Summary: When most of us think about how we are doing spiritually, we think about surface things. We zero in on behavior patterns, such as have we been gossiping, have we been staying true to our marriage, have we been reading our Bibles, have we been tithing? We
Genesis 12:1-4 KJV Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: (2) And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: (3) And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (4) So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him
When most of us think about how we are doing spiritually, we think about surface things. We zero in on behavior patterns, such as have we been gossiping, have we been staying true to our marriage, have we been reading our Bibles, have we been tithing? We concentrate on outward works while forgetting that they are simply the fruit of a deeper spiritual factor.
In a church, too many preachers are interested in attendance alone, which has nothing to do with a church’s health. What matters is not how many people are showing up, but how active and vibrant their faith is in the God they serve. You can easily pack a building without pleasing God, because crowds do not equal spirituality.
In what has become today’s churches, the new ABC’s of Christianity are Attendance, Building’s and Contribution.
When Paul sent Timothy to check up on the new Thesalonian church you think he would have asked first about the church’s growth.
Did they have a building of their own yet?
How many people were attending on Sundays?
Were the offerings enough to cover the bills?
And what about the individual people: Had they stopped swearing, drinking, carousing? Going to see bad entertainment? Sleeping around?
Not at all! Instead, in 1 Thessalonians 3, the apostle Paul reveals that his primary concern is for the faith level of his precious converts. He wants to take a temperature reading of their spiritual health, and faith is what he is looking for. He doesn’t just assume that because they are Christians, they are automatically walking in robust faith. Listen to his words and see how unfamiliar his approach is to our modern ears:
1 Thessalonians 3:2 KJV And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
"We sent Timothy. . . to strengthen and encourage you in your faith" (v. 2).
1 Thessalonians 3:5 KJV For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
"When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith " (v. 5).
1 Thessalonians 3:6 KJV But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:
"But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love" (v. 6).
1 Thessalonians 3:7 KJV Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
"Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith " (v. 7).
1 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
"Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith " (v. 10).
Throughout this chapter, Paul is churned up about one simple word. In fact, this is more than a checkup. He has sent Timothy to "strengthen and encourage" the people in their faith. Notice that nothing is said about the church building, nothing about the sound system or the lights or the carpet. Instead, a lot of attention to their faith. But even that isn’t enough for Paul. In verse 10 he says he wants to see them face to face, make another trip there himself to "see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith."
Why this emphasis?
What Paul knew, but what we seem to have forgotten, is that when people break down in their behavior, backslide into sinful living, or grow cold in the Lord, it is because their faith has broken down first. When someone’s temper keeps flaring out of control, that is not the real problem; down underneath is a weakness of faith. So it is with all our departures from right living.
Our ministry goal should not be to fill the building, but to teach the Word of God in such a way that people’s faith in Christ is built up. What God is really after is a people who show a strong, personal faith in him.