One of my great honors as a pastor is to see people in their homes. I learn so much… A few months ago I saw Bob and Betty Binder. They have a story (about 100 kids as I recall) ~ I’ve asked Betty to come and share one of her joys/gifts because it is fitting…. [Fruit of the Spirit quilt] Isn’t that great! The Holy Spirit will wrap you in the Fruit of the Spirit! Thank you….
I found a wonderful definition of Faithfulness: "Faithfulness-is-love-hanging-on." That’s at least a good beginning of a definition. Faithfulness ~ "I will not quit in the face of misunderstandings, disappointments, discouragements, I will not quit." Love hangs on! A warning from Charles Stanley: “Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.” It’s easy to be faithful when it’s easy, but when you feel alone, when it’s hard, faithfulness takes courage …When you commit yourself to living a Jesus Christ life, the Holy Spirit will transform you into a faithful person, a person holding on by love when it is hard.
The faithfulness of Jesus is the ultimate example: In Matt. 16:21 Jesus gathers His disciples and tells them that He is going to Jerusalem: "I know what will happen. I will be arrested, beaten, crucified. But I’m going anyway."
In Matt. 16:22 Peter tries to stop Him: "Lord, don’t go!" Jesus says in Matt. 16:23, "Get behind me, Satan." Jesus called Peter Satan because Satan was using Peter to tempt Jesus to quit, to be unfaithful. Again and again throughout His life Satan tried to tempt Jesus to be unfaithful. "Don’t go to the cross. Don’t die for their sins. Quit. There will be too many obstacles, too many difficulties. Just quit."
In the KJV it says, "Jesus set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Jesus resolved/ determined, no matter what happened, He would be faithful to the mission God had for Him to do. So "steadfastly" He goes to Jerusalem. That’s faithfulness.
Even while He was hanging on the cross, the people below Him were mocking Him, saying, "If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross." That’s what Satan was saying, too. "Quit! Come down. It’s not worth it. The pain is too intense. The people don’t care anyway. Just quit!"
But He continued to hang there until finally He says, "Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing." That’s faithfulness. That’s faithfulness unto death. That is love hanging on.
Hebrews 11 is nicknamed the roll call of faith ~ a list of amazing people that serve as examples of faith. Heb. 11:1 is a powerful definition of faith ~ READ. confidence, expectation, hope. To have the character of being faithful is more than hanging on, it’s looking ahead. The author of Hebrews is writing to a people that are being persecuted and tortured. He is saying to look beyond the present circumstances and know that a greater day is coming: “there’s coming a day when Christ Jesus I shall see!”
There is something powerful about having faithful men and women in your life, people you can admire for their dependence on the Lord, for their consistency. I think of so many over the years in this church, who shall I spotlight? Rod Steel that rang the bell for years, always present, a fixture in the community and the church, Ruth Hill, Shirley McGillivray’s grandmother, Arvilla Allingham, Nora Larson, Jenny Hanson, Ross and Evelyn Massey, my parents, grandparents, it is not even so much what any of these folks did, as who they were: people of faith that simply loved the Lord, never complaining, examples of consistency who lived with peace and satisfaction. I could even detect a slight smile whenever they scolded a certain mischievous young boy… Clara Miller mastered the art of loving and scolding at the same time! But her faith, her believing character, her expectation…
Faith cannot stand all alone. Faith must have an object ~ by itself, it is a meaningless word. “Have faith” means nothing. But to say "I have faith in the government," or "I have faith in my horoscope," or "I have faith in Jesus Christ," that means something. It means that you put your trust and your confidence in the object of your faith. Faithfulness must attach itself to someone or something: I am committed to being faithful to my wife. My heart. My love. For better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… you know what I have a lesser measure of faithfulness towards? I admit it! ///The Seahawks. As long as they keep winning, as long as they get to the playoffs, as long as they have a legitimate shot at another superbowl, I just love my Hawks. But if they start to lose…. I am not sure how conditional I am with the Hawks. Some of you are far more faithful! Common wisdom says you should put ultimate faith in ////yourself! ~ “If you can’t trust yourself you can’t trust anyone” and other such nonsense…. Ultimate faith, for the believer, is to put your trust in Jesus Christ.
