faith, love and hope, produces a thank-filled hope beyond the clutches of the world. And Paul is further glad of this, because the faithful in Thessalonica were models to people all through Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7-8), and even to us, today, in how to approach the genuine Christian life, through a working faith, love and hope.
In fact, this is a biblical principle. “The history of the churches in Macedonia teaches us that suffering is the matrix out of which strong and healthy churches [and Christians] can emerge.” Indeed, anyone–and this is the truth and wisdom of universal law–can draw strength and health and hope from, and upon, the endurance of suffering.
Paul lauds the ‘grace by faith’ tradition in all his letters, particularly Galatians and Romans, but here he places it in context with works, agreeing with James. Faith does produce works. Good work does bear fruit.
Love is the goad behind all true good works, by virtue of its mystically motivating and innately self-propelling action. Love cannot hope to hold back. It sees a need and enters the fray, urgently, willingly, but never forcefully. We always work best, and in joyous candour, when love stokes our furnace.
Isn’t it supposed to be, ‘faith, hope, love,’ and in that order? Not in this instance. The underpinning premise is hope. “True faith’s work is never wasted, real love’s labour is never lost, hope’s resilience is never disappointed.”
And hope leads us to thankfulness…
Hope precedes thankfulness, for we cannot be thankful without being hopeful. Hopefulness propels us to where thankfulness is bound i.e. from reflection. And also hope succeeds thankfulness; one informs the other. Hope leads to thankfulness which further leads to hope and so on.