I want to talk to you about “three wee words” that should be making an enormous impact on us as Christians and us as a church. Those words are FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE. 1 Thessalonians has a good claim to be the first book of the New Testament to be written. (it’s a close run thing with Galatians) So in 1 Thess we get the earliest insight into the thinking of the church. Verse three really caught my attention because in it Paul talks about what stood out to him about these first generation believers and their church.
1:3 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 Thess
Someone has summed that verse up by saying that this church existed through, living by faith, being known for love and being a voice of hope. Actually, this focus on faith, hope and love wasn’t unique to the church in Thessalonia we find the same phrase used several times in the NT suggesting it should be the ethos of all churches. The spiritual atmosphere of a church should be characterised by faith, hope and love. I’ve been wondering what that should look like in practical terms? I have been trying to think why the ethos created by living by faith, being known for love and being a voice of hope created so much spiritual energy and effectiveness in the churches of the New Testament?
I am wondering whether this ethos of faith, hope and love makes such an impact because it controls where a church focuses its attention and priorities. It seems for many of the churches I know, the main focus is on themselves. Now no church actually comes out and says that but when you look at the decisions that the church makes it soon becomes pretty clear that the main motivation in their decision making processes is, themselves. They generally make decisions based on what suits them, what will be best for them perhaps financially, what causes least disruption and potential conflict etc. At Westlake we maybe need to think to what extent we are inwardly focused?
Thinking about it seems to me that faith, hope and love have such potential power because they redirect our focus as individuals and churches away from ourselves. When a Church truly is living a community life marked by faith, love and hope then it creates a sort of spiritual centrifugal force that turns the attention of the church upwards and outwards. When we live by faith, our focus is on God. When we are living to build a reputation for love, our focus is on others. We become a voice of hope when we focus on the Kingdom of God rather than our immediate circumstances or what our culture expects or demands. So, faith, hope and love create outwardly focused Christians and churches and so act as the antidote to a selfish self absorption with our own well being or self interest that can so easily preoccupy us. You cannot be self interested and live by faith in the God of Scripture. You cannot be selfish if you are becoming known for love and you cannot be self absorbed if you are voicing the hope embodied in the Kingdom of God. At every opportunity I am going to remind myself and us a body of believers that we are called to live by faith, be known for love and be a voice of hope. I’m praying that Westlake really would be a church, that lives by faith, is known for love and is a voice of hope that as a result we focus our attention and energy in the direction that it should be focused, outwardly, on God, on others and on the Kingdom of God