Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Faithfulness is truly one of the highest of spiritual virtues. Whether it be in a friendship, a marriage, or a ministry, nothing is any more noble or honorable than the consistent display of faithfulness.
Sadly, faithfulness is often a rare commodity in our highly uncommitted society deeply marred by unfaithfulness and disloyalty. The scattered debris of broken promises and shattered trust can be seen throughout our culture.
But in contrast, God has called those who belong to Christ to put to death the passions and desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:24), and to demonstrate faithfulness, which is one of the fruits that the Spirit produces in our lives.
I. The Unblemished Model of Faithfulness
The best place to begin is by looking at the perfect example, God himself. The God we discover throughout Scripture is flawless in His faithfulness toward mankind.
In Numbers 23:19 (ESV), we read, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Let us consider at least three areas in which we see the steadfast faithfulness of God beautifully demonstrated.
A. He is Faithful in His Promises
Perhaps nowhere else is the faithfulness of God more wondrously portrayed than in the unfolding saga of His covenant relationship with the Jewish people. Again and again, God robustly demonstrated His enduring faithfulness in keeping his covenantal promises.
Deuteronomy 7:9 declares, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (ESV).
Whether it was Noah, Abraham, the nation of Israel, or David, God always was faithful to keep His covenantal promises.
B. He is Faithful in His Forgiveness
The Bible makes it very clear that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and stand in desperate need of God’s forgiveness.
Thankfully, 1 John 1:9 reminds us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.”
Even more sure than the sun rising in the east and setting in the west is the sureness that when the penitent soul in faith confesses his or her sins, God will grant forgiveness by His grace and through the shed blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7).
How wonderful it is to know that the surety of our forgiveness is not anchored in our oft-misguided feelings, but in the unwavering faithfulness of our changeless God!
C. He is Faithful in His Enduring Love and Mercy
Nestled in poetic laments of Jeremiah lies one of the most hope-inspiring passages to be found in all of God’s word.
Against the dark backdrop of the author’s heart-wrenching anguish over God’s judgment upon a rebellious nation shines a grand declaration of God’s faithfulness that has brought hope to the people of God throughout the centuries: “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” (Lam.3:22-24 ESV).
It was this very passage that provided the inspiration for the lyrics of Thomas Chisholm’s much-loved hymn:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
What a joy it is to know that we serve such a flawlessly faithful God! He is One who never changes or goes back on his word. In reflecting upon this, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand that never fails.” Yes, our God is faithful!
II. The Unmistakable Call to Faithfulness
Because God is faithful in His character, it would only seem natural that He would desire those who were His followers to demonstrate lives of faithfulness as well. Therefore, woven throughout the Bible we see the clarion call of God to His people to be faithful to Him. He desires to bless and prosper those who live lives of allegiance to Him.
The Psalmist David reminds us that the Lord “loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones” (Psa. 37:28 NIV), and the writer of Proverbs states, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov. 3:3 ESV).
A. The Call to Faithfulness in the Old Testament
Following their miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage, God led Israel to Mt. Sanai in order to enter into a sacred covenant with them. It was His desire to make them His “treasured possession” above all other peoples of the earth, and to make them a holy nation, set apart to love and serve Him faithfully (Ex. 19:5, 6).
Years later, God reiterated His loving desire to bless them and make them a strong and mighty nation, just as He had promised to Abraham: “Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you…. You shall be blessed above all peoples” (Deut. 7:12-14 NKJV).
In this covenant relationship with God, they were to demonstrate complete fidelity to Him, knowing that He would not tolerate unfaithfulness or the worship of other gods. But sadly, the story of the nation of Israel is a tragic account of intermittent faithfulness and spiritual infidelity. Following brief periods of faithfulness to the Lord, they would drift into idolatry and immorality, becoming corrupt and rebellious children (Isa.1:2).
In His loving faithfulness, God would raise up prophets, calling them to repent and return. At other times, He would allow severe oppression and distress to come upon them, hoping that they would see the error of their ways and become faithful and loyal to Him once again.
When you read the book of Hosea, it is heartbreaking to see how Israel, like an unfaithful spouse, chased after other lovers and turned away from God, totally forgetting the One who had so lovingly cared and provided for her (Hos. 1–3).
B. The Call to Faithfulness in the New Testament
Jesus reminded His listeners of the importance of faithfulness when He stated, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
In His unforgettable parable of the talents, Jesus underscored the significance of faithfulness, as reward was pronounced to the “good and faithful” servants, but punishment upon the servant who was unfaithful (Matt. 25:14-30).
In His letter to the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation, Christ encouraged them to remain faithful and fearless, even though some of them would be cast into prison; in the end, they would be recompensed with a crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
Throughout the Pauline Epistles there is a resounding call to faithfulness. In Paul’s opening remarks to the church at Ephesus, he declares them to be God’s holy people, those who are faithful in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:1), and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he emphasized the importance of faithfulness in regard to the sacred trust of the gospel that had been given to them (1 Cor. 4:2).
He also instructed young Timothy to take the teachings that he had received from him, and to entrust those to faithful men who would then be able to instruct others (2 Tim. 2:2). These and numerous other passages clearly demonstrate that we are called to a life of fidelity and faithfulness to God.
If we are truly born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, then our lives should be marked by faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit. Faithfulness is a quality that God earnestly desires to produce within all of us in order that we might reflect His divine nature.
The story is told of Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, who was engaged to speak at a gathering in Birmingham, England, on a rather bleak and stormy night. Due to the severity of the weather, the hostess encouraged him to cancel the event, believing that no one would show up. But Taylor insisted on going, responding, “I must go even if there is no one but the doorkeeper.”
As it turned out, the gathering was marked by a special sense of God’s presence, and it was estimated that half of those present either became missionaries or became faithful supporters of China Inland Missions for years to come. His faithfulness paid eternal dividends!
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.
©1987 Jon Mohr; Jonathan Mark Music (Gaither Copyright Management) and Birdwing Music (EMI Christian Music Publishing).
Rev. Mark Cravens is senior pastor of Kenwood Bible Methodist Church, Cincinnati, OH, and an adjunct associate professor at God’s Bible School and College.
He and his wife, Teresa, have two sets of twin daughters, all graduates of GBS, and two grandsons.