"But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?" (1st Thessalonians 3:6-10)As any parent will attest, there are times when, even in the business and trials of the day, your mind is still distracted by the concerns you carry for your children. This was Paul. He continued to face opposition in every city he preached, but there was still that lingering care and concern for the Thessalonians. It was only when Timothy returned and reported that they had remained strong in their faith, the love for one another, and their love for Paul and those who had brought them the Gospel, that Paul's mind was put at ease and he was able to once again face the challenges of the day with a renewed joy in his heart.
The evidence and hallmark of a true and genuine conversion in the Lord is faith and love; faith in God and love for one another. It is from these two virtues that the rest of the Kingdom of God flows. Paul says that, "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) In fact, faith working through love is one of the simplest and most practical definitions of "righteousness." We further see this when Paul later writes to the Thessalonians about "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and to the Ephesians of "the breastplate of righteousness." (Ephesians 6:14) Righteousness is nothing more than faith expressing itself through love! Paul saw the evidence of their salvation because he saw the evidence of their righteousness, that being their faith and love.
Having established righteousness in our hearts and adopted a lifestyle of living our faith through our love, what more remains of the Christian walk? Paul here speaks of "standing firm" yet other places he speaks of running the race (1st Corinthians 9:24) and fighting the good fight (1st Timothy 6:12). The truth is that often, standing still, takes contest and it takes fight. Contest with the world and fight against our flesh; a battle to remain rather than to flee; an inward decision to continue in faith and love rather than revert to our former ways of unrighteousness. Life, true life, is realized when we fight to remain. The world claims to have life yet they walk in darkness and are dead even as they live. Life is only found in God and only experienced when we remain in Him. To live life, we must seek to remain.
In seeking to remain, we must never grow stagnate in our faith. We must always be yielding our live unto God; to allow His word to go deeper into our lives to continually break up the residual fallow ground in our hearts and minds and to continually teach us how we ought to live in love. Paul understood that, while life can come in an instant, faith deepens over time. Maturity in faith takes time, endurance, and openness to the Holy Spirit. It may seem strange, but the height of immaturity is thinking we have arrived; true maturity understands that we are all works in progress and that work won't be done until He returns to complete his work in our lives. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)