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#7 “The Marriage/Divorce Rat-Race (Faithfulness: the virtue of reliability)”

25 Dec

“For every ten marriages occurring in America today, five will end in bitter conflict and divorce. That is tragic… but have you ever wondered what happens to the other five? Do they sail blissfully into the sunset? Hardly! Some couples will remain married for the benefit of the children, while others will pass the years in relative apathy. Incredibly, only one or two out of ten will achieve what might be called ‘intimacy’ in the relationship.” –Dr. James Dobson

“One of the telling features of the dominant culture is the value placed on disposability. We have disposable plates, napkins, eating utensils, packaging, razors, diapers, contact lenses and cameras. Indeed, almost every week a new product comes on the market whose primary “virtue” (read “selling point”) is its disposability. Rather than service those things that serve us, we create products that we can simply discard. Within such a culture should we be surprised if we find it easier and easier to “dispose” of relationships once they have outlived their usefulness?” –Philip Kenneson

Some Recent Statistics on Divorce:

There were over two million divorces in America last year.

The average duration of broken marriages was only seven years, half before three years.

Almost half the children in America had no healthy marriage models in the formative years.

Approximately 80% of couples seeking divorce state money was the focus of their disagreements.

90% of children suffer some acute sense of shock when marriage separation occurs.

37% of children are more unhappy about a parental divorce 5 years after than even at 18 months.

The Great Need for Marriages Today…Faithfulness: a life characterized by belief and trust; strict adherence to duty and promises pledged.

“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right” (Prov. 20:6-11)

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”(Gal. 5:22)

Fidelity; this word (pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness.   It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable…it is that which makes a man/woman a person on whom we can utterly rely and whose word we can utterly accept.

 

There are only three other times the word is used in the New Testament:

(Matthew 23:23)  “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

 

(Romans 3:3)  “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

 

(Titus 2:10)  “and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

 

The Three Components of Faith:

1. The faith: the body of Christian truth implied in faith.

“Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3)

2. Faith: a total belief in the work of Jesus for salvation.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

3. Faithfulness: responding to God’s faithfulness by the way we live.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25:23).

Typical Marriage Killers That Challenge Faithfulness (from James Dobson)

  1. Over commitment and physical exhaustion, the only time couples see each other they are worn out
  2. Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
  3. Selfishness, friction over a marriage with a giver and a taker
  4. Interference from in-laws, couples not fully emancipated from parents
  5. Alcohol or substance abuse, as well as pornography, gambling and other addictions
  6. Sexual frustration, loneliness, low self-esteem and the greener grass of infidelity
  7. Business failure followed closely by great business success (see Prov. 30:8)
  8. Getting married too young—there is an 85% divorce rate in America for teens who marry.

There is the fruit of faith or faithfulness (pistis): it means to be faithful and trustworthy; to be loyal and stedfast in devotion and allegiance. It means to be constant, staunch, and enduring. A faithful person denies and sacrifices himself—all he is and has—and trusts God. He believes God and knows that God will work all things out for good. Therefore, he casts himself totally upon God and becomes faithful to God.

  • Faithfulness does not doubt God—not His salvation, provision, or strength to help.
  • Faithfulness does not begin with God then back off and give up.
  • Faithfulness does not walk with God then give in to the lusts of the flesh.

 

  ILL. Almost exactly two years ago the headline of a major supermarket tabloid proclaimed, “And they said it wouldn’t last!” The paper was celebrating the first wedding anniversary of a very well-known couple whose marriage many had predicted wouldn’t last. The tabloid was gleefully proclaiming that the predictions were all wrong, & that the marriage was healthy & strong. 

Who were they talking about? Who was this famous couple? It was Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley, whose marriage ended soon afterwards.

Now not only was the tabloid absolutely wrong about the state of their marriage, but it also revealed the weakness of modern society in suggesting that if a marriage lasts one year, it has really lasted.

ILL. Hallmark has a card that fits the mood of our time by saying, “I can’t promise you forever, but I can promise you today.” That’s about as deep a commitment as some are willing to make.

B. But in contrast to that, God exhibits & honors faithfulness. Psalm 100:5 says, “The Lord is good & His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” 

Every time you see a rainbow, remember that God is faithful – He keeps His promises. Every time you pick up a Bible, remember that He said, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” [Matthew 24:35]. 

Every time you gather to worship with brothers & sisters in Christ, remember that He said, “Where 2 or 3 come together in my name, there am I with them” [Matthew 18:20].

Every time you partake of communion, every time someone answers the invitation, remember that He said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.”

And when you stand on the brink of death, remember His promise, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come back & take you to be with me. For where I am, there you will be also” [Matthew 14:2-4].

