Chuck Rapp | global professional and mentor
“Faith, hope, and love” is not a catchy one-off in Scripture; it’s a foundational tenet. As I studied the Bible recently, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 leapt off the page, arresting my attention: “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.”
The apostle Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for:
I’m an engineer. (It’s both a blessing and a curse; fellow engineers and their spouses will understand!) That’s why I frequently think of things in terms of cause and effect. In this instance from 1 Thessalonians, believers’ faith, hope, and love result in work, labor, and endurance. As our Christian faith, hope, and love increase, we may expect commensurate progress in our work, labor, and endurance. This is part of normal Christian growth or maturity.
Keeping First Things First
As I pondered this passage, I realized Paul had an intended order in mind:
Our work for the Lord is in response to his love, not an attempt to earn his love. This runs counter to what we often experience in the workplace. During my career, particularly in the early years, my motivation to work hard was to impress others, be they clients, coworkers or supervisors. I worked to please and/or to gain their favor and approval. From a human perspective, I found that sometimes this was successful, but on occasion my hard work was simply greeted by indifference and expectations for more. Talk about disappointment and de-motivation!
Our work for the Lord
is in response to his love,
not an attempt to earn his love.
As the years passed, I learned a better approach from what Paul wrote: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). While I continued to work hard, my motivation —my Audience —changed. I began to see how my good work glorified God. Usually, others were satisfied. But I was no longer held hostage to their approval, and this brought tremendous freedom to me in my workplace. Because my cause had changed, the effect was the welcome release of not being driven to please others.
Cause and Effect
Paul clearly and skillfully addresses the relationship between God’s grace and our works in Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God —not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Having received God’s grace (cause), we work or labor to serve him and his Kingdom in ways he has equipped and empowered us (effect). We reverse those two at our own peril, forfeiting his enabling power and often resulting in frustration and suboptimal results. It’s not pretty!
Pressing on for the Prize
Last, hope yields endurance. Life is not always a pleasant journey. We say, “Life happens,” yet hope sustains us. Romans 5:3-5 encourages us:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Paul once again uses cause and effect language. Because of our hope in both God’s present and future Kingdom (the now and not yet), we have stamina to continue. Paul put it this way: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
My Type A personality is all about avoiding being ineffective and unproductive. And I still enjoy others’ appreciation. However, I am no longer driven by that need nor by my human attempts to earn God’s love and approval. I am secure in both my work and my relationship with Jesus Christ. ●
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Chuck Rapp’s professional career includes roles in technical sales, engineering management, and IT quality/project management. He recently retired from a Fortune 500 company after having also worked in small business. A traveler to more than 45 countries, Chuck, a Missional Impact mentor, now spends his spare time reading and running half-marathons. Send a question or message to Chuck.