It’s that time again, time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the new one. And every year I do the same thing. I pen my resolutions with the best of intentions, but my resolve often wains as swiftly as the year (or even the month) progresses.
Why is it so easy to abandon our resolve and determination to change? Why do we give in to our flesh so quickly, rather than rely on the Holy Spirit to help us grow as Christians?
The answer may be found in I Thessalonians 1:3, which states, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”
We all recognize to a certain extent that faith truly is a work. After all, the power of life and death is in our tongues, and we have to first believe and then walk out our faith day by day, even minute by minute at times. Faith is seeing things as they should be, not as they are. Faith is the crossroad where truth triumphs over facts.
So, yes, faith is definitely a work at times, a hard work.
Somehow, I never really thought of hope as our steadfast bedrock though; but it is, isn’t it? When all else fails, Jesus is our one true, unshakable hope of glory. Even death has no sting with the hope of eternal life given to us through His victory on the cross. In the deepest, darkest recess of my being, I always have hope in Christ. He is my rock, my steadfast hope.
But it isn’t those first two parts of this verse that really jump out at me, instead, that “labor of love” reference disturbs me and gets to me. Maybe because it’s such a deliberate choice to love some people; at least it is for me.
It’s not as if I make myself love others. But sometimes, no matter how much I try to reach out and love certain people, my best intentions are misconstrued and rebuffed. So, it’s more like I love them in spite of all circumstances, and I have to love them beyond those circumstances, over and over and over again.
That is why I can say with all honesty that, for me, love is work.
Love is probably a hard undertaking for the people who encounter me at times, especially those closest to me. Whether I choose to admit it or not, I may even be the object of other people’s prayers and resolutions for patience, mercy, and love.
In reality, we all have unlovable times and perturbing traits, but we often choose to ignore our own shortcomings in our thorough and critical evaluations of others. So, if truth be told, being loveable is equally laborious at times.
Not only is love hard work, our Heavenly Father demands love, according to John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
Our love is a very visible measuring stick as well. John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” And our original verse reminds us that everything we do (or don’t do) is conducted in the sight of God.
Plus, this portion of the verse reminds me of something my pastor teaches. He often asks us to ponder how we think God measures our love for Him. Maybe God’s measuring stick for love is a little different from our own; it’s definitely different from the world’s view of love.
God is not necessarily measuring our love through how much we worship or praise Him either, although that is a critical aspect of our relationship with Him. Perhaps God is not even impressed when we love those we adore or those who make it easy to love.
Instead, imagine that God measures our love for Him simply by the way and the amount we love “the least of these,” or the ones in our lives who make it hard or almost impossible to love.
That is a sobering, scary thought. Using that kind of measuring stick, my love for God is not always so impressive.
But in my defense, some folks are downright unlovable, right? In fact, loving some people is more than laborious; it is impossible to love those certain people without the love of Christ working in us.
And there it is. We are right back to our original verse from Thessalonians and right back to one distinct point – loving, living, operating, and being “in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That blessed assurance – Jesus in us – is the hinge pin of everything else in life. He alone has the power and resolve to change us and grow us closer and closer to His own image.
So, if we are going to make a New Year’s resolution, let us resolve to constantly live in the knowledge that He truly is our faith, our love, and our hope. And because of that one miraculous, undeniable truth – Jesus in us – we are more than able to face this new year of 2018 in confidence and victory.
Happy New Year!