- God’s Faithfulness
- Our Faithfulness
Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses, which recalls God’s gracious salvation of his people, choosing them, establishing them, guiding them, providing for them, being faithful to them; yet at the same time, their turning away from him to other gods – this song refers to God as the one who gave birth to them, loved them, cared for them; yet they are called “Children in whom is no faithfulness”.
describes this unfaithfulness: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
(perhaps you’ve told your kids not to disrespect their mother, and given them the reason: “because she gave birth to you” – an act which warrants life-long respect and obedience).
And it asks them this: “Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?”
Of course we can never repay God – the Christian life isn’t about repaying God, but it is about responding in a fitting way to his grace and goodness and generosity to us – about living with faithfulness to our faithful God. If God has made us – given us all we have and are – then we are not our own, but we are his – obligated to live life in his service, for his glory…
But, the Story of the OT, is a story about a faithful God, to an unfaithful people. The story about a God who loves, provides, perseveres, shows grace, mercy and patience; and a story about a people who, in response to that faithful persevering love, desert, abandon, turn away to other Gods, rebel against… a faithful God; an unfaithful people.
Ez 16 – describes God as the adoptive father of the people of Israel, who rescued them – they who were an abandoned infant left to die in a field – with no one to care for them or help them, but they who were then rescued and nourished and clothed and cared for and raised up by a faithful God; then, the metaphor shifts – to God as the loving husband of his people – whom he provides for, whom he adorns with beauty, and whom he loves sacrificially and faithfully; yet, his people do not live unto him as a faithful spouse; in fact, far from it – they are in every way adulterous; unfaithful; they repay the kindness of God with betrayal; they forget the grace and generosity God had shown to them by, before his very eyes, in his sight, turning to and embracing other lovers – committing spiritual adultery by worshiping, loving, serving, other gods – false gods who did not rescue them, could not help them, do not care about them, and in fact were no gods at all.
Faithful God; Unfaithful people.
In remembering the time of the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, Moses reminds the people that during that time God fed them with manna, and that “your clothing did not wear out and your feet did not swell during those forty years.” Even in the wilderness, when God’s people lacked many earthly blessings and comforts, when God’s faithfulness was perhaps more difficult to see or trust in and believe, God was with them every step of the way, caring for them and providing for them and sustaining them.
God is faithful. Deuteronomy 31:6 (summarizing those wilderness wanderings and preparing for the next stage in their deliverance from Egypt deliverance into the promised land) — “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you; he will never forsake you.” This is quoted in Hebrews 13: “never will he leave you nor forsake you.” God is faithful.
Psalm 36:5 – Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
God’s faithfulness to us;
and though the OT is a story of God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people, the NT is a story about God’s faithfulness to and creation of a people that are faithful to him – people who have the very Spirit of God in them; and that Spirit, which is a Spirit of faithfulness, is in them creating faithfulness in them;
Those who experience the faithfulness of God, express faithfulness in return to God, and become people of faithfulness to others.
to God; to others
faithfulness to God is not turning away from him; not betraying him; not forgetting him; not forsaking him.
Faithfulness to God means worshiping him instead of worshiping other things; it means living for his glory instead of living for my own; it means serving him instead of serving myself; it means living for him instead of living for other things; it means that he is the primary and central agenda, direction, and love of my life; it means living in obedience to him instead of living in sin; it means seeking after him instead of seeking after worldly gain, pleasures, and pursuits.
Faithfulness to God is expressed in trust & obedience. It means believing his promises, even and especially when those promises remain presently unfulfilled. It means, taking God at his word.
So, the whole concept of God’s faithfulness and our faithfulness to God, assumes that we have a sure word from God in Scripture – that Scripture is true & trustworthy; there’s no such thing as faithfulness to God, unless we have received some promise of God which we are called to believe.
It assumes that God speaks to us – and that he speaks truthfully to us – that, his speech to us is true & trustworthy – and it’s on that basis that we can know what God has said and promised, and it’s on that basis that we can trust that God is faithful to what he has said and that he will always keep his promises.
