God exemplifies faithfulness. Our very salvation depends on God’s faithfulness. Using God's word and example, we learn what faithfulness is, how to practice it, and when we should exhibit it in our lives.
Let’s begin the split sermon today by opening our bibles to a key proverb, Proverbs:20:6 . Here we read:
Prov:20:6 – Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?
A lot of people are pretty good about bragging upon themselves, proclaiming each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? That is something a little more difficult to see, especially in today’s day and age, but Solomon felt that when he penned this proverb, Who can find a faithful man? Faithfulness goes much further than the relationship between a husband and a wife; it can involve almost all aspects of what we do, as we’ll come to see as we go through the sermon today. Here’s just one headline on unfaithfulness that I’ll read to you as a contrast. The headline is: “Zeta-Jones gets $5 million if Douglas is unfaithful." “Welsh film star, Catherine Zeta-Jones will receive $5 million from her husband, Hollywood film star Michael Douglas, if she catches him playing away. Zeta-Jones, 31, laid down the clause before marrying the 56 year old sex addict in New York, the star said." So often we think of unfaithfulness as to do with marriage and of course in Hollywood, it’s a big deal, money involved if you’re unfaithful. But what about other areas of our lives?
How do you and I measure up to the faithfulness of God? There are more than sixty references in the bible to the faithfulness of God and it’s not surprising that some forty of these instances occur in the book of Psalms, which recounts perhaps more than any other book in the bible, the struggles of the people of God and their total dependence upon Him at times for His faithfulness. Consider for a moment the absolute necessity for us to have an understanding of the faithfulness of God. We are dependent upon God’s faithfulness for many things, without these we would be lost and have no hope. Our very salvation depends on God’s faithfulness, our deliverance from temptation, our sanctification as saints in His family, forgiveness of our sins, deliverance through times of suffering and even eternal life and thankfully He is faithful who promised that and we can believe it and work toward that goal in our lives.
We can easily see that every aspect of the Christian life rests upon the faithfulness of God to His people so it’s no wonder then what the psalmist says in Psalms 89 in reflecting upon the faithfulness of God. Psa:89:1-2 . The psalmist says:
Psa:89:1 – I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
V. 2 – For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens."
So we are dependent upon the faithfulness of God and we know that He is faithful to promise. Even if you would do a study of the sixty references in the bible to the faithfulness of God, we may not even still do it justice because the entire bible is really a treatise on the theme of faithfulness and God’s faithfulness appears on almost every page you can turn to, even if the word is not mentioned, almost every page you turn to, shows us the faithfulness of God. And it’s impossible to describe the acts of God without in some way touching upon His faithfulness to each of us, His very own people. Let’s turn to Psalm 36:5 for a moment.
Psa:36:5 – Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
So God’s faithfulness goes as high as you can imagine, it will always be there. And so in our effort to become like God in our character, to have God’s image stamped on us, we must ensure that faithfulness is very high in our value system. If we are to become like Him, we too must be faithful individuals. Faithfulness to one another as well as faithfulness to God Himself. This is not a natural virtue, it’s not something that comes naturally as we read about in the very beginning of the sermon, Solomon’s lament in Prov:20:6 – Who can find a faithful man? God is faithful, you can find lots of people who will brag upon themselves but who can find a faithful man? Many people will say they’re faithful, they’ll profess faithfulness, but very few fully demonstrate it and the virtue of faithfulness can often even be costly to us, if we’re going to truly be faithful. And some people are not willing to pay the price, but for the godly person, faithfulness is an absolutely essential quality of His character, of yours and my character, regardless of what it might cost, as we’ll see.
So what is faithfulness? How do we practice it? When do we exhibit it in our lives? So we’ll look at three points here this afternoon in this regard and we’ll take a closer look at the subject here today.
First of all, what is faithfulness? The biblical word denotes that which is firm and can be counted upon. Webster’s defines faithful as “firm in adherence to promises or an observance of duty." And some common synonyms are: dependable, reliable, trustworthy and loyal. The word also has a connotation in the dictionary of “absolute honesty and integrity." Someone who is faithful is also honest and has high integrity. We’re going to turn to Daniel 6 and see an interesting example of faithfulness here. If you’ll start turning there with me to Daniel 6, we’re going to read v. 4. The faithful person is one who is dependable, trustworthy and loyal, who can be depended upon in all of his relationships and who is absolutely honest and ethical in all of his affairs. Now let’s know what was said of Daniel in Daniel:6:4 .
