Why is it important to be loyal and committed to God and others?
I have established a good name with God and others based on my loyalty to those relationships.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4
Have you ever thought about this? God is far less interested in your results than the person you are becoming. Many people in our life have tried to substitute results for what they lacked: joy, relationship, character. (citation: Dallas Willard – Cutting Edge magazine, Summer 1999. A publication of Vineyard USA – Becoming The Kinds of Leaders Who Can Do The Job)
This fall has been a journey about Christian character – another way to say that is to ask: “Are we displaying virtues of a soul that is captured by Jesus?”
Today we are considering the quality of faithfulness
When I think of faithfulness certain images come to mind. The first is DOGS. They have this incredible trait of loyalty. At the beginning of the service you heard about Bobby the Skye Terrier from Scotland.
Another one is the the famous Japanese Akita dog known as Hachiko, or Hachi. Hachiko would see his owner off to work in the morning at the Shibuya Train Station, in central Tokyo and went to pick him up at the station in the afternoon when he returned from work.
Less than 2 years in doing this routine on May 21, 1925, Hachiko was as usually sitting by the exit at the train station waiting for his dear owner. But his owner never showed up…..he had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
Hachiko moved in with a former gardener of the Ueno family, but throughout the rest of his life he kept going to the Shibuya Train Station every morning and afternoon precisely when the train was due to enter the station, waiting in vain for the return of his beloved owner which sadly never came back.
This is an actual photo of him waiting to meet his master. He did this for the ten years!
A major Japanese newspaper reporter picked up the story of Hachiko in 1932 and published it, which led to Hachiko becoming a celebrity all over Japan.
People started calling him “Chuken-Hachiko”, which means “Hachiko – the faithful dog”.
Another image of faithfulness is from one of my favorite movies LOTR and the hero of the story – Samwise Gamgee. He was Frodo’s friend who made a promise that he would help him deliver the ring into the fires of Mordor. At one point early on on the trip Frodo tried to leave Sam because he began to realize how the depth of danger. In the novel there is this captivating moment
Frodo: Go back, Sam! I’m going to Mordor alone.
Sam: Of course you are, and I’m coming with you!”
Sam’s demonstrated his faithfulness by sticking to his promise.
Stories about dogs and mythical creatures present faithfulness as a inspiring ideal
But let’s bring faithfulness into the real human world –
I think of SEARS – a 60 plus old company that has shut its doors, shut down its pension for its employees – all 12,000 of them. Many of them were loyal and look at their reward. Perhaps many them are wishing they had jumped ship sooner.
Another image is MARRIAGE – statistics tell us in Canada that despite vows of faithfulness – 41% of marriages today will end in divorce by 2035!
The Folly of Faithfulness – An inspiring ideal but a fool’s errand
Faithfulness I would suggest often gets bad press. We might be tempted to think – an inspiring ideal but a fool’s errand. Valuable employees move quickly from one job to another. Staying through to the end is often seen as optional. Being faithful others who are not your close family is not really considered wise.
Today’s wisdom tells us to be faithful to ourselves. In fact we often don’t value faithfulness because we see that often it is not rewarded. We fail to see how faithfulness has an intrinsic worth regardless of how others respond to this virtue.
We have to be careful not become friendly to the world’s thinking at a moment like this – we have to let go of the notion that a character trait is only good as long as we get something out of it! That is being “conformed to the pattern of this world” instead of being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (cf. Romans 12:2, NIV)
Transition: Our challenge is to understand “faithfulness” neither as an inspiring idea for dogs/hobbits nor as a foolish idea for people, but instead, to think of this as Jesus did and let it transform our thinking…
The Faithfulness of God
I do what I say
I’m not going anywhere
Faithfulness matters because we see it in the nature of God. God is faithful.
Preacher Chip Ingram in his blog “Living on the Edge” describes God’s faithfulness like this – Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all believe in someone or something to “hold us up” inside. When that person or thing comes through for us, then life is good! But when that person or thing doesn’t come through for us, then we experience a sense of anxiety, dissatisfaction, and ultimately despair. But the truth is, there isn’t anyone or anything that will come through for us 24/7 – except for God Himself.