ILL. The songwriter is right:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father…
Morning by morning new mercies I see. 
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” 

Oh, I wish could do justice to singing that! But even though I can’t, I can still proclaim that our God is a faithful God, that “His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

APPL. And if we allow His Spirit to work within us, then the fruit of faithfulness will be real & evident in our lives, too. The more we yield to His guidance, the less fickle, the less vulnerable to discouragement & temptation we’ll become. 

And as we are filled with His Spirit, others will find in us a reliability, a trustworthiness, a staying power through both good & bad, a faithfulness that the world doesn’t understand.

I. A DEFINITION OF FAITHFULNESS

A. To begin with, let’s define “faithfulness” & make sure that we’re talking about the same thing. 

If you were going to define faithfulness, as Paul uses it in the N.T., how would you do it? Well, if you looked in the dictionary, you would find a technical definition that says, “To follow through with a commitment regardless of difficulty.” That’s a good definition. 

But let me give you one that may be easier to remember, “Faithfulness is love hanging on.” It is love saying, “I will not quit. There may be misunderstandings, there may be disappointments, there may be discouragements, but I will not quit.” It is love hanging on.

ILL. If a husband says, “I really love my wife,” & then he goes out & has an affair, you may call him a liar. You may call him a cheat. But most of all, you will say, “He is unfaithful.” Because that is what he has been. And no matter how strong his arguments may be, no matter how loudly he proclaims his love for his wife, you will not believe him because his unfaithfulness negates his proclamation of love.

ILL. And if someone says, “I really love the Lord,” or “I really love the church,” & then is unfaithful, then it’s hard to believe that he really does love the Lord. Because, you see, faithfulness & love always go hand in hand. Faithfulness is love hanging on.

You may get discouraged. You may be disappointed. But faithfulness says, “Even though there is discouragement & disappointment, I will not let go, I will not quit. I will keep on attending & giving & serving, because God has called me to be faithful.”

B. Listen to what the Bible says. Here are some of the scriptures that challenge us to be faithful.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 challenges us to be faithful in stewardship. Ephesians 6:21 talks about being faithful in service. 1 Timothy 5:9 speaks of being faithful in our marriages. Revelation 2:15 speaks of being faithful in witnessing. Romans 12:12 says we are to be faithful in prayer. Colossians 1:7 speaks of being faithful in ministry.

Revelation 17:14 says we are to be faithful in following the Lord. Proverbs 31:26 speaks of faithful instruction. 3rd John 3 says we are to be faithful in the truth. Revelation 13:10 speaks of faithfulness even in times of persecution. Revelation 2:10 says we are to be faithful unto death & then we’ll receive the crown of life.

ILL. One of the hot box office attractions two years ago was a movie called “Bridges Over Madison County.” It was advertised as “the world’s greatest love story.” I didn’t see it, but I did read the reviews. It starred Clint Eastwood as a traveling photographer & Merryl Streep as a housewife. They meet, & begin having a sordid affair. Then, after 4 days, they end it & go their separate ways. And Hollywood called it “the world’s greatest love story.”

APPL. You see, this world really doesn’t understand faithfulness. It doesn’t even have a clue as to what Paul is talking about when he says the fruit of the Spirit is “faithfulness.”

II. A DEMONSTRATION OF FAITHFULNESS

A. To help us better understand it, let’s look at a demonstration of faithfulness in the Bible. Once again, the example is Jesus, & it is found in the 16th chapter of Matthew.

Vs. 21 tells us that Jesus brings His disciples together, & tells them that He is going to Jerusalem. He tells them, “I know what will happen there. I’m going to be arrested, & beaten, & crucified. But I’m going anyway.”

You may remember that in the next verse Peter tries to stop Him. He said, “Lord, don’t go!” But Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Now here’s the reason that He called Peter “Satan” – because Satan was using Peter to try to get Jesus to quit, to be unfaithful.

Again & again throughout His ministry Satan tried to tempt Jesus to be unfaithful. “Don’t go to the cross. Don’t die for their sins. Just quit. It’s going to be too tough. There will be too many obstacles, too many difficulties. Just turn around & quit.”

Yet here the King James Version tells us that “Jesus set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem.” Jesus was determined that no matter what happened, He would be faithful to the mission God had for Him to do. So “steadfastly” He goes to Jerusalem.

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.” And “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” That’s faithfulness. That’s faithfulness unto death.

And the faithfulness of Jesus has inspired the faithfulness of others down through the ages, those who hung in there, through the good & the bad, through times of plenty & times of want. 

