Reminder: No Sunday School classes in July. We'll start back with classes for adults and children in August!

The Fruit of The Lips: Faithfulness

FOTL 3-2

What is faithfulness?

Faithfulness is a trustworthiness, loyalty, and reliability. It comes from the root word “πίστις” (pistis), from which we get the word “faith”. Faithfulness is the mark of someone living by faith — they believe in what God has said and so they live, act, and speak in a manner which is consistent with, and testifies to, their commitment and trust of God.

God demonstrates Himself as faithful and He calls us to faithfulness.

His faithfulness is the quality of backing up what he says that he will do. Where he promises love, he never waivers, quits, or withdrawals. God is merciful, kind, and good in his love for us, and he is faithful to uphold all of the many promises that He gives (He is consistent). The same can be said of His warnings. He will by no means pardon the guilty. They will either be judged in Christ and saved or judged by Christ and condemned. Nevertheless, He remains faithful.

 

God is Faithful

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5, ESV)

God’s faithfulness is so abundant that it could be stacked up to the clouds!

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:19–25, ESV)

Though we have affliction and wanderings, we have the ability to say, “but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope”. Sometimes our ability to remember the steadfast love and new mercy of the Lord comes from our own minds and sometimes from the words of a preacher or a friend. All of us can become conflicted with sorrow and doubt at times, but God stands over our seasons of change with an impeccable record of consistent love. His faithfulness is to be recalled and remembered.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” (Revelation 19:11, ESV)

At the coming of the Lord there will be many surprises as He is revealed and known, but it will be no new revelation that He was coming to judge and to redeem the world. He will be faithful to fulfill all that He has promised.

 

Our Call To Faithfulness

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24, ESV)

The call for the Christian is an all-consuming call. Considering who He is and what He has done (what our life is for and what really matters), the Christian must see that faith isn’t merely a small part of our life, but the whole of it. We are to serve the Lord faithfully with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength for life.

As Deitrich Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

 

God is watching for our faithfulness

I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” (Luke 18:8, ESV)

This verse comes at the end of Jesus’ parable of the consistent widow. She needed help against an adversary and the wicked king wouldn’t help her. She never relented, begging for help until the king gave in. How much more, Jesus argues, is God willing to help us; He who isn’t a wicked king and who cares nothing for his servants. But Jesus asks, will we even find faith on the earth that even looks like this widow’s? Will we find those whose hearts have hope and whose mouths give praise and testimony? God is expecting faithfulness from us. We all know what it tis like to put great hope in earthly things and in earthly people, how much more should we throw ourselves into hoping into the One who has never let us down and is working all things for our good? Faith is rewarded. And faith is expected.

 

Faithful to remember and to lead

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:1–13, ESV)

The faithful builder has built a house, and we are that house, “if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope”. We are to fight against the hardness of heart that comes with complaining and doubt and fear, taking care that there not be an unbelieving heart that is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We are to be faithful to boast in God, exhorting one another as long as it is called “today” that we may not grow indifferent. We fight sin by faithful speech, by boastful speech. Speech that faithful to tell the truth about God’s world and our role in it. Cast away speech that doubts God and doesn’t remember who He is and what he has done. Cast away speech that calls into question God’s perfect record, sowing doubt where there should be none. Stir your heart to see rightly and boast louder than the lies that God is faithful.

Let’s be honest, faith (trusting) is difficult

 

Faithfulness as a guide

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:1–6, ESV)

Faith and faithfulness is a fight. And often the battleground of that fight is what our hearts remember and what they meditate upon. We become like that which we behold. God calls us to trust him, promising great blessing through our lives by doing so, but we must adorn our hearts and tie around our neck the testimonies of God’s steadfast love. We are to put them on as frontlets between our eyes, paint them on our door posts, to talk about them when we sit in our house, or walk by the way (Dt. 6). And even when we cannot see, when our own impulse makes more sense but it runs in conflict with God’s word, we must ask ourselves, “who is more trustworthy, God or me?” I let myself down all the time, but God has never let me down. And when we cannot see, we must lean on his ways. (Shasta and Aslan)

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–7, ESV)

This dynamic is how we are to live — easing into feeling more comfort trusting in the Lord than our own flesh and impulses. The tasting sometimes is hard, but the result is finding that the Lord truly is good.

 

Faithfulness in our speech

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:23–24, ESV)

Because God is faithful, we, too, not only should be faithful but we can be faithful. As we abide in the vine, He abides in us. And He is going nowhere. He has promised, and He will be faithful. He is the strength which gives us strength. An in Him there is no shadow due to change. So we hold fast to our confession and hope without wavering. And when temptation comes do doubt, or to give into fear, or to worship at another altar, the church must learn how to speak faithfully, considering how to “stir one another up to love and good works”.

And this is where we can hone in on faithfulness in our speech.

 

Faithfulness in Accuracy

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV)

We need faithful teaching, and that faithful speech must come from the lips of qualified and trustworthy lives (of faithful men). So much of Christian speak and teaching and blogging and vlogging is therapeutic, anecdotal, and self-congratulatory. We need God’s word and men who can speak it plainly. Jesus prays in John 17, ““Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

Faithfulness in Consistency

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13–14, ESV)

We are to follow in the pattern of sound speech and teaching that we have heard. That is, we are to keep in step with the Spirit, which patterns himself in us and guards the truth in us.

If we have learned of the sovereignty of God, we should speak as if He is in sovereign control, filling our words with optimistic hope.

If we have learned of the abundant forgiveness of God, we should speak forgiveness seventy times seven to those who have wronged us.

If we have learned of the patience of God, we should faithfully imitate that patience in our speech at home and to others.

If we have learned how Jesus speaks to the downtrodden, the guilty, the prideful, the hypocrites, let us learn these patterns of speech.

 

Faithfulness to speak boldly

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18–20, ESV)

Like Paul, we ought to be faithful to proclaim the mystery of the gospel boldly. We can often believe strongly on a personal level while becoming incredibly timid in the public square. If the gospel is true, it is not only true for us and our needs, but also true for the needs of our neighbors. And even Paul asked for prayer in this, that any fear of man would be overcome with speaking faithfully, how he ought to speak.

 

Faithfulness in speaking to the self

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3–4, ESV)

We need to be faithful to tell ourselves what is true. When accusation and disappointment crowd our mind, whether it comes from other people or even from within ourselves, we must remember what the true status of our identity is.  The accurate picture of who you are is what christ says about you. We err on the side of flattery and naivety of our true state before a holy God or on the other side of self-pity and self-condemnation. But God has the clear eyes, and we are to be faithful in identifying ourselves in light of His revelation. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation and there is no condemnation.

 

Faithfulness in rebuke

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV)

Flattery comes to you from an enemy. Even if they consider themselves your friend, if they approach you faithlessly, too weak to speak the truth for fear of offense, then they are your enemy. The wounds which come from someone who loves you are wounds that heal, like the cut from a surgeon’s knife, not the mutilation of a butcher. Faithfulness to God and to your neighbor will frequently require the courage of wounding, but wounding in the hope that the truth sets us free and is accompanied by an easy yoke and a light burden.