“It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” [1Cor. 4:2].
“Doing what is right to GOD gives you peace not regret” ― Rudzani Ralph
What do you think of when you hear the term “faithful”? Here are some associations: true to one’s word, steady, loyal, constant, committed, reliable, trusted, believed. What do you think of as an opposite of faithful? God’s view on these concepts may surprise you. Let’s first consider what faithfulness is and why is it important. Then we’ll approach the issue of how to be faithful.
First a practical definition: faithfulness is doing what God has called you to do with the right attitude.
Jesus embodies faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness to the Father and to us should motivate our faithfulness to God and others. In my twenty-five plus years of ministry experience I’ve grown to appreciate this quality as vital. Unfortunately, I’ve seen very dynamic and talented people who were not faithful and therefore produced little fruit for the kingdom. I’ve also observed people who were faithful in their careers and to their family but never demonstrated faithfulness to their calling. These people similarly did not appear to bear much kingdom fruit. In contrast the people who learned to be faithful like Jesus are pillars. They not only are faithful in their calling but they also show faithfulness in the marriage family and career realms. And as you might imagine they bear abundant fruit for Christ’s kingdom.
Jesus links faithfulness and goodness. When we stand before Jesus we yearn to hear our Lord commend us for how we lived our lives for Him. In the Parable of the Talents Jesus describes those who have used their God given abilities for His kingdom as “good and faithful” [Matthew 25:14-30]. In the same parable Jesus declares that those who are unfaithful are wicked. We generally associate the unfaithful as flaky, unreliable, not dependable, and procrastinators. So the apparent harshness of Jesus’ assessment is remarkable and sobering. In essence if we are not good and faithful we are lazy and wicked.
Paul links faithfulness with effective Christian living. Faithful people are aware that time is a commodity and that every individual’s supply is limited; time should be used wisely to accomplish what God has called them to. Paul understood this when he exhorted, “Redeeming the time because the days are evil” and connected the call with the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit [see Eph. 5:16-18, Gal. 5:22]. Jonathan Edwards’ resolution to never to waste a moment of time may represent the extreme ideal of faithfulness. Paul wanted the church at Corinth to know that although they possessed spiritual gifts and thus potential they needed to understand that those gifts would not be developed without faithfulness. So the gentle correction and exhortation, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” [1Cor. 4:2]. God apparently places a premium on faithfulness. Finally, in Paul’s swansong address to Timothy he charges his protégé, “And the things that you heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also” [2Tim. 2:2] [emphasis mine].
Faithfulness is characterized as finishing well. I love fireworks! I love the spectacle, the anticipation, and the celebration. I love that no matter how much education you have that you are reduced to monosyllabic utterances like “oooh and aaah!” And then it’s over no more fireworks time to pack up and go. I don’t want my Christian life or ministry to be like fireworks. God desires faithfulness characterized by finishing well. If the Christian life is a race then it is a marathon not a sprint. In Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, the hare is speedy, but lacks faithfulness. The tortoise prevails despite his obvious limitations, because he is a faithful plodder. Step by step, competing by the rules, making steady progress, he finishes to the praise of those at the finish line. God would rather have faithful tortoises than unfaithful hares.
I want to be like Paul: be faithful and finish well. The Apostle Paul was committed. He was able to say to the elders of the church at Ephesus that even death threats were not going to move him from finishing his ministry to the Lord. “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” [Acts 20:24]. Paul was faithful even to the end. Paul’s final letter of the divine record concludes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2Tim. 4:7-8]. I, along with countless others, saw Pastor Chuck Smith a very faithful man finish well. That is the type of testimony that I want.
On the other hand, Demas did not finish well. Consider his regression: Paul refers to Demas as “a fellow laborer” [Philemon 1:24 (59A.D.)]. Paul was saying that they were in the same league. About a year later, Paul simply says, “and Demas” [Col. 4:14 (60A.D.) “Luke the beloved physician and Demas”]. Paul makes no comment about Demas being in the same league. Finally, Paul would write, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2Tim. 4:10 (62 A.D.)]. In essence, Demas failed to finish well, because he loved this world more than God. The sad commentary of Demas life is that he failed to finish well.
Faithfulness requires commitment. One of the great obstacles in our culture and the Church today is commitment. Faithfulness and commitment are related concepts. People are afraid of commitment because they are frequently afraid of making sacrifice for God or others. We can bring this attitude of our culture into the church. A lack of commitment is demonstrated when we approach our relationship with the Lord as an option for our lives rather than the essence of our lives. The problem is that we are double-minded [Ja. 1:6-8]. Our lack of confidence in God is caused by a lack of commitment to God, which results in being unstable in all your ways. People do not want to put too many eggs in a basket if they don’t expect the eggs to make it to the desired destination. The solution is described at the end of James’ letter [Ja. 4:6-8]: 1. Submit to God, 2. Resist the devil, 3. Draw near to God, and 4. Deal with sin [cleanse & purify]. Faithful people are committed to God. Finally, it is comforting to know that even when we fail to be faithful God remains faithful [2Timothy 2:13]. Nevertheless seek to be faithful.
How to be faithful:
Grow-up. The early church regularly engaged in essential disciplines to help them grow as disciples (Christians), “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” [Acts 2:42]. Here, we see four essential elements to spiritual growth:
- Doctrine: They regularly learned and lived (applied) the Word of God. We are blessed to have the opportunity to study the Word of God, and to have access to sound Bible teaching. Those who regularly learn and live doctrine will grow faster than those who do not. Sound doctrine is necessary for proper spiritual development.
- Fellowship: The church is a community. When we gather regularly as a community we encourage others as well as being encouraged by them. When we spend time together with other Christians we strengthen each other and grow.
- Breaking of bread: The breaking of bread refers to common meals as well as partaking of the Lord’s Supper [communion]. The observation of the Lord’s Supper is intended to stir believers to remember the Lord and develop an intimate relationship with Him. The practice of common meals is intended to encourage the development of meaningful intimate Christian relationships with other believers. Faithfulness flows from an authentic relationship with Jesus into authentic relationships with others.
- Prayer: The church needs to learn to depend on God. Prayer strengthens relationship with Christ, and declares our dependency upon Him. Through prayer we communicate with God. We not only make our requests known to Him, but we also hear from Him. People of prayer grow.
Show up. Learn to commit. As you mature, it is typical that you begin to make commitments to serve the Lord. It is only reasonable that once you begin to appreciate God’s love, you want to respond and serve Him. Once you make a commitment come through. Let your “yes” be “yes.” If you say you will do something or be somewhere other people should be able to expect you to do it or be there because you are faithful. Sometimes the fear of not being faithful can paralyze us so that we won’t commit. Other times people commit without an earnest desire to come through. Faithfulness yields a desire to commit and come through.
In essence I want to grow up show up and be faithful.