Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. 4 Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.
6 But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. 8 It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
9 How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.
11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]
I was in Cub Scouts when our den visited the local water treatment plant. Rushing water pounded below as we looked over a walkway. Pipes ran from one open tank to the next. Valves, dials, and levers were everywhere my wide eyes looked. It was a really neet thing for a 9 year old boy to see. Then one of the men suddenly pushed me out onto an open grate some 15 feet above one of those tanks. I could look straight down through the gaps in the grate and see the swirling water below. I probably yelled. He and others laughed. Thankfully the grate held me, and even the man who had pushed me stepped out on it with me. I’m not sure it was all that mean spirited. But I didn’t enjoy it.
Gaps in teeth, sidewalks, drywall, or floor tile can be annoying. And they are easily filled. Gaps in our faith require filling as well.
On the one hand we have the clear and comforting promise of Isaiah 42:3, that is attached to Jesus in Matthew 12:20: He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle [NLT]. God will not despise the weakest faith. Jesus promises that whoever comes to him, he will not turn away (John 6:37).
Yet this is no excuse to think that we should be content with weak faith. Scripture is full of admonitions to grow in our faith. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). And “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Peter urges us to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are [ours] and are increasing, they keep [us] from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:5-8
As Paul writes here I can see two things he wishes for the people of Thessalonica. He prays that their love for one another and for all people would grow and overflow, and that their hearts would be strong, blameless, and holy. Those are worthy gap fillers. They are filled by embracing God’s love and grace, holding to his truth, and daily repenting of our sins and renewing our faith in Jesus.