Some time ago, I was sharing with a person that is no longer actively involved in a church. When I started to interject spiritual matters, he quickly interrupted that he had given up on the church. I told him that I was glad he had, if he was talking about the brick and mortar, programmable, and secular institution known as the visible church. I told him he was not alone, for there has been a wave of exodus from the organized church searching for the Promised Land. Slowly, he began to open up and share his disappointments with the church. What was sad is that he had legitimate gripes. I shared with him that maybe he had put too much trust in imperfect instruments, and that somewhere along the line, he had transferred his faith in God to faith in his church.
Some of the biggest problems in people’s faith walk are with the church. I know there are some powerful churches that don’t stand between the people and God; instead they stand with the Believers in helping them see the One whom they are to represent. Sadly, these churches are the exception rather than the norm.
The Church is not to be the spiritual babysitter of the Believer, but a worshipping, teaching, preaching center of spiritual growth. It is to be a place of praising, instructing, and heralding God’s word in an atmosphere of holiness.
The church in Thessalonica faced tremendous challenges in the beginning of their new found faith. (Acts 17) They learned that faith was not a simple acceptance of spiritual principles, but a “hands on” developing of a belief that was not contingent on what they saw, but on what God’s word said. They struggled to grasp the reality of the Word. To erase their old way of thinking and acting took an effort. To test the Word with faith took laborious actions. Praying was more than just petitioning, it was seeing the answer before it appeared. Trusting God during those difficult times was a WORK OF FAITH. I believe many new Christians do not understand what a “work of faith” means. Jesus once told a group of followers that they needed to work on believing who He was. (John 6:28, 29) Today, people know about Jesus, but don’t really know Him. The evidence of having a personal experience with Jesus is the work of faith that we display.
The Thessalonians evidenced their work of faith with their LABOR OF LOVE. They reached out and touched the lives of others. It took effort and time, but they did it. The Jehovah Witness movement seems to have adopted the theme of the post office in that they will deliver their message through all kinds of weather, because they have a “labor of love”. I do not agree with their Biblical interpretations, but their love of what they believe is without question. Love is exemplified by action. It is not a token offering, but an energy consuming action. It is not a once a week expression, but a daily effort to help the whosoever’s of our community.
The Believers in Thessalonica developed a PATIENCE OF HOPE. Sometimes things did not display a quick resolve, but they rested with the assurance that what Jesus promised would be fulfilled. They displayed a hope (confident expectation) in His ability to lead them through life’s challenges. When they experienced times of difficulties, they patiently looked ahead with confidence to the victory. Today, Christians want instant gratification. If God doesn’t come through with an immediate answer, we question not only God, but ourselves. When we put our spiritual walk on a time table, we are opening the door to watered-down faith, which leads to our justifying not receiving all the benefits of the Kingdom of God. Let us display our commitment to God by OUR WORK OF FAITH, OUR LABOR OF LOVE, and OUR PATIENCE OF HOPE IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST! (I Thess. 1:3)