Grasping God’s faithfulness is expressed in two simple ways. God’s faithfulness means God is saying to us…
- I do what I say
- I am not going anywhere
God does what He says He will do!
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)
- God promised to Abraham a nation and from his family came tribes from those tribes the nation Israel was birthed.
- God promised a Saviour and we celebrate Christmas with the birth of Jesus.
- God promised One who would take away our sin and while we were still sinners we see Christ dying for us on the cross.
- Jesus promised he would rise again and now there is an empty tomb.
- Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and now we see lives transformed when people are filled by faith with God’s divine presence in their lives.
I do what I say…
But God also says, “I am not going anywhere”
God’s faithful presence is heard throughout scripture where he will not leave us or forsake us. (Joshua 1:5) King David said, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Acts 2:25) Jesus said
Here is something worth thinking about – The times we experience God’s presence most vividly is when we are doubting, weak, tempted or when we sin.
In all those times if we listen we can hear God saying, “I am not going where.”
- Are you stretched thin with doubts? See how creation reveals the presence of God. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1
- Are you feeling weak, discouraged , overwhelmed.? When the apostle Paul was weak the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” In response, Paul said: Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) We default to the belief God isn’t with us when we’re struggling and weak. But just the opposite is true.
- Are you tempted? No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Co. 10:13)
- Have you sinned? God again shows us his faithful presence. Our natural reaction is to run and hide. We feel so bad and ashamed. But God promises that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) – Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Praise God for His compassionate, merciful faithfulness...I do what I say and I am not going anywhere is how God shows us faithfulness time and time again.
Now here is where we are going – if faithfulness is a big deal for God it should be a big deal for me. It should be a quality that in my walk with God is becoming more evident. Faithfulness is a trait of intrinsic worth. When I seek to demonstrate it in my life I am following God’s example.
Faithfulness in me
I do what I say
I’m not going anywhere
So how does faithfulness live out in me? Do you see the overlap?
I do what I say… when I make a promise I keep it. When I tell someone I will follow through I will. My words and action go hand in hand.
Living out my faith is a recognition that faith demands effort. Dallas Willard make an important distinction when it comes to faith and works. His slogan is “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude; effort is an action.”
When Jesus calls us to live in the Kingdom of God I have to start becoming a person where I do what I say….it will require effort to walk the second mile, serve others with a cup of cold water, showing up in each others lives to love one another.
I am not going anywhere…have you ever wondered when people need your presence the most? It is when they are stretched thin with doubts, feeling weak-discouraged -overwhelmed, tempted to sin and when they sin.
That is when God is calling us to follow his example as his dearly loved children. Think about your friendships, your marriage, your family, your family of faith, your circles of people where every soul you meet is looking for those people who are not going to check out…faithfulness means I am not going anywhere
Just like English, the Greek word for faithfulness is build on the foundation of “faith” or “belief”. The standard Greek dictionary for the New Testament says that faithfulness is “the passive aspect of πιστεύω [to believe]” In other words, faithful is that virtue of being found worthy of trust. If I am faithful, you can depend on me. You can believe in me. What a great idea!
So important is this character trait for the follower of Jesus Christ that Jesus himself lauds it as being at the top of list in terms of what separates the follower of Jesus from others.
Jesus told lots of stories about what the kingdom of God is like – there is that one about the master with 3 servants – before he went on a journey – one was given 5 bags of gold, one was given 2 bags of gold and one was given 1 bag of gold.
When the master returned two of them had done something with the gold – Master’s response – ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21
To the servant who did not do anything with gold – he was called wicked and lazy – and was cast out.
Jesus story tells us so much but one is this – faithfulness opens us up to opportunities where God wants us to serve.
To Jesus, faithfulness is a critical distinction between world and the church. May it be so with us.
Prayer: God you are faithful – You have shown us in your Word and through our lives that you do what you say and you are not going anywhere.