Monday, July 28, 2008

Joy, Thanksgiving, and Our Need for One Another

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? 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

Paul gives thanks to God for his fellow believers in Thessalonica and rejoices in their spiritual success. Like Paul, we all owe thanks to God for what He has done in our lives and the lives of the people around us. It is only because of Him that these believers have stood faithful in the midst of persecution. And it is only because of Him that we enjoy the spiritual victories that we do. Because of Him, the believers in Thessalonica can rejoice in tribulation. And Paul can rejoice with them. Their joy is in God and their relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

Paul earnestly prays that he might see them again. He was delighted to hear about them through Timothy, but the good news of their well being did not erase his desire to see them face to face.

My wife and I can relate. I am sure that you can relate as well.

Yesterday we had a phone call from our son. He had so much to tell us that he did not know where to begin. He told us of his experience in the gas chamber, rapelling down a 75-foot cliff, and the try-outs for the sprint football team. He told us about the other Christian young men he has met and the witnessing opportunities he has had. He thanked his mom for teaching him how to clean and how he and his roommate are often cited as an example of what a clean room should like.

Letters and phone calls from our son are nice. They help reassure us that he is doing well. But they do not quell our desire to see him in person, to hug him, and to look into his eyes as he tells us how he is doing. At the same time, there is so much more that we would like to teach him about life and living for the Lord.

Paul’s desire was to help complete what was lacking in the faith of the Thessalonian believers.

The word complete is from the Greek kartizo: to thoroughly prepare something to meet expectations, to make fit, to equip, to make someone completely adequate or sufficient, to supply that which is missing.

Paul wanted more time with them, to instruct them and build them up in the faith, to help them become more spiritually mature.

Like the Thessalonians, we all need to grow spiritually. We are all lacking. We need to be discipled by those who are further along in their journey as followers of Jesus Christ. And, at the same time, we need to be discipling others who are just beginning their journey.

We need each other. That is God’s design. And as we encourage one another and build up one another in the faith, we can rejoice and thank God for all that He has done, all that He is doing, and all that He will do.


Danny said...

I just found your blog today. I have only read a few posts, but I appreciate how you are sharing what you are learning. This morning I was reading this very passage in 1 Thessalonians 3, and I decided to search for other people’s perspectives on “completing what is lacking.” In the last few weeks, I have noticed this phrase in several of Paul’s letters.

First, in Philippians 2:30 Paul refers to Epaphroditus “completing what was lacking” in the Philippians’ service to him. Second, he tells the Colossians (Col. 1:24) that he “fills up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” Finally, here in this passage he wishes to “complete what is lacking” in the Thessalonians’ faith.

In the first two instances, it seems nothing is lacking to begin with. Paul has nothing but praise for the Philippians. They gave beyond their ability and beyond Paul’s need (Phil. 4:18). The only thing lacking in their love and giving was the physical presentation of the gift to Paul, which was accomplished by Epaphroditus. Similarly, nothing is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for His sacrifice is sufficient for the justification of all who believe. Perhaps Paul is referring only to the presentation of the message of Christ’s sufferings to others (as with the Philippians’ gift, it was enough but needed to be given to someone).

Do you think Paul could be saying the same thing here? He rejoices in the Thessalonians faith, but he only knows of it through Timothy’s report. Perhaps this is simply another expression to describe his desire to see them, to receive the full presentation of their faith firsthand. Of course, Paul does have some issues to address about the church’s ethics and doctrine, so there is something lacking in that regard. However, for their faith Paul has only praise and commendation.

Any thoughts about “completing what is lacking?” I feel that understanding this phrase would illuminate all of these passages, but I am particularly interested in the somewhat curious statement in Colossians 1:24.

Danny said...

By the way, you can email a response if you wish, but it might be beneficial to others to just continue the discussion in the comments.

jmichael said...

Thanks for your comments. Here are a few more thoughts about these passages after re-reading them this morning . . . In Colossians 1:24 - you are right - there is nothing lacking in Christ's suffering on our behalf on the cross at Calvary. Paul is referring here to the fact that the enemies of Christ have not had their fill, and have turned on His followers. Paul suffered on behalf of His Savior. It was an inevitable part of His identification with Christ. He reminded his readers, as he reminds us today, that to live for Christ is to suffer with Him. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul does commend the Thessalonians for their faith (here, faith refers to Christian doctrine, not their trust or confidence in God), but understands that there are some areas where they are lacking. He only spent a short time with them and desired to give them more instruction, to help them develop more. There was nothing wrong with their faith, they just needed more instruction, more support to continue to stand up in the face of adversity. In Chapters 4 and 5, he addresses some of these areas. I can relate to this personally. Although I have had many years of sound instruction from highly qualified seminary professors, there are still areas where I lack. I still need - and will always need, until Christ returns or until I die - instruction, from God's Word, in order to build me up in the faith so that I can persevere to the glory of God and Christ my Savior. I hope this helps. May God be glorified.

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