Monday, March 2, 2009

Gospel Faithfulness

(Articles of Faith, 3)

From his prison cell at Rome, Paul in 2 Timothy 2 challenges young Timothy to persevere, or to be faithful. “Faithfulness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Yet, we can often feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 12:1 where he pleads, “Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.” Solomon seconds that cry when in Proverbs 20:6 he says, “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” How can we walk in faithfulness? In a world castigating the church for its unfaithfulness, how can we be found faithful?

Understand What Faithfulness Is
The term “faithfulness” comes from a rich, Old Testament truth that God is faithful. Faithfulness stresses a practical trustworthi-ness, a constancy, loyalty or stick-to-it-ness. It is reliance, integrity and stability of life.

Faithfulness has an overcoming quality about it. Revelation 2:10 exhorts us to “be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Faithful-ness is a mark of a Christian who perseveres to the end.

Faithfulness also stresses action. It gives perseverance its drive and stamina. It turns failures into opportunities and problems into challenges. The issue is not how many times you may fail. It is rather whether you fail “forward” or “backward!” Does your life move toward Christ or away from Christ when you fail? The quality of faithfulness propels us forward.

Christian Workers Especially Need Faithfulness
Those who have been given a “trust” from God are required to be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). Paul tells Titus to show “faithful-ness” in his teaching, “so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say” (Titus 2:7,8).

This word of admonition is for all those who have been given an assignment, a “trust” from the Lord of the Church. Whether you are an usher, a custodian, a teacher, a group leader, a church board member, a pastor or a worship leader, you need to demonstrate faithfulness. God wants no quitters on His team. God wants us to be faithful!

Develop Faithfulness In Your Life
Faithfulness is a character-quality. It is translated “integrity” in Titus 2:7. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, as Galatians 5:22 points out. But, how does a Christian develop or enhance his or her faithfulness? Let me suggest three practical and workable hints:

(1) Beware of substituting religious works or things for faithfulness. This was the big mistake of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices . . . But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness.” We can never substitute busyness for faithfulness, or tithing for faithfulness, or teaching for faithfulness. The God who searches our hearts calls us to faithful living, faithful tithing, faithful teaching and faithful service!

(2) Do what you say, and say what you do. In spite of what might be the outcome, keep your word to God and to others. This helps build faithful lives.

(3) Live for the “long-haul” as a Christian. In a society where everything from information to coffee is instant, you and I need to commit to life in the “slow” lane.

The famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody once said, “When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp, But I found out that conversion was only like enlisting in the army–there was a battle on hand.” Let us all live and be “found faithful.”