Faithfulness: the virtue of reliability
“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:
- 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)
- 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).
- 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)
- Over commitment and physical exhaustion, the only time couples see each other they are worn out
- Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
- Selfishness, friction over a marriage with a giver and a taker
- Interference from in-laws, couples not fully emancipated from parents
- Alcohol or substance abuse, as well as pornography, gambling and other addictions
- Sexual frustration, loneliness, low self-esteem and the greener grass of infidelity
- Business failure followed closely by great business success (see Prov. 30:8)
- 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].
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.
A DEFINITION OF FAITHFULNESS
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.”
- 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.”
- A DEMONSTRATION OF FAITHFULNESS
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?
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.
- So there are certain things that we need to be careful about.
#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 unfaithfull.
- 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.
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!
- What God does is always reliable.
“The works of God’s hand are always faithful and just.” (Psalm 111:7)
- 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)
- 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)
- The way God stays is always permanent.
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (Psalm 36:5)
- When God speaks, it is always believable.
“The statutes you have laid down are righteous, they are fully trustworthy.” (Psalm 119:138)
- 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)
Being a prophet seems like a privilege. It seems a special gift to hear God’s voice. But consider poor Hosea. The Lord’s first words to Hosea were brutal: “Go marry a prostitute, and some of her children will be born to you from other men.” Why isn’t the Lord a little more sociable? There’s no “welcome to the life of a prophet” speech. There’s no small talk to break the ice, not even a simple “hello.
Why would the Lord ask such a thing? Didn’t he read the Bible? It is not right to marry a fornicator or adulterer. Why would the Lord ask someone to do this? God’s explanation is that Hosea is supposed to do this so that his life will become a living illustration of God’s relationship with his people. You see, God’s “wife” has not been very faithful to him. God’s people have been unfaithful to him even though he has been faithful to the covenant.
So Hosea marries Gomer. He will remain faithful to their vows even though she will break them. On the day of the wedding she marches out to “Here comes the bride” – and she is already making eyes at the groomsmen. In short time the couple have children and Hosea has to wonder if they are all his. Two of his children are named “Not Loved” and “Not Mine.” Two innocent children stuck with names that are drenched in sin. If the story is breaking your heart, then you get the point: God’s heart was breaking because his people were unfaithful to him although he was faithful many times over. Hosea embodies the faithfulness of God in his life and preaching which reveals to us some very important truths about faithfulness and the faithfulness of God
First, God binds himself to the people and creation He loves. The LORD is not the unemotional, logical God of the Greeks and philosophers. He is passionate about the people and the world he has created and he binds himself to us in a relationship of love. God instructs Hosea to embody this same covenant bond with his wife, Gomer. We might say that Hosea has “scriptural cause” to divorce his wife, but rather than follow his legitimate right to divorce his unfaithful wife, Hosea redeems her and takes her back: Then the LORD said to me, “Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery. For the LORD still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods, offering them choice gifts.” – Hosea 3:1
Hosea does this to illustrate the faithful character of God who binds himself in covenant love to the people he created. God himself says of his unfaithful people: “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. 9No, I will not punish you as much as my burning anger tells me to. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.” – Hosea 11 This reveals to us that God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. Hosea takes Gomer back. And God, because of his faithfulness and love, takes back the people who have unfaithfully cheated on him. I will show love to those I called `Not loved.’ And to those I called `Not my people,’ I will say; `Now you are my people.’ Then they will reply, `You are our God!’” – Hosea 2
Faithfulness is the character of God. This isn’t a unique quality of God’s relationship with Israel. This is the way God treats all of creation. This is the way God treats us even when we are unfaithful. The New Testament affirms: Some of [the Israelites] were unfaithful; but just because they broke their promises, does that mean God will break his promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. (Romans 3:3-4) If we are unfaithful, God remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. – 2 Timothy 2:13
God’s faithfulness is not self-centered. It is faithfulness that is directed toward the other. It is directed toward us. We are called to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in our lives and our life together. Consider what this means. This means that we are called to live in faithfulness to God and also with one another. But we know this is difficult because we have all been touched by the pain of unfaithfulness in some way. Why is it difficult to cultivate faithfulness?
We live in a culture of disposables. One day in 1954, an industrial desinger named Brooks Stevens spoke at an advertising conference in Minneapolis. The title of his talk was “Planned Obsolescense” which he defined as the strategy to “Instill in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.” Stevens has not given his talk much thought and was essentially speaking about ideas he had been advancing for years, but that talk in Minneapolis caught on. Manufacturers and marketers began to see the profit in producing items that designed to be obsolete very quickly or even disposable. So what had originally been an abstract concept that Stevens had pulled from his hat had now become a concrete theory.
