September 3, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention 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.
Paul cannot stop thinking about the Thessalonians and their work, toil and endurance. Their response to the Gospel compelled them to labor in the presence of the Lord and it led Paul to pray incessantly. And this is the nature of the day’s labor for believers. One good work evokes another good work and one “constantly” evokes another “constantly.” Sometimes the very thing we need to endure is to recall the work others have done.
There is an adverb in the greeting from Paul to the Thessalonians that reminds me of my godmother. My parents would drop me off at her house during the summer while they went to redeem whatever was left undestroyed in the buildings they taught in. Occasionally I would convince them to let me stay the night. I was three feet tall and my Godmother was at best four-foot-eleven. We would climb in the bed and I would hear the sound of her whispering to a “Father” or “Father God” and occasionally hear my name also. At three in the morning, I rolled over to whispering; a living foreshadowing of the adverb adialeptos that I would read much later in life in the Greek of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Even difficult circumstances can bring about adialeptos (incessantly, without intermission) good work in us. In this case Paul incessantly thinks and prays for the Thessalonians.
There are people who leave such a profound effect on you that it compels you to talk to the one who made them. Some people’s candor and work are something so noble you cannot help but to thank God and cheer them on. To remind them to weep—but not to weep like those with no hope. In Paul’s case it was not one person but a whole church in the entire city. His remembrance and reflection about the work of these Thessalonians resulted in one implication that evoked his perpetual thanksgiving and constant prayer: they responded to the Gospel.
The Gospel reminds us that we are being conformed to the image of the Son. It also reminds us that we labor with the same tools and hands and feet as others, but with different motives and results. In many cases we do the same thing but with a different song in our hearts. Because Paul was not there and involved with the day-to-day, he got the pleasure of knowing that the presence of the Lord is actually sufficient. He learned from this early church community a good lesson in life for leaders: that the same Spirit that hovered over the waters in the creation account is holding Gospel communities together in their work also. They worked (for each other and in the city) because they had faith (trusted) the Lord. They toiled in difficulty even if things do not work out because God’s love loved them first. They bore down under pressure because their hope was in Jesus.
And this is the nature of the day’s labor for believers. One good work evokes another good work and one “constantly” evokes another “constantly.” We work sometimes by remembering other believers’ work. The Thessalonians received the Gospel message that rang out without intermission, and they responded by working together incessantly. And while Paul may not be present to get involved with the day-to-day activities, it is not as though he was not working with them. Perhaps at three or four in the morning you could hear him calling on the Father in heaven and mentioning the Thessalonians also.
Who are the brothers and sisters in your workplace, neighborhood and local church that compel you to say “We cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)?
When God brings other believers to memory and the work they do for Him and others, what is the result for you?
As you look at the workplace, neighborhood, and the local assembly of believers, pick one and write a letter. Pen a few words to a person (or people) telling them why you “always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” What might your words of encouragement do for their own labor of love?
God, please make me a person who cannot stop thinking about you and my fellow brothers and sisters. Help me to see the work of my local church and my fellow saints in my workplace. Keep our trust in you so we will work, our love so that we will toil in spite of what may happen, and our objective hope so that we endure until your Son’s return. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Working Faith, Finishing Up, and Keeping the Faith (1 Thess. 1:1–4:8; 4:13–5:28; 2 Thess. 1:1-2:17)
DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.