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.

1 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul praised the Thessalonians for essentially three things: 1) their work, 2) their labor, and 3) their endurance. But what is so interesting is what produced each of these: faith, hope and love. It’s not the only time Paul would write about how these three fit together (1 Corinthians 13:13).

In Christ, we will work hard for the gospel. Work is from the Lord and is a good thing. But our work doesn’t come from a place of striving. It comes from faith. James wrote about how work and faith go together when he said, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”(James 2:18). In other words, real faith produces action. Real faith will work.

Then Paul mentions that the Thessalonians’ labor was prompted by love. The word translated “labor” in the Greek is the word kopos. It means “laborious toil involving weariness and fatigue.” We have here the image of a woman in labor, fatigued by the process of delivery. Ultimately, it is the unconditional love the mother has for her baby that gives her the strength to labor. Love is capable of doing what seems impossible. Love will labor through just about anything.

Finally, Paul mentions their endurance inspired by hope. When a marathon runner hits the wall in the middle of the race, it is the hope of the finish line that gives them the endurance to keep going. Hopelessness saps all our energy and steals our ability to press through hardship. But hope is energizing. Hope keeps a person going long after they should have given up. Hope sustains us and gives us endurance.

Faith, hope, and love: the essential trinity of character formation–the superfood fruits of the Spirit. Faith, hope, and love produce people who can work hard, labor through difficulty, and have endurance for the long haul.