Ok . . . so confession time . . . knowing I’ll sound like a cranky old man, perhaps . . . sometimes I’m bugged by how flippantly we Christians toss around words like “awesome” and “amazing”. Sometimes I think we are too quick to attach such superlatives to too many things . . . and by doing so we, in fact, make the word “awesome” less awesome and the word “amazing” less amazing. How can so many things be awesome or amazing? I really like the idea of trying to reserve the word “awesome” for God alone. God is awesome . . . and if He is awesome, how can anything else share that space? And I really think we should be mindful of what’s “amazing” . . . everything can’t be amazing ’cause then nothing is really all that special or amazing.
“What’s with him,” you might ask. “Where’s this little diatribe coming from?” Good question . . . thanx for asking . . . 2Thessalonians 1 is what sparked this. Not because Paul uses the words “awesome” or “amazing” . . . but because of a couple of other “over the top” adjectives Paul uses. And I don’t think Paul, or the Holy Spirit inspiring his letters, uses such expressions of excellence or magnitude without careful thought and intent. And so, I’m taking note this morning of these “over the top” descriptors used by Paul to describe the Thessalonians. Check it out . . .
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV)
Peterson might be accurately capturing the magnitude of this compliment in The Message, “You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks.”
And so, it’s caused me to pause and to think about faith that grows exceedingly . . . and love that abounds . . . and the relationship between the two. The grace of God worked mightily in that group of believers in Thessalonica. A young church . . . pretty pagan background . . . built on only 3 weeks of “on site” teaching by Paul. But the gospel took. The seed found good soil . . . and God gave the increase. And their faith grows exceedingly. As they learn more, they become more convinced. As the persecution intensifies, their resolve to seek and pursue the One who promised never to leave or forsake them increases. As they experience the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in their lives and the lives of their friends, they know — just know — deep within their hearts that this is the real thing. That God IS real . . . that Jesus IS alive . . . that heaven IS sure . . . that the KING is coming again. And so Paul uses a word here to describe their faith that isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament — “hyper-growing.” That’s what their faith was doing . . . it was hyper-growing. And what comes along with hyper-growing faith? Abounding or “super-increasing” love for one another.
No accidents in Scripture . . . so when faith to God is linked to love to one another, it’s probably worth noting. How much I love the people of God is probably a pretty good indicator of how much my faith is growing. I don’t think I’m stepping out there too much to say that as faith grows, love for the church grows. And where faith is hyper-growing, love is super-increasing. Oh, to be part of a body of believers where, by the grace of God, and the active working of the Holy Spirit, faith is growing and love is increasing.
And, I guess, it starts within me . . . that my faith would hyper-grow . . . that my love for God’s people would super-increase.
God alone is awesome . . . but that would be amazing!!!