Monday, December 18, 2023

Facing Those "Cracks" in Our Faith (1 Thess. 3:10)

When people visit my home (Bradford Hall), they are often surprised when I tell them we built it only 22 years ago. It looks like it was constructed in the 1820s. That was by design. Since Bec and I loved that period of American architecture, we wanted a house that gave us that same ambiance. This explains the 14-foot ceilings, the 5 wood-burning fireplaces, and even the period wallpaper in our formal dining room. 

Of course, should anyone notice this crack in the wall in our library, I will always say, "Well, the house is OLD, after all!" 

My Bible time this morning was in 1 Thessalonians. Again. I can't get enough of this book. 

I love how Paul moves from commendation (chapters 1-3) to correction (chapters 4-5). In these final chapters of the letter, he is going to directly address what he calls "the deficiencies of your faith" in 3:10. He wants to "supply what is lacking in your faith" (NIV) or "fill in the gaps in your faith" (NLT). The Living Bible reads, "fill up any little cracks there may yet be in your faith." 

These "cracks/gaps/deficiencies" are significant for the apostle. Paul hadn't been in Thessalonica very long, so obviously there were many subjects about which he would be glad to instruct the believers there more fully -- the state of those who had fallen asleep, for example, or the need for work. The apostle greatly desired for them to go on to maturity in their Christian faith. He detected deficiencies both in its extent (there is so much more you have to learn) and application (you haven't yet had an opportunity to apply your knowledge). Stott writes, "The deficiencies Paul detected in their faith will have been 'gaps' (JB, footnote) both in their doctrinal and in their ethical understanding." 

Now remember, the church there was unswervingly and uncompromisingly in love with Jesus. They had encountered Jesus in the spirit and were looking forward to meeting him in the flesh. Until then, Paul insists, they are to continue to make progress in their faith.

This is one thing I really love about Paul. He was never content with the level of spirituality to which he had attained (see Phil. 3:12-14), nor was he ever content with the level of spirituality to which his followers had attained. He had a "divine discontent" with life. There is always more truth to know and there is always more truth to apply. The challenge was great. The odds of plateauing were huge. The deck was stacked against Jason and his fellow church members in Thessalonica. And yet obstacles and even hostile circumstances mean little to God. He's looking for people like you and me who will believe -- I mean truly believe -- that progress in holiness is possible. And he's got a pretty good track record in the miracles department. At any point where we're faced with seemingly unpatchable cracks and unbridgeable gaps, we must quit listening to the mockers and scoffers. They shout, "You can't!" God whispers, "With me, all things are possible." 

What large spiritual issue gathers before you in 2024? What great crack in your armor looms in your future? Whatever it is -- and no matter what it is -- help is but a prayer away.