Dan:6:4 – So the governors (or as some translations put it, the presidents) and the princes sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom …and you know the story, they were looking for something they could accuse him of… but they could find no charge or fault …could that be said about you and I? If people searched into our lives, could they find any fault, any charge against us? Most likely, I would say! I would know they could for me. But they could find no charge or fault because he (Daniel) was faithful, nor was there any error or fault found in him. And the New Revised Standard version says, Nor was there any negligence or corruption found in him .
The words “corrupt" and “negligence" help us define by contrast what it means to be faithful, the opposite of being negligent or corrupt. The word “corrupt" is the opposite of honest or ethical and the word “negligent" is the opposite of such words as careful, thoughtful, considerate. So Daniel was like this, there was no negligence or corruption found in him, he was honest, no fault could be found against him.
Now drawing from Daniel’s example here, let’s look at three main areas of faithfulness and we’ll look at faithfulness towards God, which includes faithfulness towards each other and the first one is absolute honesty . Not just honesty, but absolute honesty. Daniel was not corrupt, he was honest, ethical and principled and absolute honesty in speech and in personal affairs has to be the hallmark of a faithful Christian. We have to be absolutely honest. Let’s look at a couple of scriptures in this regard. First of all, Proverbs:12:22 , let’s go over there.
Pro:12:22 – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.
Those who deal truthfully are a delight to God. How about Prov:11:1 , go back a page. Now this is not talking about the tongue, this one says:
Pro:11:1 – Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight (or a just measure) is His delight.
So it’s interesting we can be unfaithful in our words by not being honest, but also in our deeds and in our business dealings, in our weights and measures. God detests lying, in fact He abhors it, including dishonest business transactions. Not only are we commanded not to lie, we’re also commanded not to deceive in any manner at all. In the book, Character of the Christian , lying has been defined as any deceit in word, act, attitude, even silence, in deliberate exaggerations, in distortions of the truth or in creating false impressions. And so we lie or deceive when we pretend to be something we’re not, when as students we cheat on an examination or as taxpayers we fail to report all of our income. How much would you tell a prospective buyer about your used car? Would you fully disclose everything you know about it? The issue of honesty pervades every area of our lives and we must exhibit absolute honesty so it could be said of us, “I cannot find any lack of integrity in this person."
Imagine the following scenario: The doorbell rings and when you answer it you find a young four year old neighbor girl holding out a plate of cookies and she says, “My mommy sent you some cookies" with a big smile. And you thank her for them and promptly put them down some place and forget about them. A few days later as you’re walking out to your car, the little girl comes down the sidewalk on her bicycle and she says, “Mr. Eddington, how did you enjoy those cookies I left for you?" And of course you say, “Oh they were fine" you say, even though you haven’t even tasted them. What have you done? Well you’ve lied, there’s no question about it. Why have I done it? Perhaps because it was expedient and to save myself embarrassment, saying I didn’t eat them or try them yet. Maybe to avoid disappointing the little girl by not having tasted them. And sure it only seems like a small lie, a little lie of no consequence, but it would be a lie and God says that with that qualification, He detests lying. It’s best to be honest. Say, “Actually I haven’t tasted them yet, but you know, I will," or something like that.
But as we think of such an incident, we began to realize it may not be just an isolated incident at all. Sometimes we’re reminded of other occasions of seemingly innocent little lies, incidences of exaggeration maybe, manipulating the facts of a story just a little bit to make ourselves look a little better and we have to face the fact that we might not be quite as honest as we might have considered ourselves to be. Once again, consider Daniel. The record states that his enemies could find no fault or corruption in him and it seems these government officials, from their bitter jealousy as you read the story, their utter hostility toward Daniel, would have seized upon any inconsistency that they could possibly find. In fact they finally had to blame him for praying! That was the worse thing they could find him doing, was praying, of course not to Nebuchadnezzar! Regardless of how small or insignificant, these government officials wanted to bring Daniel before King Cyrus in disrepute, but they could find nothing. Daniel had evidently mastered the matter of absolute integrity, he could be trusted, he could be believed and of course we should have the same goal.
Think of Jesus Christ. Do you remember what He asked His enemies? He said in John:8:46 :
John:8:46 – “Which of you convicts me of sin?" Or as the NIV puts it, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" Have at me, come on, can anybody find anything wrong here?
If Jesus had distorted the truth even a little bit, if He hadn’t been absolutely honest, they could have nailed Him on some little thing. You know the plate of cookies in His life –but there wasn’t one, He was absolutely honest and we are called to be like Him, to be as absolutely honest as Jesus Christ was. Now why do we go into such little detail about absolute honesty in all aspects of our life? Because it’s with the little things that honesty begins. If we are careful to be honest in the small things, if we will certainly be careful in that regard, we will certainly be more careful and honest in the more important things of life. If we’re honest about the cookies in our lives, we will certainly be honest in our business transactions and our college examinations. Remember what Jesus said? Luke:16:10 , let’s turn over there. A very very important principle.
