Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
– 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [ESV]
What you believe matters to me. It matters to your eternal blessing. It also matters to your family and loved ones. It matters even to the stranger on the street. What you believe eventually comes out in the way you live, what you say, and what you set your heart on.
This is all well and good, but what happens when we sin? What happens when we betray our faith? I’m guessing that some of those who read this blog may not think they sin, or certainly don’t believe that they betray their faith. We may know intellectually that even the smallest sin is a betrayal of our faith. But we all too easily overlook those small missteps we make from time to time. We lose our temper, say something hurtful to someone, and perhaps even take God’s name in vain. But only briefly do we give in to this sinful behavior. It’s no big deal, we might think.
Let’s illustrate the danger of even the smallest transgression this way. You’re walking down a path. On one side is a chasm 1500 feet straight down. On the other a rushing river with a torrential current that will dash you against the rocks and over a 500 foot waterfall. You take only a small step to the side and the path gives way to the cliff. A false step – even a tiny one, on purpose or even accidentally – will cause you to plunge into the torrential currents of the raging river. You are no better off than someone who takes a giant leap to one side or another. Either a giant leap or a small misstep will result in death.
So to with sin. If we keep the whole law and break only one part, we are guilty of it all (cf. James 2:10). So what are we to do? We’ve all betrayed our faith. We’ve all sinned. And what if our sin is the kind that keeps us awake at night? What if you’ve taken that leap into the abyss of evil?
That’s where faith finds its greatest value: for we believe that for the sake of Jesus, God forgives sin. For Jesus’ sake we can repent, return to God, and be saved. So if you believe you must live a perfect life in order to be saved, you will soon end up living a hypocritical life to cover your sin. But you can never hide from God. If you believe that God welcomes sinners, receives us when we fail, or even betray our faith, you will find great comfort in God’s mercy and steadfast love.
What do you believe? Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? Do you believe in the goodness, grace, truth, mercy, and steadfast love of God? I do. And that matters a lot…a whole lot!