“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
If you watch a runner competing in the London Marathon, one of the important qualities that they require to finish the race is endurance. They will need to overcome physical hardships and keep on going even when their body would want to give up. What is it that keeps them going when the easiest thing to do would be to quit? There can be any number of personal reasons which motivate them to keep on running and not give up. Deep down inside them they refuse to quit and are determined to finish the race no matter the cost. This is what drives them on to the end.
When Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, he remembered their endurance before God. However, the endurance of the Thessalonians was not one that was based on their own determination but instead it was inspired by their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we use the word hope it is often in the context of optimistically wishing something might happen which may be unlikely e.g. “I hope that it is dry tomorrow” or “I hope my team win the Champions League!” However, this is not the way that the word hope is used in the bible. The Greek word here is taken from one that means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure.” It signifies an expectation or confidence. This of course is not in ourselves but in the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul reminds us.
Many years ago, we used to sing a worship song that contained the line “we have a hope that is steadfast and certain.” The Christian hope is indeed one that is certain and unwavering. It is a trust in the One whom God raised from the dead and who is currently interceding on our behalf at the Father’s right hand. Our hope is not dependent on either our feelings or circumstances but instead it is based in the eternal God.
Today in many countries around the world Christians are persecuted for their faith in Christ. In North Korea just being known as a Christian is enough for an individual to be sent to one of the horrific labour camps in that country. Yet despite this Christians are prepared to suffer and die for Christ. What gives them the strength to continue in these circumstances? One of the answers to this is contained in Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians “your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do you have this hope that Paul describes?