Your Faith Increases Exceedingly
Paul’s Thessalonian converts were only in the second year of their Christianity yet he is able to thank God that their faith had increased exceedingly, (2 Thess. 1: 3)), and it may be as well for us, as time passes, to take stock, and to see how our account in this respect stands. Would the Apostle write this of us?
We may contrast the state of these Thessalonians with that of the Corinthians. Of the latter Paul says in 2 Cor. 10: 15 “your faith increasing,” implying how very backward they were in this matter; and yet they were “enriched in Him, in all word [of doctrine], “....so that ye come short in no gift”, (1 Cor. 1:5–7). There may be much knowledge, and much gift, and very little faith, and the result will be, as in Corinth—love and grace towards man will be wanting, as well as obedience to God, and the manifestation of His power.
It is well to ponder this, that we may not make a false estimate of things, and be found walking a worthless show of unreal attainments; for there is no real attainment except when faith is in operation. Indeed Scripture tells us that “whatever [is] not of faith is sin, (Rom. 14: 23). “In all word [of doctrine]” and “gift”, ( 1 Cor. 1: 5, 7), are endowments from God, given according to His sovereign will, not according to our faith. These blessings increase our responsibility, but do not of themselves secure our growing up to Christ, which is the thing the Spirit of God is seeking to accomplish in us. Gifts bestowed upon us are for the benefit of others, (Eph. 4: 12). Our character before God is not according to our gifts, but according to the power of the grace that is in us. Hence the Scripture, “Grow in grace, and in [the] knowledge of our Lord”, (2 Peter 3: 18). Yet do we have this growth?
A man may possess much knowledge of Scriptural truth; he may possess intellectually a vigorous and comprehensive grasp of doctrine; he may see the relation of various aspects of truth, and the application of truth to human character; he may be able to express doctrine and experience in lucid and glowing language; to detect error; subtle and false teaching in a keen and masterly way; and yet may be a babe in Christ; that is in true spiritual knowledge of Jesus, in the tone of his mind, in the character of his daily walk, in the knowledge of his own heart, and his skill and wisdom in the conflict with sin, the world and Satan.
We may have “all knowledge,” and yet have very little of that “knowledge of our Lord,” which makes us Christ–like. Now it is in this direction that the growth of faith lies. It is that which fits the vessel for any service given to us to do, and that makes the labourer suitable for the Master’s use. God may use us or not, as He sees fit; but our responsibility is to be fit for His use, and our reward will be according to that fitness. (Of course God often uses for His glory instruments unfit morally and spiritually, when in the sovereignty of His will He has work to do, in order that no instrument may boast itself in His presence. He thus uses unholy sinners such as Balaam, (Num. 22: 24), and unsanctified saints like Obadiah, (1 Kings 18)). Since then all fitness hangs on faith, let not the gifted glory in his gift, nor the aged in his experience; but let one cry rise from our hearts, gifted or ungifted, aged or young, to the God of all grace—”Increase our faith.” We shall then hear His reply: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard [seed], ye had said to this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea, and it would have obeyed you”, (Luke 17: 6). Why as a grain of mustard seed? Because, though the smallest of seeds, it becomes the largest of plants—it grows.
This growth of faith is shown in obedience to God. Obedience leads into difficulties, and difficulties lead to faith’s laying hold on God; and this not as an isolated act, but as a continued exercise. It is not a leap, but a life; not a jump, but unrelenting growth; and this not by anything that we are, but by the Spirit that dwells within us, and who forms Christ in us. Increased faith would raise the tone of service, and our thoughts about it. We should seek to minister to the Master as servants in the field, and as worshippers at home—not only labouring for the blessing of men outside, but being careful to spread the table for the Master’s refreshment inside. Having done all, let us remember still that we are but unprofitable servants, having done only what it was our duty to do, (Luke 17: 10). Thus faith grows, and pride withers; the Master increases, and self decreases; Christ lives in us, and by His cross we die. So let it be.