Saturday, August 6, 2011

Touching Base! Part 136

Believing Big – Living Big! (Faithfulness)

Guest posting by Adam Davies

(This article can also we found on our website at
http://www.bethelkingston.comunder the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Whether your commitment is to Jesus or to Allah or Buddha or some other God, or whether it is to morals or sensuality or pleasure or government or some kind of cult (like the Maple Leafs), the idea of faithfulness is not a new or a foreign concept. Faithfulness is the very groundwork for marriage, friendship, business or any thought or ideal that we cling to. Faithfulness is what we stand on - it keeps spouses from seeking other lovers, it keeps friends from abandoning each other, it keeps businesses from breaking contracts with their customers and it keeps Liberals and Conservatives on opposite sides of the imaginary dividing line in politics. Faithfulness implies a commitment to remain with our choice and forsake other options; faithfulness can be broken in an instant but is never accomplished. We are only as faithful as our last betrayal. What would you say you are faithful to? Have you experienced the opposite of faithfulness?

What exactly is faithfulness? How do we define it or characterize it? Is it something tangible we can measure or hold onto? We often look at faithfulness from the “doing” perspective: What do faithful spouses do? How do faithful friends behave? What do faithful businesses look like? Our questions about faithfulness imply that something is to be done or said or completed. Sometimes our look at faithfulness is even better described in contrasts, “If my husband was faithful, he wouldn’t sleep around” or “If my friend was faithful, then he wouldn’t have forgotten about me” or other such comparisons. I think all of this is good, but I don’t think it tells the whole story, I think we are leaving out the WHY question when we define faithfulness only in terms of what we can see.

What do I mean by the “why”? What I mean is, WHY BE FAITHFUL? What motivates or drives us to remain with our choice, persevere in our relationships, and stay steadfast in our commitment to Jesus? We don’t need to look too far. Paul says that “the fruit of the Spirit is… faithfulness”, and if we remember the context of this verse (Galatians 5:22), Paul is writing to a group of people who are walking away from God in deed because they are being convinced there is another way. Faithfulness has its root in faith (both the English and the Greek point to this), and faith means being persuaded or convinced or fully believing in something. This is the motivator to be faithful, and this leads me to the big idea, and that is “Faithfulness is the vindication of our confession; faithful people believe big and therefore live big.” So to figure out the “why be faithful?” question, we need to figure out is the “what is your faith” question. What do you believe? Is it the one true God? Is it the power of wealth or prominence? Is it the pleasure of food or lust?

One of our great problems is that we are often really good at the “Babe-Ruth-point-to-the-stands” without the “Babe-Ruth-swing-for-the-fence”! We say “I believe in God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength”, but we don’t always really follow through with the same well-rounded commitment. James gets us on this point in James 2:14-26. Here there are no punches held, James spells it out as clearly for us as possible: Faith without action is dead. Wait, I thought we were talking about faithfulness?! We are… think about what James says. If there is no action, there is no faith. We could just as easily say “if there is no faithfulness, then there is no faith”. The point of this is that James reminds us that if we lack the fruit of faithfulness, perhaps the issue isn’t really our “follow-through”, but rather our “pointing”. If we confess faith in Jesus but have no faithfulness to Him, then doesn’t that mean we really have no faith at all? Is our faith dead? I need to search my heart, as do we all, and ask God “Does my life match up to what my words are saying?” Have you ever heard God challenge the depth of your faith, whether through the lips of a friend or a spouse or in the words of Scripture?

So, is the issue with faithfulness that we have a tendency to prove ourselves unfaithful? Perhaps, but my conviction is that we all have the capacity for great faithfulness, to remain steadfast in our belief, to give and to sacrifice, to be utterly committed to something. The real question is, what or who has captured the attention of our hearts and what or who are we giving our lives to? The reason so many of us resemble Mr. Pliable and Mr. Facing-both-ways in Pilgrim’s Progress (if you haven’t yet read this classic you should!) is that with our lips we say one thing but with our hands and feet we say another. I know I have proven myself unfaithful when I say, “I follow Jesus” but I have given everything to continue in sin and selfishness. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua says to all the people, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” So maybe a better question is not, “Am I faithful or unfaithful” but “what am I faithful to?” If we were to look at a week of our lives, or look at a day of our lives, what would that week or day tell us that we believe? Where do our money and time and energy and affection go?

On Sunday we looked at Hebrews 11, and considered what Abraham and Moses did in v.8-19 and v.23-28 respectively. Sure their actions were awesome, but why did these men do what they did? Hebrews 11:1 says that faith (that is, the motivator to be faithful) is “the conviction of things hoped for, the assurance of things unseen.” Read v.10, 11b, 13b, 14, 16, 19, 25 and 26... anything pop out at you? Not only should these things tell us why these men did what they did, but it should also make our heart explode out of our chest. Do we “consider the reproach of Christ [as] greater wealth” and therefore live in such a way that the world sees that truth? This is a great challenge to us, to let the incredible things that God says in Hebrews 11 to those who were faithful be true of us. Are we people “who God is not ashamed to be called their God”, “of whom the world was not worthy” and who will be “commended by their faith” in God?

Looking at Hebrews 11, so many of the people listed in those verses were faithful because they counted on the faithfulness of God. Faithfulness is one of those “communicable” attributes, that is, a characteristic of God that can be and is meant to be reflected in the lives of His people. God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and as much as we would like to be those things we are still working on the formula. Faithfulness, however, is something that can be reflected in our own lives, and it is a celebrated attribute of God. We sang about it on Sunday, and we see it all over the scripture - have a look at Psalm 136 or Lamentations 3:22-23 or search scripture on your own time and see how often the faithfulness of God is called upon or mentioned or praised. In Psalm 18, David says “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” If God was not faithful, how could David say this?

On Sunday we shared communion together and I reminded us that communion is also a reminder of faithfulness, both from the perspective of God’s love for His people and of our faithfulness to Him. God shows His faithfulness to us by the giving of Jesus; long promised in the scriptures through prophecy, God the Father was faithful to send His Son to us. Jesus reminded us constantly of the faithfulness of God (see Matthew 6:25-33) and lived a life of faithfulness to God (His very food was to do the will of God, see John 4:34), even to the point of death. So when we take the bread and hear Jesus say again “this is My body, broken for you”, we remember His sacrifice and His faithfulness to us. But when the cup is passed and we hear “this is the covenant in my blood”, this is where we must pause and reflect about our own faithfulness. This phrase, “this is the covenant in my blood” comes from Exodus 24 where Moses commissions the people to do what God has laid down for them in the law. In v. 7 the people say “all that the Lord has spoken we will do” and in v. 8 Moses takes the blood of the sacrifices and throws it on the people and says “behold, the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Communion does more than remember the death of Jesus. Communion, in view of the death and resurrection of Jesus is also our re-dedication of ourselves to the challenge of being faithful people, living out the life that God has graciously given to us.

Faithfulness is the vindication of our confession: oh Lord, let our lives reflect that we truly believe in who you are and what you have done for us this week, and all the days of our lives.


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