Luke:16:10 – He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much …So we could paraphrase that, he who is faithful with a plate of cookies can be trusted with much bigger things and as the verse concludes… and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
If you can’t be trusted to tell the truth about a plate of cookies, then what can you be trusted about? What can you be trusted with is the point here. So he who is faithful in the little things can be trusted in the bigger things. And our age desperately needs to reemphasize honesty both in its business transactions and its social dealings. Think of the current corporation scandals like Enron and WorldCom, their executives basically have shown that it is expected to succeed in business today by being untruthful and lying. And how many other companies are now being uncovered as doing similar things, not telling the truth about the health of their company.
As God’s sons and daughters, we are called to be different and we cannot be such if we are not modeled of absolute honesty in faithfulness. So that’s our point one.
Secondly, utter dependability. Once again, not just dependability, but utter dependability, always being dependable. We’re going to think of Daniel again. Daniel, it says, was neither corrupt nor negligent. If you’re not negligent, you’re reliable and dependable. No doubt people could count upon him. Daniel was probably on time for his appointments with the king, kept his commitments, honored his word and considered how his actions might affect others. They couldn’t find any part of unfaithfulness with Daniel. Few things can be more frustrating and vexing than relying on someone who is not dependable. Notice what Solomon observed in this regard in Prov:10:26 , we’ll go back to Proverbs again. Solomon’s talking about someone here who is not dependable.
Pro:10:26 – As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes …kind of smarts doesn’t it… so is the lazy man to those who send him.
If you sent someone to do something and he’s not dependable, he’s lazy, he doesn’t do it, it’s like vinegar in your mouth and smoke in your eyes, it’s not pleasant. Now the term “sluggard" refers to an habitually lazy person, but it’s unfaithfulness that makes him exasperating and frustrating. Now we may be indifferent about somebody else’s lazy habits if we don’t have to rely on that person, if it doesn’t affect us but if we are dependent upon a certain persons actions in some way, we see laziness and slothful habits as unfaithfulness, not carrying through on what we asked them to do. And as we looked at in point one, our society needs to reemphasize the virtue of honesty and it certainly needs to place great importance on dependability. Dependability has taken a back seat to people’s personal desire and convenience in this society. Some people keep commitments and are dependable if it’s convenient for them, if they don’t have something more important to do. There’s a book titled The Fruit of the Spirit by John Sanderson and in his book he says, “ If we probe a bit deeper, we see that unfaithfulness is very close to disobedience, for the man who disobeys God has cast himself loose from the only solid support a man can have and his direction in life will be controlled by the shifting winds of circumstances and of his whimsical desire. The man who is not controlled by God has no settled reason to keep his word or discharge his obligations. "
See if you don’t have God as the focus in your life, if you don’t have a firm foundation upon which you act, you tend to then follow your own desires and not discharge the obligations that God gives you and maybe that others will give you as well. But for the person who is practicing Godliness, whose having the image of God stamped upon them, dependability is a duty owed not only to our fellow man, but to God as well. If we’re dependable in the little things, if we’re dependable to our fellow man, then God will see that we can be dependable toward what He requires as well. Reliability is not just a social obligation, it’s a spiritual obligation, something that God expects from us and so that’s why we do it with our fellow man. God is very concerned about our faithfulness to Him. Let’s look at Psalm 15 and read verses 1-5 because King David asks a very good question and we’re actually going to see the first two points we’ve covered, in this chapter, honesty and dependability.
Psa:15:1 – Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle, who may dwell in Your holy hill? Let’s find out and see who that person is.
V. 2 – He who walks uprightly and works righteousness and speaks the truth in his heart. Well there we see absolute honesty in v. 2, speaking the truth from the very heart.
V. 3-4 – He who does not backbite with his tongue nor does evil to his neighbor nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord, and he who swears to his own hurt and does not change. Right there we see utter dependability. When you say you’ll do something, you’ll do it, even if it hurts.
