Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith. 1 Thessalonians 3:10
Paul started out by letting the church in Thessalonica know that he was concerned about how their faith was holding up under the pressure of persecution. He couldn’t go there himself so he sent Timothy who had come back with a glowing report of their strong faith’s endurance in those hard times. Yet, as any good pastor knows, as strong as they were, they had still had some “gaps” that Paul wanted to fill in their faith. The wording here speaks of a “deficiency or that which is lacking”. Paul used this same wording to describe himself in Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Now, if a man of giant faith such as the Apostle Paul could see that his own faith needed some filling how much more so do I need to recognize that there maybe be gaps in my faith I simply cannot see?
My Dad has been on the island with me for the past week and we have been catching up and telling stories of growing up. I remember the frustration of trying to see what he could see when it came to landscaping a yard. You see, growing up, my Dad would often have my brother and I help him in his gardening and landscaping business. We would show up to a backyard filled with rocks, weeds, holes, and trees and he would describe how it would look like a beautiful level green lawn by the time we were done with the place. After removing all of the rocks, rubbish and weeds he would hand me a large leveling rake and task me with the job of making sure the yard was completely level before the grass sod was put down. I would work on that soil for what seemed like hours and I would tell my Dad with confidence that we were ready to put the lawn down. He would come back and say very kindly, “oh no son, we’ve got a lot a more work to do.” I would probably respond with some attitude and say, “By “we”, you mean, me right? It looks perfectly level.” Then he would invite me to stoop down to ground level and begin to reveal gaps in the ground, high and low places I did not see before while standing up. He would patiently explain that if we put a lawn over these low places the customers could be walking along and trip or worse yet break an ankle because, to their eye, it looked level and they had trusted that we had done our job. We had to make sure we weren't just covering over gaps because they would just grow deeper over time. Paul was saying the same to the church in Thessalonica and God has been saying the same to me. There are gaps in our faith that we can’t simply cover over with the lawn of religion, busyness, or comparison. We must listen to the wise counsel of those over us and follow their instructions for they are seeing what we cannot. They are pointing out gaps in our faith, areas of deficiency in our discernment, places of compromise or immaturity where, if not addressed now, will hurt us and those around us later. Recently Pastor Wayne was coaching me in some areas of growth in pastoral leadership. He said, “The eye cannot see the eye. These areas we are going to work on are probably places you weren’t even aware of.” Sure enough, he pointed out some things I couldn’t even see but were obvious once we slowed down and got low enough to see the landscape of my soul and ministry at ground level. He was helping me find a level grade before moving on to the next stage of leadership. Thankfully, I didn’t respond with an attitude as I had to my Dad when I was younger. Some of it wasn’t easy to hear, but all of it was for the purpose of filling in my faith where I was lacking.
I’m so thankful for the patience of my father and spiritual fathers like Pastor Wayne to take time to help me find a level grade on the landscape of my soul. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for helping me to see that blind spots, the faith gaps, and places of compromise aren’t to be avoided but rather addressed directly. Correction isn’t for my destruction but for my protection. Let me never get to the place of pride that says I have “arrived” when it comes to growing in my faith.