And, I love it, when my child simply takes me at my word and believes the promises I’ve made. I love it when I make a promise – say, that we can’t have cream tonight but I promise we’ll go get ice tomorrow, and my child hears that promise and that’s enough to cease any complaint about not having ice cream tonight; and it’s enough to cease their requests and quiet their clamoring & craving for ice cream; when they simply trust that promise I made. I love that, and I think that God loves when we his people do the same.
Of course, none of us do this perfectly, but God’s spirit is making us people of faith & people of faithfulness.
The good news of the gospel, is that God is faithful to us even when we fail in our faithfulness. Even when we sin, even when we fail, even when we fail again, even when we doubt & disbelieve, even in those times when we are faithless –
We aren’t saved by our faithfulness to God, but by God’s faithfulness to us.
Yet, we must have faith: 2 Timothy 2:12 – “if we disown him, he will also disown us”. Teachings in the bible like this often frighten people – often they become very fearful, thinking: “I don’t want God to disown me! What if I’ve done something for which God would disown me.”
And, what I tell people is that, in most cases, if you’re afraid of having accidentally or unknowingly disowned God, then probably you haven’t disowned him in the way this verse is taking about. I think this refers to a deliberate, conscious, willful, persistent renunciation of Christ – and as long as we do that, then we should have no assurance that we remain in the faithfulness of God. But, this doesn’t refer to a moment of weak faith, or a lack of faithfulness in living out the faith which we cling to – however weak we cling to it – because it’s not our grip on God which keeps us secure, but his grip on us.
We must have faith – we can’t expect to renounce faith in Christ and expect him to still call us his children, because someone who truly renounces their faith never had saving faith to begin with; but, the good news of this is that we aren’t saved by the strength of our faith in God or the perfection of our faithfulness to God, but rather we are saved by the faithful God in whom we put our trust.
BB Warfield: ”The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.”
But, the gospel wants to make us faithful people – people who believe the promises of God, and live out of them – people who live with faith in God and people who live faithfully to God; faithfully to others.
faithfully to God:
-in times of adversity
-in times of prosperity
-when there is no earthly reward
-remembering our eternal reward
Faithfulness in Adversity:
Remember – God doesn’t always lead by a straight path in terms of directness, and ease and comfort. Sometimes – often – God leads his people by the long way; the difficult path. He often avoids leading us by the short-cut or the straight level road, because the short-cut won’t give us the time & testing that he knows we need, in order to learn what we need to learn – to learn to trust him; to learn to look to him for what we need; to learn to cling to him in dependence.
Deuteronomy 8 – The people of God are standing on the edge of the promised land, preparing to enter into the inheritance promised to their forefathers many years ago; and Moses is looking back on their wilderness wanderings – he is interpreting that wilderness experience for the people: “You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness: that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
A time of humbling; a time of testing to see whether they would obey him; and a time of teaching them to depend upon God above all else – teaching them their utter need for him; teaching them to look to him and hold fast to him in faithfulness.
We often think that the difficult times of life are the times when we can put on pause our obligation to God: “you know, God, things are tough for me right now, so I’ll live faithfully unto you later on, when things get easier. For now, I’ve got to get myself through, I’ve got to fend for myself.”
You see how backwards that is! That attitude goes directly against what God says is his purpose in those wilderness experiences! Because it’s in those times that we need him most – and so we need most – above all else – to be faithful to him – Because man does not live by bread alone, but by the word of God – God is our spiritual food that sustains our spirits into eternity even if we lack all physical food.
And, so, Moses says, remember! – remember the way God led you faithfully through the desert.
When you are in a wilderness experience – and maybe you are right now – remember God’s faithfulness to you in the past. And if you can’t think of a way God has been faithful to you in the past, then remember God’s faithfulness to his people in the past. Remember that their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell in 40 years of wandering through the desert. And remember that God will be faithful to you too.
We need to remember God’s past faithfulness – or our current wilderness experience – our present lack/suffering/hardship might cause us to resent God, to be embittered towards him, and to turn inward to self-dependence instead of outward to trust and depend upon God.
Faithfulness in adversity; faithfulness in prosperity.
