The Faithfulness of GodSometimes with hindsight we discover a great significance in our most commonplace or mundane experiences. I recognize one of mine as truly a gift from God.
As a boy I would spend around two weeks during the summers with my grandparents.
When my Grandpa retired from farming he had the time to dedicate to his vegetable garden. I think it was really Grandma’s, but if hard work keeps us young, then Grandpa was clearly the beneficiary of this fountain of youth.
I would accompany Grandpa nearly everywhere he went. Since he frequently found himself in that 30 x 120 foot plot of ground, so I would find myself there too. We spent hours among the rows and rows of vegetables doing what needed to be done. Pulling weeds. Personally I couldn’t tell a vegetable from a weed and had about as much interest in learning as I did eating whatever it was that was growing in the ground.
There was no shortage of weeds. As I looked at it through the eyes of a boy who wanted to be doing something ‘important’ (which I still thought meant doing something exciting), the tedium of the task overwhelmed me.
This idea of having all this work to do; that it would take such a long time to do it and that it wouldn’t be terribly interesting, was too much to take. I would ask my Grandpa in a complaining tone, how in the world he kept at it; how did he persist in the task and why did he do it?
His answer confounded me then; yet, these were some of the most important words I’ve ever heard in my life. Regarding his motivation to keep going; “I just look at where I’ve been.” As to the question of why; “If I don’t do it the weeds will take over and the vegetables will die.”
My Grandpa, while pulling weeds in the hot sun, was faithful in his work. It was the fact that he was faithful in this work that made him who he was; it guided him in his actions.
God is supremely faithful in His work; it is the fact that He is faithful in His work that makes Him who He is; it guides Him in His actions. He does this for our benefit and His glory and it is “Faithfulness” as a fruit of the Spirit that we will be examining and considering as we continue to answer the following question:
What of God’s nature allows Him to be worthy of not just a place of prominence but to be first and foremost in our lives?
This so we as believers might trust Him all the more; so that we as His messengers might be able to explain to others why they should trust Him too.
The Hebrew word translated “faithfulness” means “steadfastness, firmness & fidelity.” The opposite of being faithful is to be ever-changing or, from the Latin; wishy-washy. Faithfulness is having the resolve and the commitment of heart to see something through to the very end; to be engaged in the moment and not losing track of all the small details which present themselves.
For example, the degree to which one is complete and thorough in the task at hand, again not missing any details, speaks and supplies evidence to the steadfast nature of the one doing the work. There are no details that escape God’s survey, be they good or bad. He sees all and is faithful in His work because He wants none to perish. (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV)
God displays His faithfulness in endless undertakings; many of which I will not even attempt to cover today. We will address two specific ways in which God is faithful: His words and His actions.
Words ought to indicate what your actions will be; a hallmark of something that not only is buried deep within but a precursor of what we are willing to do personally to make sure the battle is joined and that the war is won.
As evidenced, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants. Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.” (Psalm 119:89-93, NKJV)
It is by the faithful nature of God that His word is given as a gift of eternal life to the lives of men and that it exists as a reality unto itself; “settled in heaven” whether we hear it or not, accept it or not, it remains a perfect representation of the actions He will take in the future.
With this foundational understanding we are going to look at two examples of God’s words in the Old Testament, and an example of God’s actions in the Old and New Testaments.
“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2, NKJV)
What wonderful words of commitment made to Abram, what miraculous promises God made to the decendents of the man He called out of Ur when He said, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NKJV)
“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in the dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage – in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.” (Exodus 1:8-14, NKJV)
How remote, how hollow and how false were the promises of God in the ears, the hearts and the lives of enslaved Israel. I’m sure the Egyptians mocked them by asking, “Where is God’s faithfulness now?” Worse yet, how many in the nation of Israel wondered the exact same thing?
“Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10, NKJV)
God’s faithfulness made good the promise made to Abram so many generations before. That while they were under the bondage of those, who by all worldly accounts held all the cards and would never let them go, God was preparing a woman named Jochebed. A mother with the courage to trust in the faithfulness of God and set her son afloat on the waters of the Nile so that he might have the opportunity at life and not perish with all certainty under the weight of Pharaoh as taskmaster.
“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3, NKJV)
There was a family that lived in Judea and as it would happen one of them became very sick. Not only did they know Jesus but He knew them personally, had spent time with them and, as the scriptures tells us in John 11:5, loved them.
When word of the one who became sick reached the ears of Jesus one would think that He would jump to His feet and rush off to tend the needs of those He loved. Rather, He waited two more days before departing to Judea and by the time he arrived he who was sick in fact died and had been in the tomb for four days.
This is the story of Lazarus of Bethany and how much his sisters Mary and Martha grieved at his passing and bemoaned the delay of our Lord and his travels to Judea.
“Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:20-22, NKJV)
Mary echoed, in part, these emotions of sorrow and loss, indirectly at the hands of the Son of God, after all He was the One who was four days late.
“Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.' ” (John 11:32, NKJV)
Do you ever feel like I feel? Do you ever feel as if, when in your darkest hours, that God is late to the party and that His timing is completely and totally wrong? When we cry out to Him, desiring His approach, yet, we don’t get the response or the timing of the response we think we need. Do we ever mutter under our breath, “If you would have shown up God, like you said you would, this wouldn’t have happened?”
Have you concluded what I have? That when we look back at the most difficult moments of our lives and we look at the timing of how God has brought remedy to those matters; when we see the beauty God has brought out of our brokenness and our personal tragedies; it is then that we experience the faithfulness of God as He works all things out so that we might know all the more that He is God, that He always follows through on His promises and that He is never, ever late!
“Then Jesus, again, groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe that you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth, Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:40-44, NKJV)
God is always interested in where we are and He is always attentive to our needs even when we may not know that to be the case by what we perceive or what we feel. He is faithful unto the end and in the most important way…for the salvation of our eternal souls.
“And this is the will of him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40, NKJV)
This is the promise God has made to each human being who calls upon the name of His Son for salvation, for grace and for mercy. Since we know the faithful nature of God and know He will do exactly what He says He will do…why would one delay such a crucial decision with regard to committing their life to the hands of Jesus Christ?
For it is in this way that while we were under the heavy taskmaster of our sins, while we were apart from our Heavenly Father, that He rolled back the stone of His own Son’s tomb, conquered death on our behalf and, with His Holy Spirit, calls into the life all of humanity through the glory of His Gospel and bids us to “come forth” and “follow Him!”
This He does while circumstances abound that we do not understand. Situations which we simply cannot accept and those things which wound us terribly in places where we did not know we had places. Yet when we look back at how He brings beauty out of tragedy we as people of faith are so moved that we give Him all the glory; all the honor; all the praise. Let the testimony of our lips, the testimony of our actions and the testimony of our lives show others, who don’t know the Lord and His steadfast nature.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-24, NKJV)
This is the faithfulness of God!