Faith That Works, Love That Labors, Hope That Endures

Knickknacks, bric-a-brac, gewgaw—whatever name you want to use, it all serves the same purpose: nothing. Well, except for dust-collecting, I suppose. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. If you’re a collector of knickknacks, I apologize. I’m sure they’re lovely. But you must admit, they don’t do anything but sit there looking pretty, taking up space, and requiring dusting. 

Unfortunately, most of us have some bric-a-brac in our spiritual lives. Good things that sit around doing nothing. However, unlike knickknacks and doodads, this is not the intended purpose of spiritual attributes. The holy trio of virtues—faith, hope, and love—ought to be more than just trinkets on the shelf of the Christian. They’re intended to be the fuel and engine of a disciple of Christ.

Faith That Works 

In writing to a faithful church in Thessalonica, Paul commends his friends: 

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Paul first praises the Thessalonians for their faith that produces work. Initially, this may rub you the wrong way. “Sola fide!” (by faith alone)the Reformers cried. And we carry the same torch today, loudly heralding this precious gospel truth. Paul, of course, led that charge before Luther or Calvin. It was he who said, “You are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” (Eph. 2:8). Paul is not advocating that the Thessalonians did anything to assist in or supplement their faith for salvation. Instead, Paul teaches us that while a person is saved through faith alone, that saving faith will never be alone.

Belief in the Gospel—the vicarious death, humble burial, and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ—must motivate us to work. This is exactly the argument made by James: 

Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? (James 2:20)

Faith without works, James argues, is worthless, like an airplane without wings. 

Perhaps you’re wondering what working faith looks like. The answers to this question are many, but here are a few ideas. 

  • Get busy in ministry. Faith that works will work in the church. If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve been gifted by the Holy Spirit so that you can contribute to your local church. If you’re sitting on the bench of your church, it’s possible that you have knickknack faith—it’s just sitting there useless. Find a ministry and dive in.
  • Care for the least of these. While your spiritual gifts are specifically designed for use in the church, faith should also work outside of the doors of a local body of believers. Can you help the needy in your area? Foster children? Provide respite care? Volunteer at a nursing home or soup kitchen? No doubt your community has avenues of service waiting to be pursued.
  • Spend time on the spiritual disciplines. Getting up an hour or half-hour early to spend time in God’s Word is hard. It’s work. But faith that works willingly makes sacrifices for what’s truly important. If your Bible remains closed between Sundays, that may be an indication that your faith has become a dust-collecting doodad. Reading God’s Word and spending time in prayer are not strings to pull with God; His grace has already been bestowed upon you freely and without any hidden costs. But true saving faith will work; if it doesn’t, it probably wasn’t saving faith to begin with. 

Love That Labors

When Paul commends the Thessalonians’ “work produced by faith,” he uses a word that means “enterprise” or “industry.”1 However, the word he uses in describing their “labor motivated by love,” connotes “intense labour united with toil and trouble.”2 If you have any experience with relationships, you understand why Paul would choose this word to describe the work involved in dealing with other people. 

“Labor motivated by love” is back-breaking toil with and for other people that comes from an understanding of the love shown to you in Christ. No greater example of love or labor could possibly be given: 

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Because Jesus, the very God-man, willingly bore the wrath of God on our behalf, we can begin to understand the love with which we’re called to love our neighbors. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and often painful. It requires that we lay down our rights, our preferences, our time, and our possessions. 

Again, examples of love that labors could fill volumes, but consider these few ways to love like Jesus did: 

  • Forgive. Nothing feels more like lemon juice on a paper cut than having to forgive. Forgiveness requires that we surrender our rights to vindication and vengeance, accepting instead the sovereign providence of God. It necessitates courage as we accept the possibility that the same crime might be perpetrated against us a second (or third or fourth or fiftieth) time. It demands a long gaze at the cross as we remember the debt we have been forgiven (Col. 3:12–13).
  • Be patient. People cause problems. It’s just a fact. The cause of every war, every divorce, every conflict can be traced back to the same single source—people. (Yes, I know it’s the sinfulness of the people’s hearts, but stay with me.) People require a great deal of patience. From the terrible twos to hormonal adolescence to awkward adulthood, we all require patience from the people around us. And that in itself is backbreaking work (at least for me).
  • Leave your comfort zone. Comfort zones are like sweatpants and slippers. And like you, I’d prefer to stay in them all the time. However, it’s often much easier for me to zip up the jeans and slip on the boots than to take a timid step outside of my comfort zone to talk to a stranger or to share the gospel with a family member or ask a probing question. Unless I’m motivated by the same love that motivated Jesus to surrender the glories of heaven to enter a sin-cursed world and endure the worst it has to offer, I will stay in my comfortable bubble.
  • Be vulnerable. Frankly, this could easily fall under the comfort zone category, but I think it deserves its own attention. So here it is. It’s hard for me to ask another person a probing question, but it’s even harder to answer one. I’d much rather take genuine interest in someone else than have to come clean about my own shortcomings. Vulnerability tastes like gasoline in my mouth. However, though it requires great work on my part, I cannot truly love another person if I always hide behind a wall of defense. Of course, not every relationship demands the same level of vulnerability. But if I have zero relationships in which I’m willing to be totally authentic, that’s a problem. 

Endurance Fueled by Hope

Faith that works and love that labors do not just appear out of the air. They result from a bedrock hope. Not a “hope” as in a wishful thought, but “hope” as in the certainty of the sunrise after a difficult night. This hope is not a pension, a bank account, a degree, a relationship, a home, a scholarship, a vacation, or a lake house. It is a Person: Jesus Christ Himself. Or, more specifically, it’s the certainty that He is coming again and that He “rules the world with truth and grace.”3

Paul explains this enduring hope in 2 Corinthians: 

Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

When we consider the eternal reality of future grace, two inevitable outcomes will occur: our faith will produce work, and our love will be motivated to toil.

Therefore, as Peter exhorts, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

This February, Revive Our Hearts is your one-stop shop for up-to-date relationship resources built on the timeless, trustworthy Word of God. Stop by Your Relationship HQ and browse our relationship resource collectionstoday!

"G2041 - Ergon - Strong's Greek Lexicon (CSB),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed February 8, 2023,

“G2873 - Kopos - Strong's Greek Lexicon (CSB),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed February 8, 2023, 

Lyrics from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts.

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at

Join the Discussion