Daily Living in Jesus Christ
Our desire to be practical, to know how to live in our particular times, should never lead us away from Jesus Christ. Our life, life itself, is not about what we can accomplish and figure out. It is about Christ’s accomplishment and how he can be glorified by building upon him. Your list of achievements will be burned up as utterly worthless unless they were drawn from the Savior. All things were made by him and for him. He must have the preeminence, the first and sole place, in all things.
This includes being practical and daily living. Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:3. The apostle tells us the reason he prays and praises God for them. He gives three powerful, useful, and relevant descriptions of the foundation and focus of daily living in Jesus Christ. First, he mentions the “work of faith.” Since faith is God’s work in us, most take this to be the working of faith, the way faith works in us, or the work prompted and produced by faith. Faith in what? In the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith lays hold upon him, draws its life and life-purpose from him. Receiving and resting upon him, faith grows and works.
The daily life and works of the Christian, then, are not self-produced or guilt-induced. They are drawn from Jesus Christ. Marriage and parenting, work and finance, serving and worshipping, none can be done rightly or well unless done by an intentional faith in the Lord Jesus. This means that we must commit each work to him, ask him to bless us with wisdom and strength, endeavor to be guided by his word alone, and go about that particular work with a desire to please him. In his fellowship, even the difficult works and challenging relationships can see progress and truly be called a “work of faith,” a work we undertake because of Jesus Christ, for his sake, and in dependence upon him.
One of faith’s first works is love. After “work of faith” the Spirit of truth adds “labor of love.” This is no small addition. Many are the works we might undertake by faith, only to find them so arduous that we lose heart. Christian living therefore requires love for Christ. It is his love that constrains, motivates, and empowers. It is his love that makes us accept delays in receiving answers to our prayer, for at least we are able to talk to the one we love. It is love that helps us love those whom we find difficult to love, for we see past them to the Savior who loved us when we were impossible to love. It is love that moves past endurance and long-suffering to a real affection and tender regard.
The same areas fall under “labor of love” as “work of faith.” Think of the mother who is very tired from serving her family. She needs to smile, but her face hurts from talking and tears. She is trying to commit the day to the Lord and wants to walk in faith and even support gospel works, as those unnamed women did who were so highly regarded by the apostles (Phil. 4:3). How? Love. Is it our love for Christ? I doubt it seriously. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10). We are not to pray to understand how wondrous our love for Christ is – perish the thought! – but we are commanded to pray to understand how wondrous is his love for us (Eph. 3:19).
Why do we need to know this? First, that he would love us remains one of the great mysteries of time and eternity. We cannot know this unless he tells us, cannot understand unless he humbles, and cannot respond properly unless he enlarges our hearts and minds. The Spirit of God must teach it to our hearts. But second, when we begin to understand this, even a little, we are delivered from performance minded, guilt ridden, self-focused, others-fearing, frustrated piety. The heart melts before his wondrous love. “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom. 8:35-39). “For the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Cor. 5:14). This last idea – constrains – means to hold us together so that we do not fall to pieces. It is Christ’s love for us that holds us together. His love holds our lives together so that we do not fall to pieces under trials, temptations, and weariness.
We must therefore know Christ’s love. John’s confession must become ours: “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). No trial we pass through, no sorrow that pierces, and no fear that stalks alters in the least his love. All truly Christian works are Christ-love works – his love in us working love for him that empowers to serve him and his. Therefore, if we want to be practically useful in our homes, respond wisely to our times, love those around us when we feel strained, and prepare our children to praise and serve him in the future, saturate your life with Christ’s love. Think about his love. Grow in understanding his love. Do not rest in “Jesus loves me,” as if you were doing connect the dot coloring for children. Fill in the dots, see the bigger, eternal picture of his love and loving purposes, and embrace his unchanging love (Zeph. 3:17). Ask him to show you his love. Those whom Christ loves he leads and guides through every dark place.
The last of these three glorious truths for which the apostle praises the Lord is their “patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a very necessary idea to complete the triad of faith and love. In heaven we shall not need hope, but we cannot get to heaven without hope. Hope is the confident expectation that what God has said, he will do. Hope is faith’s life-preserver, for it gives the soul buoyancy. Faith begins sinking under pressure, but hope lifts it back up. The Lord will accomplish his good purposes. I can endure this, because God is faithful and his love unchanging. Faith in God’s word led Paul and Silas to the jail cell for their boldness; hope kept them singing while they were there. Faith empowered Daniel to pray when it was forbidden; hope helped him to walk boldly into the lion’s den. It is no wonder that we are “saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24).
But hope requires patience; patience is born of hope. Think of a particular difficulty you are facing in your home or work. You want to trust God’s promise and be motivated to labor for him by his love. Good feelings come and go. You begin to realize that the quest for heaven will be costly, that the righteous are with great difficulty saved (1 Pet. 4:18). This struggle may last your whole life. God calls you to pray for something that you will never receive or see in this life, and then pass forward the prayer to the next generation. How can we continue like this? By the patience born of hope.
Patience does not say; remove this trial from me. Patience says, “Lord, help me to bear up in this trial. Help me to keep believing you and knowing your love.” Patience does not ask to be delivered from the fire but for the Lord to be with us in the fire. From where does spiritual resilience come? Hope, the confident expectation that God, in his own time and way, will do what he has promised. And from where does hope come? Pay careful attention to the last line in verse 3. “In our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith rests upon Christ; his love holds us together. Hope also leads us straight back to him. How can I be confident in God? Look at Jesus Christ. Look at the cross he endured while he hoped in his Father (Ps. 22:9-10). He lived his entire horrible, tested, assaulted, sorrowful, cross-looming life by hope. My Father will see me through this. He will bring me home.
Fellow believer, we very much need this holy triad of godliness, this power unto faithfulness – faith, love, and hope. It is the way our Savior lived, and we are called to “walk as he walked” (1 John 3:6). And notice the very last thought in verse 3 – “in the sight of God and our Father.” Faith, love, and hope are lived out, enjoyed, freely given, graciously increased, because we now live before his face. “With unveiled face, we behold his glory” – the glory of our Savior, the glory of what God has done for us, the glory that is coming. Be open, then, before the Lord. Confess when your faith is weak. Tell him that your understanding of his love is very foggy and your heart cold. Go and say, “Lord, hope hangs by a thread.” Live before his faith, believer. Renew faith, love, and hope by drawing near to Jesus Christ. He is the One who holds your life together, who holds you together. He will not let you, your family, his church, and his international kingdom of grace fall to pieces. He is building it. Build your life upon his works, the foundation we have in him, the faith, love, and hope that keep growing as we hold fast to him.