We now live in a culture fully entrenched in this theory. Rather than service those items that serve us we just throw them away. We have disposable napkins, plates, razors, diapers, contact lenses, cameras, cell phones. Even the space program was disposable to a certain degree! Even items we don’t think of as disposable have become disposable. Why service a car to last for 20 years when we can just keep trading in a car for the latest model? Who buys a computer thinking that it will be something to pass down to the next generation? It was obsolete when you bought it. We enjoy disposable because it is convenient. These items are useful because they are short-lived. They are not artistic or beautiful, they are utilitarian. Items are not even built to last. They are impermanent. And we have no sense of faithfulness to these tools and goods. That would contradict the convenience of being disposable.
But our disposable culture has influenced more than material goods. We now have a disposable workforce. Workers are hired on an impermanent basis to provide additional labor as needed. The advantage is that there is no long-term commitment given to these disposable workers. Our culture understands the notion of disposable income – throwaway money that is not faithfully committed to any purpose but is just spent frivolously. Now is it any stretch to recognize that we often have disposable relationships? Everything from friendships based on mutual benefit to sexual partnerships. Even church relationships might be regarded as impermanent and people may leave a church when it no longer meets their needs. Why not “keep our options open?” Why commit to something that may not work – whether it is employment, community involvement, or relationships.
As much as we might like to imagine that relationships like marriage, family, church, work and community are impermanent and disposable, they still hurt when they fall apart. Because of this, our culture tends to avoid commitments. Think of how often we come across the words “no obligation.” And these words are always a good thing. No risk, no obligation. Just try it for free. No strings attached. Why is this appealing? Because obligation and commitment seems to complicate our lives: Years ago, a friend once told me how much he feared getting married because it would mean the loss of his self-identity. I fussed with him at the time and tried to tell him that this wasn’t true. Now I know that he was right and I was wrong.
Commitment is always directed toward the other. My friend knew this. But here’s what he and I both needed to learn – that a life directed toward others is more in line with the image of God. God made us as communal creatures – not to be alone! But when we safeguard our independence and autonomy at all costs we cultivate unfaithfulness.
Ways of cultivating faithfulness:
Establish a positive definition of faithfulness. We tend to define faithfulness in negative terms (like we do when we define goodness as not being bad). When it comes to marriage, we assume that we are faithful as long as we do not cheat on our spouse. But faithfulness calls us to do more than avoid dissolving the marriage. This doesn’t say anything positive about marital faithfulness. We need to cultivate a positive meaning for faithfulness. In Eph. 5:21-6:9, Paul describes relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, even masters and slaves. The model for all the relationships is Christ. Everyone is called to submit to one another out of respect for Christ. That is a positive, active definition of other-directed faithfulness. Not simply faithfulness by default since we haven’t been unfaithful.
- Cherish the power of promise. Early in my ministry I was frequently asked to perform “church weddings” for people who are not a part of any church. I was puzzled. I wondered why people who had no commitment to Christ or church wanted a church wedding. And why were they asking me? I found out that they asked me because other ministers and churches refused them. This led me to realize that people inside the church and outside the church viewed a church wedding as a sort of magical rite that sealed a marriage with divine power. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all, for if it were true, the power was ineffective 50% of the time. This experience led me to write something into my wedding ceremony that I consider very important and biblical. It is based on Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:33-37. Rather than swear ritual oaths, Jesus says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” So at every wedding I speak of the power of a promise kept. Keeping a vow made before God and the church is more powerful than any so-called magic. When you see a couple that have let their “Yes be Yes” through hardships and trials and even sin, then you know that faithfulness involves cherishing the power of a promise.
- Tell the truth. Have you ever had a friend you could be completely honest with? You are able to be so honest because you share a bond of faithfulness that looks past the failings. But more than that, the honesty of the relationship demands that we become more than what we currently are. This is the way it is supposed to be in the body of Christ. We speak the truth in love – but not to judge or condemn. We tell the truth in the context of loving faithfulness to God and one another so that we might become more like Christ. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
One writer has said that what people are really longing for is a truthful community. But it is necessary that we talk about our sins and weaknesses without fear of being totally rejected. This is why faithfulness is so important. If I am faithful to you then we can both help each other become more than what we are today. If we are faithful to one another because we know how God has been faithful to us and we are faithful to him, then we know that we are all striving to become what God wants us to be.
The only way you and I can cultivate a culture of faithfulness is to imagine and remember the reality of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness being recreated among us every day. Hosea did this in his marriage. And another prophet who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem imagined this faithfulness and renewal when, standing among the smoking rubble of the holy city he sang out
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” – Lamentations 3:21-24