In dt 8, remember they are on the edge of the promised land, about to enter into a land flowing with milk and honey – after 40 years wandering in the desert with no home living in tents; eating manna every day; there is a shift from thinking about their past wilderness hardships and being told to “remember” how God was faithful; to their future life of plenty and being told, “do not forget the Lord”.
You see, in the hardships of life, we’re tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness. We’re tempted to become embittered towards him, angry at him. And we think that once life settles down, once life gets good, once we turn the corner, then, then it will be easy to live in faithfulness to God – but we are wrong; because once life turns the corner from adversity to prosperity our challenges to faithfulness to God don’t go away; we get a new set of them.
Because now, our temptation is to forget that we need God at all. Life is good; life is easy; I can handle this; I’ve got lots of things; I’ve got comfort, pleasure, material possessions, prosperity; and prosperity is as much of, if not more of, a spiritual danger than adversity.
Beware of prosperity – not because it isn’t a good gift form God that we can receive with thankfulness to God; but because it presents a spiritual danger that causes us to forget that we are poor in spirit; that we are utterly dependent upon God; and that our obligation is to live in faithfulness to him, not in service/slavery to the things of this world.
faithfulness in adversity; prosperity; even when no earthly reward:
Jesus is very clear: that the call of discipleship is a call to death – to dying to living for yourself; and laying down your life daily to live for him.
In doing so, we find life in Christ; but make no mistake it is costly; it costs everything.
There is a perpetual tendency to redefine discipleship – to redefine it such that it isn’t costly, such that it doesn’t require personal repentance or self-denial or radical sacrifice; such that I can claim to follow Christ without taking up my cross and dying to myself – but you can’t have it both ways; Jesus was abundantly clear; that to believe the gospel we need to repent of our sins; that to follow him we must take up our cross, and die to ourselves, and only then find life in him.
And, so, sometimes in this life it feels as though there is no earthly reward – only cost. And the question then, is, will you be faithful to Christ even if there is no earthly reward? Or, another way to put that same question is this: Is Jesus enough for you? Even if Jesus were the only reward of faithfulness that you see in this lifetime, is that enough for you?
I hope it is. And of course, God often gives many rewards for faithfulness in this life, but even without them, we know that we have eternal heavenly rewards for living faithfully to Christ in this life.
adversity; prosperity; even when there is no earthly reward; remembering that there is a heavenly reward:
Faithfulness to God, means persevering through hardship, living for him through persecution, remaining faithful to him until the end no matter what.
It means living for that final commendation from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It means remembering that there is an eternal glory that makes our present troubles “light and momentary”. It means remembering all the reward promised to us in Scripture and living for eternity, not living for the short, fleeting, comfortable life this world promises.
Edwards: “Surely promises so rich and abundant as these, should make us willing to undergo all sufferings for the sake of Christ, who will so gloriously reward us for them all… if we trust in God, we shall not be afraid to venture labour, and fighting, and watching, and suffering, and all things for him, since he has so abundantly promised to reward these things with that which will infinitely more than make up for all the losses or difficulties or sorrows we may experience in the way of duty.”
faithfulness to God; to others:
-faithfulness in keeping our promises; keeping our word – in the words of Jesus, letting your yes be yes and your no be no. It means being trustworthy – able to be relied upon – that when you make a commitment you follow through on it; such that you are the kind of person that when you say you’ll do something, people don’t need to make a plan B because they are more confident that you’ll let them down rather than follow through.
It means that you are not the kind of person described in Proverbs 25:19 “Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.”
You don’t want to be the kind of person whom relying upon you is like relying upon a broken foot – what happens when you rely upon a broken foot? You fall down, because that broken foot can’t hold you up. What happens when you bite down on a piece of food with a broken tooth? It causes you pain. You don’t want to be the kind of person that when people try to depend upon you, you are only a source of pain and let-down to them.
We live in a commitment-less age. We don’t want to commit to something ahead of time because it locks us in and deprives us of the freedom to choose other options; or, we don’t want to follow-through on our commitments when a more personally advantageous option comes up, or when those commitments become in any way difficult or challenging to keep.
