“… your work produced by faith…”
1 Thessalonians 1:3
Paul gives thanks to God for the work done by the believers in Thessalonica that is produced by faith. He also thanks God for the great change in the lives of the believers. This change is on account of their faith; in verse 9 Paul says that they have turned from idols to serve the living and true God. So a believer lives by faith, but what does that mean? To have faith in Jesus Christ is to believe in him even though you do not see him. The opposite of faith is to live by sight, as Thomas wanted to do in John 20:24-31.
Let us reflect for a moment on what living by sight might look like. Imagine for a moment if the Lord Jesus came to speak to us in human form. For example, he could say to you, “I see that you are watching pornography.” At that moment you would be faced with an inescapable choice: either to confess your sin and ask for forgiveness, or to ignore the Lord and tell him to mind his own business. Imagine again if Jesus were to confront you with your hatred and anger against someone. Again, you could confess your sin and pray the Lord to give you strength to overcome your anger, or you could tell him to mind his own business.
Indeed, if the Lord Jesus were to come to you in person, it would change your life in profound ways. There is no way in which the coming of Christ into your life cannot and will not change you. Now, Christ will not physically walk into your life until the day when he returns from heaven, but by then it will be too late to change. The point Paul makes is that Christ did come into the life of the Thessalonians in another way: he entered into their life when Paul came preaching the gospel to them. In the gospel Jesus Christ speaks to mankind about his work of life and salvation, saying, “I am your Lord and Saviour. I gave my life on the cross so that you may have the forgiveness of your sins and life everlasting.”
And so Christ also walks into your life today through the preaching of the gospel. Although the minister who proclaims the gospel does not know what is living in your heart, yet the Lord Jesus does know what lives in your heart, and he speaks directly to your heart through that gospel. The minister might not be able say to you, “I see you struggle with porn,” or, “I see you struggle with anger in your heart,” yet when he preaches the gospel, it is Jesus Christ who says to you, “I see what is going on in your heart.
“Listen, I have paid for your sins on the cross. Therefore repent of your sins and follow me, and I will encourage and strengthen you in your fight against the sinful desires in your heart.” This is why Paul speaks about your work produced by faith. It means that you do not yet live by sight but the Lord Jesus does speak to you in the gospel. It is by faith that you believe Jesus when he speaks to you about the promise of forgiveness and life in the gospel. It is by faith that you believe that one day he will again return from heaven to rescue and deliver us from the coming wrath of God’s judgment. It is that faith in Jesus Christ that changes our life and motivates us to produce works of faith to the glory of God.