By Dr. Grant Richison

(This article is the second of three in a series from Dr. Grant Richison’s lecture “Expect Great Things from God”. Click here to read part 1 of this series.)

The Thessalonian church was a congregation that expected great things from God. First Thessalonians 1:3 gives three motivations for this expectation:

". . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father."

1) "Your work of faith"

True Christian work always originates in faith. Look at your production in life. Now look at your faith. Is there any connection? True faith shows itself in work. A faith that is dynamic, active, and real rather than static and lifeless will produce divine work. Dynamic faith will have a major impact on missions.

The essential element to faith is its focus. If our faith focus is credible, then we can trust that point of belief. Faith claims the promises of God. Faith rests upon provision from God, not on our resources. We can work by our own effort or we can work under the power of God. A contractor can carry the bricks himself or he can obtain others to do it. The resources of his business allow him to hire others to do the work. Every Christian has the capital of God's resources. The difference between Christians is some use their God-given resources and others do not. When we utilize assets from God, we produce results. We can expect great things from God by faith.

2) "Labor of Love"

The second motivation of the Thessalonians was their "love." The Greek puts it as "your labor, the one out of love.” Biblical love is more than sentiment. We confuse cultural love with true biblical love. Agape love is willingness to sacrifice for others. To love sacrificially is to labor until it hurts.

The word "labor" means labor to the point of exhaustion. It is a love of blood, sweat, and tears. Self-sacrificial love moves us to labor for Christ. This love is willing to toil and to pay a price. Love activates arduous labor.

Our love labor for the Lord only dims when Calvary dims to us and we forget the cost of our salvation.

3) "and patience of hope"

Hope has to do with conviction. Thessalonian endurance came from confidence in God’s provisions for eternity.

People who exercise "hope" do not operate on baseless optimism. The English word for ‘hope’ communicates the idea of wishful thinking, but Biblical hope is no mere wish. It does not produce such an idea as "I have this wonderful ideal that people all over the world will come to Christ. I hope it works out." No, hope carries the idea that we have assurance in the future because of who God is. The notion of hope in the Bible is the concept of confidence, assurance, and certainty.

This kind of hope produces steadfast endurance through trouble. Hope helps the believer bear up any trial that come his way. However, this term does not simply convey unadulterated perseverance but a perseverance that goes beyond resignation to problems; it endures with a quality of life.

Hope helps us claim the promises of God. People who want to advance the cause of Christ in the world cannot give up. They must grab hold of what God wants in the world and hang onto it. These people never give up, although they may fail many times. They hang in there. Few people possess this kind of vision. Perseverance flows from hope.

Biblical hope is no sheer human determination based on blind fate. This is hope based on confidence in God and His promises.

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

Advancement in missions comes from a faith that inspires, from a love that motivates, and from a confidence that rouses us to action.

The world needs Christians with strong convictions. We look up to people with resolute beliefs who are willing to suffer and to persevere. God wants us fully persuaded, not just obedient.

Christians who speak the gospel message out of a sense of certainty are the most successful in ministry. It is clear that the most aggressive evangelistic success—whether in local churches, in missions, or in ministries—comes from a conviction about the certainty of the truth of the gospel. Method does not bring passion for the gospel; only the gospel message itself impassions people to share the claims of Christ.

Everyone has convictions but not everyone has biblical convictions. Principles and passions of the Word must filter everything that comes to our mind. The Bible always takes precedence over our opinions and experiences. Wrong understanding or interpretation of Scripture will eventuate wrong behavior. This will negate the influence of the Word about missions on our lives.

How do we retrieve burning passion for missions? Burning conviction is a result, not a cause. Compelling passion comes from confident belief that something is true. Passion for missions is the outcome, not the reason, for attempting great things for God.

One area that unites evangelicals is the call to world evangelism. If this call to missions does not rest on the conviction of a compelling gospel, then no other motivation will support that conviction.

People need a certain place to stand, a point of reference beyond the self. Peter asserted that we have a conviction that is "more sure" than personal experience:

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; wher unto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19)

"More sure" than what? More sure than the 3 apostles personally witnessing Jesus' transfiguration. Second Peter 1:16 says that Peter, James, and John actually observed Jesus transfigured on the Mount of Olives. They were eyewitnesses of the experience.

They personally heard the voice of God on the Mount (1:18), yet Peter said that they had "a more sure word of prophecy" than the Mount experience (1:19). The Word of God is surer than the apostle's witness of the Transfiguration. We can trust God's Word more than we can trust our own personal experience. We can trust the empirical evidence of the trio seeing the transfiguration, but we can trust the message of the Word of God even more. That is eternal leverage.

Lack of faith equates to lack of conviction and expectation. The Bible deems faith as conviction. Conviction is a strong belief or persuasion. It implies a conviction that is based upon trust, not upon knowledge. It was the message of assured grace that was a catalyst for Paul's service:

"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)

And it is certainty and conviction which makes us confident in the gospel.

This article is based on the address that Dr. Grant Richison delivered at the 2017 AIM Fall Leadership Seminar Suppers in Manitoba. Dr. Richison serves as Vice-President Theology with AIM.

posted on April 18, 2018
Advancing Indigenous Missions 2018