Christians ought to be different. Christians ought to be faithful to their word, to their commitments – the kind of person described in Psalm 15 who “keeps an oath even when it hurts”. If we have a promise-keeping God, then we should be promise-keeping people.
-faithfulness/trustworthiness in speech and actions: honest, fair
related to keeping your word – simply telling the truth – not lying. I mean, lying did make it into one of the 10 commandments
being trustworthy I’m speech and actions – not cheating others/stealing from others, but being honest and fair in your dealings other people.
-faithfulness in doing our duties & responsibilities
In our culture responsibility is a bad word – you know, no one wants to “adult” with anything; but in scripture, responsibility is a reward – faithfulness to God in little things is rewarded by him with – what? suddenly no responsibilities? No – with greater responsibility.
Doesn’t mean responsibility is easy – but it means it is good – not only is it a necessary, but it is a good part of life. If you want to have any kind of life, you need to embrace responsibility. And parents ought to teach their kids how to handle responsibilities.
Faithfulness means showing up to your job and working hard in order to provide for your family, save for the future, pay your bills, and be generous to those in need.
Faithfulness means fulfilling your duties to your employer.
-laziness – Proverbs 10:26 “As smoke to the eyes is a sluggard to those who send him”. If you’ve ever been standing around a campfire and suddenly the smoke shifts and blows into your eyes – it’s painful, blinding, debilitating, paralyzing – and that’s what a lazy person is to those who rely on him.
Faithfulness means being there for your kids – denying yourself and your own pursuits in order to be there with your kids while your kids are growing up. It means following through on the promises you make to your kids – not making empty promises to them; and not making promises that you can’t keep: ie, Not promising them 5 inches of snow to make a snowman with when you have no power to ensure that you will actually get 5 inches of snow rather than a light dusting followed by weeks of unseasonable warmth.
Faithfulness means being faithful in the responsibilities you have – it means doing the chores that you and your parents have agreed are your responsibility – cleaning your room, washing some dishes, cleaning the bathroom that you have no small part in contributing to the dirtiness of.
faithfulness means being responsible with your money.
Faithfulness means serving in the body of Christ.
Faithfulness means being faithful to your spouse, and following through on your wedding vows to love for better or worse, to being faithful and forsaking all others and loving your spouse only and exclusively, and living in purity to your spouse. It means living in sexual purity in both thought, and in deed.
faithfulness means being a faithful friend:
True friendship is rare: proverbs 20:6 “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”
People claim to be loving, faithful friends, but when it comes down to it, faithful friends are rare.
-being there for others (proverbs 27:10; 19:4; 18:24)
Beware of false friends – proverbs often describes the “fair-weather friend” who only shows up when he needs something from you or when you have something to offer them – only when there’s something in it for them.
Don’t be that kind of friend. Be the kind of friend who is there for others even when there’s nothing in it for you – who is there at all times; who is there for others even in the tough times.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
-faithfulness means doing the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.
a friend is there at all times; but this true loyalty is not to be confused with blind loyalty that never is willing to do the right thing or say the hard thing. Loyalty in friendship is not flattery; but it’s committed to the truth and to doing the right thing:
Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (ESV)
A true friend at times brings the truth to bear on the lives of others – even if it feels like a wound – because the true friend does so not to wound but to heal and bring life.
Don’t be deceived by the flattery of an enemy; don’t miss the intention of the wounds of a friend. Someone who only ever flatters you – they may feel like a friend but they are a false friend. Someone who in love wounds you, may feel like an enemy but they offer you the kind of friendship that has lasting, spiritual value.
“Parable of talents.”
God gives each different gifts, responsibilities, opportunities. they are responsible for what they’ve been given, not for what someone else was given.
And, God expects faithfulness – he expects us to use the gifts he gives us for his glory, to fulfill the responsibilities he’s given us for his glory; he expects us to make use of the opportunities he gives us for his glory.
And, those who have been Faithful with what they’ve been given, hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I pray that each of us will seek to be people who are confident that they will hear those words from God.