V. 5 – He who does not put out his money as usury nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
I think it’s interesting to see honesty and dependability there in that chapter because here is written a list of ethical standards that a person must keep to dwell in God’s house and of course eventually be a part of His family. In the middle of that list there is this phrase, “He who keeps his oath, even when it hurts." Or as the New King James says, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change." God wants us to be dependable even when it hurts, even when it may cost us and this is what helps distinguish Godly faithfulness from the ordinary dependability of our society, when you will keep your commitment even when it may hurt or cost you. Consider perhaps the teenager who agrees to baby-sit for a neighbor on a given evening and then a young man from ABC calls and invites her out to the movies on the very same night. What is she to do? Does she just simply cancel the babysitting arrangement and leave the neighbor to find someone else? The godly teenager will keep her commitment even when it hurts. Now she might be able to make a suitable arrangement agreeable to the neighbor to get someone else, but if not, she should keep to her commitment. But in either case, she feels a responsibility before God to honor her commitment and to fill her responsibility to her fellow man. Before God we feel the obligation to be dependable, before God we feel the obligation to be honest.
Consider the businessman who enters into an agreement only to discover that this business arrangement is quite to his disadvantage. What is he to do? The average person is most apt to contact his lawyer and say, “Get me out of this thing, find a loophole, bend the law a little bit, I don’t want to keep this agreement any longer." But not for you and me. Now we may indeed see if there is a true resolution to our problem with that business arrangement, but we must not renege on our word simply because it’s possible to find a loophole to do so. We must keep our word even when it hurts, even if we find we signed a bad arrangement of some kind.
Now between these two extremes, the perhaps inconvenient babysitting arrangement and the financially maybe disastrous business agreement, there are numerous instances in between that we might face on a daily basis. Commitments that from time to time may prove costly for us or may be inconvenient for us. It is times such as these we especially need, with God’s help, to manifest the fruit of the spirit, that is, faithfulness – to be dependable, to be faithful to our word, to be honest. Prov:25:13 , we’ve been in the Proverbs a little bit today and the Psalms. Here we see dependability mentioned, although not in that very word.
Pro:25:13 – Like the cold of snow …in Cincinnati… in time of harvest, is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters.
If you’re sent off to do something and you report back, having completed the task admirably, then it refreshes the soul of those who sent you. A faithful messenger will fulfill his or her task with utter dependability, which, according to this verse, can be a refreshing change in this sometimes unfaithful world. Just like a refreshing change outside from time to time. Someone who will do what they said they’ll do with dependability can be refreshing to those who ask you to do it.
So we must have one, absolute honesty and two, utter dependability . Thirdly, unswerving loyalty . The faithful person is not only honest and dependable, but also loyal. Daniel showed that he was absolutely loyal to his Father, to his God. He would not compromise one bit with the commandments of God. Daniel was loyal and faithful to His creator. Now for us on a day to day basis, the issue of loyalty usually arises with our friends and the word has come to have a connotation of sticking with someone through thick and thin, no matter what, standing by your friend and being loyal. There is a very great description of loyalty in Solomon’s words in Proverbs:17:17 . That is:
Pro:17:17 – A friend loves at all times …in the good times and the bad times… and a brother is born for adversity.
So when things are adverse, when things aren’t going so well, that’s when you want to have somebody stick by you like a brother and a friend will love at all times. Having said that, there is no such person as a fair-weather friend. If a person’s loyalty doesn’t ensure his faithfulness to another person in times of stress, then he isn’t really a friend. He may just be using the other person to satisfy some of his own needs, his own social needs, to have a friend. When things get tough, you expect a loyal friend to stand by you, don’t you? There’s no such thing as a fair-weather friend. Maybe a fair-weather acquaintance!
Now King Saul’s son, Jonathan, provides probably one of the best illustrations of loyalty in the bible. You’re familiar with the story of Jonathan and his friendship with King David, or at the time, David was not king. His loyal friendship with David almost cost him his life at the hands of his own father and amazingly, Jonathan realized that his loyalty to David would, in the end; cost him the throne of Israel. If he was to promote David, protect David, support David, eventually then Jonathan then would not have the throne because it was in God’s plan to have David take the throne. Jonathan stood by that even though he was an heir to the throne. So whether it be in honesty or dependability or loyalty, faithfulness can be a costly virtue, it can cost you. Prov:13:17 .
Pro:13:17 – A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful ambassador brings health.
A faithful messenger, a faithful ambassador, a loyal ambassador brings health. You see, those who fulfill their ambassadorial duties faithful and with loyalty bring health to a nation. This country, our government would not be happy if the ambassadors it has in each country were not faithful, were not loyal, went over there unbeknownst to the administration here and did their own thing. You want a faithful ambassador that will bring health to a nation. And likewise, we, as ambassadors for Jesus Christ, as ambassadors for God’s kingdom and God’s government, we bring health to the family of God when we carry out our Christian duties with unswerving loyalty. When we carry out our Christian duties, when we follow our Father in heaven with unswerving loyalty, we bring health to the family, health to God’s government. A faithful ambassador brings health.