ILL. They’re the people who were here when this church began in a renovated butcher shop on East Levee. They’re the people who built the old church building & then sacrificed through the depression years to pay for it. They were here praying when it wasn’t easy to pray. They were here through the good times & they were here through the bad.

There must have been many times they were tempted to quit, tempted to say, “I’m sorry, it’s too big a job. I don’t want to hang in there.” But God had called them to be faithful. So down through the years they hung in there & they were faithful. And we are the recipients of their faithfulness.

ILL. George Muller began praying for 5 of his friends. He prayed 5 years before the first one was converted; for the next one he prayed 10 years; for the third one 25 years; for the fourth nearly 50 years. The last one was converted after 52 years, at George Muller’s funeral. George Muller was faithful, even unto death.

III. HOW DO WE DEVELOP FAITHFULNESS?

A. Finally, let’s ask the question, “How do we develop faithfulness?” In order to answer this you need to realize that an apple tree doesn’t stand out in the middle of an orchard saying, “Now how do I develop apples?” An apple tree produces apples because that’s what apple trees do. 

And when we are Spirit-led Christians, when we are a branch attached to the vine who is Jesus Christ, then we produce fruit because it’s the natural thing to do. We don’t have to sit around & think about it & analyze it. But we do have to be careful that our branch is never detached from the vine, or that some disease will destroy our fruitfulness.

B. So there are certain things that we need to be careful about. 

1. #1, we need to realize that temptations will come. Just as surely as Jesus was tempted to be unfaithful, we will be tempted to be unfaithful – in our marriage, in our relationship with the Lord, & in the church. That’s what Satan does. He will tempt us to be unfaithful.

2. Secondly, we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s reinforcement & develop regular, positive, spiritual habits. This world is not a Christian world. This nation is not a Christian nation. And we’re being pressured on every side to develop negative habits, tempting us to be unfaithful in church attendance, to be unfaithful in prayer, & in studying the Word of God.

But if we’ll say, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” & be determined to serve God faithfully, then people will be able to count on us. We’ll be consistent, & trustworthy, & reliable. We’ll develop these habits so they come automatically. And when Satan tempts us, we will not be severely tempted because we’ve developed the habits of faithfulness, & we will not quit.

3. Finally, we need to get back up when we fall or are knocked down.

ILL. Simon Peter is one of my heroes in the scriptures, but not because he always did right. Sometimes he made glaring mistakes, even denying the Lord, & he wept bitterly because of what he had done. But every time he fell down, he got back up again. So when it came time to choose someone to preach the very first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, guess who was chosen?

The Holy Spirit said, “Simon Peter, you do it. You’ve had the experience of being down & getting back up again. You’ve made some mistakes, & these people need to know that. They need to hear how vulnerable you’ve been, but despite all that, God is able to do His work through you.”

ILL. The same is true of Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul. He experienced all kinds of persecution, all kinds of discouragement, all kinds of temptations. Yet he didn’t give up.

Then came that glorious day when the old Apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – & not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:6b-8].

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness begins with God and continues with God. Faithfulness continues on and on; it never slackens or surrenders.

  • God is faithful.

      “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

      “Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

      “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9).

      “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).

      “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 89:1).

 

Believers are to be faithful.

      “And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).

      “Moreover it is required in stewards [believers], that a man be found  faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).

      “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after” (Hebrews 3:5).

      “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

 

Learning Faithfulness Straight From the Source—God Our Father

“This saying is sure and faithful: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11-13)

Key Realization: Faithfulness is first about who we are, seen by what we do!

1. What God does is always reliable.

“The works of God’s hand are always faithful and just.” (Psalm 111:7)

2. How God acts is always consistent.

“The word of the Lord is right and true, he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)

3. The manner God loves is always dependable.

“I will declare your love stands firm forever, your faithfulness is established in heaven itself” (Psalm 89:2)

4. The way God stays is always permanent.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (Psalm 36:5)

5. When God speaks, it is always believable.

“The statutes you have laid down are righteous, they are fully trustworthy.” (Psalm 119:138)

6. When God responds, it is always appropriate.

“I know that your ways are righteous, and in faithfulness you have disciplined me.” (Psalm 119:75)

“Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full”(Psm 31:23).

“It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns”(24:46).

“The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut….Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”(25:10-13).

“Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (25:21,23)

“’Thank you God, for what we have…which we know we cannot keep.’ I wish every newlywed couple could capture that (prayer’s) incredible concept. If only we realized how brief is our time on this earth, then most of the irritants and frustrations which drive us apart would seem terribly insignificant and petty.”–Dr. James Dobson

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?…In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shutter….You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone….As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:14-26)

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Article

 

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