While reading this chapter, "Help for the Weak", one gets the impression that Sibbes is no stranger to weakness and doubt. He writes like one who has "been there, done that". The first part of this chapter lists "temptations that hinder comfort", or what we might call "reasons for doubt". In other words, he lays out for examination those things that might discourage us as we struggle in our faith.
The fourth of these "temptations" is the one that hit home with me. Sibbes speaks of the fact that our revulsion against personal sins is the result of growth, and not necessarily a sign of lack of regeneration. He lays out the case that the more we come to know the perfection of God the greater our awareness of our sins and imperfections. I know that this is certainly true in my life. At age 16, as a new believer, I knew that I was a sinner but felt that I was doing a good job if I kept from killing, illicit sex, or bank robbery. At that time, sin was a violation of the 'Big Ten", and was a very naive view of the depravity and deceitfulness of my heart. Now, many years later, I see that every thought that is not captive to Christ and every moment that is not dedicated to His glory is a sign of rebellion. I know that I am closer to Christ and more mature in my faith but I have a heightened awareness of my sin and my need for the Savior. We are not to mistake that awareness for spiritual sickness.
The second part of the chapter encourages us to be about our Master's business and not allow our infirmities to hinder our usefulness. We are to serve out of our weakness and perform our duty. Sibbes reminds us that the saints of Scripture had feet of clay, and were men similar to us. None of them were perfect, far from it, but they performed mighty works in His service.
Our faith may be weak, and our flame may be shrouded by smoke, but we need to allow Him to fan our flame into usefulness for His kingdom. Once again: More flame, less smoke.
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