Now there’s a kind of loyalty that we have to avoid however, the so-called “blind" loyalty, you’ve heard of blind loyalty. This kind refuses to admit the mistakes or faults of a friend. See a true friend will stick by you through thick and thin, yes, but also helps you when they see you have a problem. To have blind loyalty can actually be a disservice to your friend. Prov:27:6 , let’s note that passage.
Prov:27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend ….or as the New Revised Standard Version puts it, Well-meant are the wounds a friend inflicts …A friend will be looking out for your best, but you notice the last part of the verse…but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Or as the NRSV says, But profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
So if someone is always kissing up to you, so to speak in today’s lingo, you may want to be careful. But the wounds of a friend can be faithful wounds; they’re looking out for your very very best. Not blind loyalty, but being a truly faithful loyal friend. And only the truly faithful friend cares enough about you or me to undertake the often thankless task, pointing out where we may have a problem. None of us enjoy being confronted by our mistakes, do we? So we often make it difficult for our friends to talk to us. But this is not loyalty, loyalty speaks the truth in faithfulness, but it also speaks it in love and concern for the friend.
So we must have one – absolute honesty , two – utter dependability , and three – unswerving loyalty , in faithfulness to God and in faithfulness to one another.
I’m just going to add one extra point here and that is, how do we meet God’s requirement? As with the other elements of Christian character, the first step in growing in faithfulness is acknowledge the biblical standard, to see what we have to look up to because faithfulness entails honesty, dependability and loyalty. It is to be like Daniel, neither corrupt nor negligent, with no error or fault. We must develop convictions consistent with this biblical standard based on the Word of God.
How do we do this? First, we study the biblical topics on faithfulness , like we’ve been doing here today. We look to see what the Word says about faithfulness, that’s the first step. What is our foundation?
Secondly, we evaluate our life and see where we might be being faithful, where we might be falling short. Do we seek to be scrupulously honest? Can others depend upon us even when it’s costly? Can God depend upon us, even when it’s costly? Will we stick by our friend when he or she is in difficulty? So we evaluate our life, upon the biblical standard.
Then third, if we see an area where we need to improve our faithfulness, we make it a matter of prayer, but also the object of doing something concrete about it. Remember that our effort and the power of God’s holy spirit go hand in hand; they work together to strengthen our godly character. We cannot be a faithful person merely by trying, there’s a divine dimension. To have the faithfulness of God requires His input in our lives but it is also truthful that we will not become a faithful person without trying, it takes both. Faith without works is dead. But we need God’s spirit and help.
So we first study the biblical passages and see what the foundation is that we live upon, then we evaluate our life to see where we might be falling short or where we measure up and then we pray and seek God’s help where we might be falling short.
Second last scripture here in Revelation:2:10. Notice what Jesus said to the Church in Smyrna. Now faithfulness can be costly and while we usually don’t have to be faithful unto death, there may come a time when it is required.
Rev:2:10 – “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days. But be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life."
So there may one day come the ultimate cost of being faithful to our Father in heaven. But He will give us the crown of life. Consider the reward for faithfulness, it is the crown of life which represents, of course, eternal life and God is faithful in that promise. This life is temporary, a better one is yet to come and so we must be faithful unto the death if necessary.
Let’s conclude with a couple of final thoughts. As we all know, faithfulness is one of the fruits of the holy spirit. You’re aware of that, I’ll read the passage to you in Galatians:5:22-23.
Gal:5:22 – The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness… adding to that …gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.
If you are faithful, you will not be held accountable for that! Daniel was faithful, they couldn’t find an error or fault in his life. There is no law against being faithful.
A final quote on faithfulness from the Web: “Faithfulness is desired, faithfulness is expressed by our obedience, faithfulness is demonstrated each day. Faithfulness believes the promise and trusts the One that promised. Faithfulness is what is missing in most people. Faithfulness can’t be purchased with tithes and offerings. Faithfulness distinguishes disciples from regular church attendees. Faithfulness requires sacrifice of self. Faithfulness is nurtured in tribulation."
So we must have absolute honesty, utter dependability and unswerving loyalty in faithfulness to God and to each other. One final passage – Matthew:25:21, the parable of the talents, notice what the master said here at the end of the parable of the talents.
Matt:25:21 – “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."
Or we can say, Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over the cookies in your life, now you can have eternal life. Faithfulness to God includes faithfulness to one another and this is the ultimate point of each passage on faithfulness. The two great commandments show that we are to love God first, but then love our neighbor as our self. The two commandments go side-by-side and together. It is God who requires that we be faithful to Him, yes, but also to each other in our daily lives. God requires it of us. If we seek to grow in faithfulness toward one another, we have the hope of hearing our Father in heaven say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."