I do not have time to go through all the details of Heb. 11 (someday perhaps a series of messages) but I want to take a quick glance and ways faithfulness expresses itself from some of the great people of faith? I don’t expect you to remember this list, but rather, I want to overwhelm you of what faith looks like in real life people:
- Give the best of what you have, not the leftovers (Able Heb. 11:4-5)
- Faith means to please God (Enoch, Heb. 11:6) Think, feel and do what God wants.
- Be truthful even when it is hard (Noah Heb. 11:7)
- Walk in confidence because God knows where you’re going even if you don’t (Heb. 11:8)
- Living in peace as a stranger knowing something greater is coming (Heb. 11:9-10)
- Believing in miracles (Heb. 11:11-12)
- Letting the coming promises of God brightly color the now (Heb. 11:13-16)
- Obedience to God (Abraham & Isaac, Heb. 11:17-19)
- Bless others (Heb. 11:20-21)
- No fear (Heb. 11:23)
- Truth/doing what is right in God’s eyes more important than reputation/power (Heb. 11:24-28)
- Boldness (Heb. 11:29)
- Believing God loves you and wants the best no matter your past (Heb. 11:30-31)
- Welcome suffering at the hands of the world (Heb. 11:32-39)
Faithfulness is a gift of the Holy Spirit. That means the ability to put faith in God comes from God. When I was a child sitting in the church pew, the offering would come around, and my mother would shove a coin in my hand to put in the offering. Even though the money was given to me to give, it taught me discipline. The Holy Spirit puts faithfulness in my heart, yet I have must act on my faith and trust the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being a faithful person is both a most humbling gift, and satisfying gift.
Humbling because it is not something to brag about because it is a gift and you are the greatest beneficiary of the gift. Yet faithfulness is seen in you by others as a rich gift so that you are a tremendous example of living by faith in Christ. Who could ever stand up and brag, “look at me, I am faithful!” Should I be commended for being faithful to my wife? Are you kidding me? I am the one that is most blessed! Should I be commended for being faithful to Jesus Christ? Are you kidding? If you only knew how much I fail and if you only knew how much I am blessed. Yet we admire people of faith, and Hebrews says we should ~ “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Faithfulness is humbling.
Being faithful is also satisfying. There is a sense of rightness, a sense of goodness, a sense of peace with God for the one that is faithful. Being faithful opens up your eyes to the work of God around you, suddenly you see the Lord’s fingerprints all around you, you see lives transformed, you see the future of what people can become, you have hope and optimism, you can see beyond the present tension, the ugliness, the posturing and the arrogance. You can say with genuine faith to your discouraged friend, “I believe in the God who believes in you.” And that’s how your world and the world around you is changed by your faith in God! The very God who gave you the capacity to be faithful by virtue of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in you! Humbling and satisfying!
I love these last words of today’s scripture: READ Heb. 11:39-12:3. The real power of faithfulness is found when God raises up an army of faithful people! May the people of faith that are now in your life, the people of faith you read about and hear about, the cloud of witnesses, may they encourage YOU to live by faith. I envision the people of God becoming more faithful in the Lord Jesus Christ, to live by faith, to believe in the greater things that are coming so that the dark present world is brightly colored by the coming glory.
The day is coming when we may see war on American soil. The day is coming when we may see more terrorist’s nations with the nuclear bomb. The day is here when we see families torn apart, fighting among friends, tension and anger, confusion and uncertainty. Faith allows you to live with confidence, being certain of what you hope for and assured of what you do not see. Faith allows you to disentangle from the troubles of this world and get out of the web of drama that tears down. Focus on Jesus. Ultimate faith in anything but Jesus, even yourself, will come to disappointment. Through Jesus Christ we will overcome, through Christ the victory is already ours. Can you see the victory? Can you see wholeness? Can you see affirmation? Can you see a time of peace? That is faithfulness! Faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Amen.