Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Three virtues

Over Thanksgiving break, I finally saw the latest Pixar film, Ratatouille. It traces the life of a cute little rat name Remy who has a knack for cooking. Remy develops his culinary skills in a rural French home, but finally hits it big when he arrives at the famed restaurant Gasteau's. As the film reaches a climax, the staff at Gasteau's are challenged to please the highly critical palate of the food critic Anton Ego. And of course, they succeed. What does it take to please him? A savory dish of every child's favorite meal - Ratatouille.

I'm sure that pleasing a food critic is quite an achievement. But what would it take to please the Apostle Paul? Although he didn't give out compliments indiscriminately, apparently he was quite pleased with the church at Thessalonica.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, Paul says,

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;

These people weren't perfect by any means. But they were showing remarkable progress for a church only one year old. Three virtues in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 stand out about this church that should distinguish each of our lives as well.
  • "your work of faith" - We must place all of our faith, or trust, for eternal salvation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this faith should drive us to engage in the everyday ministries of a Christian. "Work" is a common word for business, activity, ministry, and task. So, whether it's visiting a widow, or hosting a lunch, or leading a Bible study, our faith should drive us to regularly work and exercise our gifts.
  • "and labor of love" - The word "labor" looks more at the effort and even pain sometimes required to fulfill an activity. It notices the sweat on the brow, strain on the muscles, groans from exhaustion, and wrinkles of concern. Sometimes ministry is hard work. But what motivates us to press on when times are tough is love - a love for God, and a love for others that actually puts their interests above our own.
  • "and steadfastness of hope" - "Steadfastness" or "endurance" means to remain under pressure and keep bearing the weight, like a jack under the frame of a car. Only hope gives us endurance during life's most difficult trials. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don't need to fear evil, for God is with us. We have absolute confidence in the second coming of Jesus Christ, our glorious resurrection, and the final judgment of all evil. That should cause us to endure!
Oh, that more of us would exemplify these precious virtues in our lives.

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