Paul was going crazy not knowing how the new believers at Thessalonica were doing. He had been forced to flee by night after the Jews had stirred up a mob and set the city in an uproar over Paul’s convincing persuasion among many that, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts. 17:1-10). But while Paul had escaped the Jews’ vigilante justice, those who had believed were left behind to deal with the opposition and persecution on a day by day basis.
How would their faith hold up? That was the question pressing on Paul’s mind. So when he could bear it no longer, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to find out.
Five times the word “faith” appears in 1Thessalonians 3. That’s what Paul wanted to know about, their faith. How was it fairing in the midst of daily afflictions?
And, as I hover over this chapter, what occurs to me is that while faith may be the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1 NKJV), standing fast might just be the substance of faith.
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you–for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.
(1Thessalonians 3:6-8 ESV)
Timothy returned with good news about their faith. A faith not only to a creed, but a faith that was manifesting its authenticity through love. Which, for Paul, was the only thing that counted for anything–“faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). And so Paul was greatly comforted by the report of their faith. It was like cold water to Paul’s thirsty soul (Pr. 25:25). In fact, says the apostle, it infused him with new life to know that they were standing fast in the Lord.
Might not be reading this quite right, but seems to me Paul equated a living faith with standing fast in the Lord. That though faith might be intangible, its reality was observable. They were standing firm, thus their faith was active. They endured, and so, Paul’s concerns about the state of the faith, were alleviated.
While love, joy, and peace might be the fruit of the Spirit, seems that perseverance is at least one of the evidences of faith. That persistence is an outward sign of an inward reality. That the degree to which we believe the promise is demonstrated by how we hold up under pressure. That what we really, really believe is going to be evident in how we really, really behave . . . regardless of the circumstance.
We were saved by faith. And we are being saved by faith.
. . . And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .
(Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
The Thessalonians were hanging in there. Paul rejoiced at Timothy’s report. And the thanks went to God.
For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.
(1Thessalonians 3:9 ESV)
Our mustard seeds of faith, His unfailing faithfulness. Our holy determination, His steadfast provision.
We know that’s the unseen dynamic when we find ourselves keepin’ on keepin’ on.
That while faith might be the substance of things hoped for, standing fast in the Lord is the substance of things believed.
Only by grace. Only for His glory.