August 9, 2013

Grow- Faithfulness




That right there is why I’m a dog a person! It’s not that I hate cats, but a cat would NEVER do that. A cat would be like, “Awesome! He finally got out of my house!”

Dogs are known for their loyalty and their faithful companionship.

They say, if you want to know true love...lock your wife and your dog in a car trunk for 1 hour. When you come back, see which one is still happy to see you...and not so they can kill you for locking them in the trunk!

This morning, as part of our Grow series, we are looking at the Spiritual Fruit of Faithfulness. We have been working our way through the Fruit of the Spirit. They are fruit in that they grow out of a healthy character of someone who is living in step with the Holy Spirit. They are of the Spirit, in that we need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives empowering the process of developing these fruit in our lives.

These do not just happen naturally. There are some people who are better at some of them than others, but as we tend the garden of our lives and character in the power of the Holy Spirit...these fruit will be seen. If we are 20 years down the road...we have been saved and sanctified...and we have large gaps missing from our fruit tree...there is a problem.

So let’s take a moment and read our passage together...we should be getting close to having it memorized...
Galatians 5:22-23.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
What does faithfulness mean?
The Bible uses several different words that we translate as “faith” or “faithfulness”. The primary word sounds like your cussing...pistis.

A large portion of the time, the Bible is pointing to a belief in or a trust in or an all in commitment to something...

There is an old illustration I have used a million times to describe this way of looking at faith. There is a difference between saying you believe a chair will hold you and trusting that the chair will hold you. Simply saying you believe a chair will hold you requires nothing from you and you can walk away. Much the way many people treat their belief in God or Jesus. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. Neither of those two statements affects the way they live their lives at all!

But when the Bible talks about faith and believing in Jesus...it is talking about the other way of looking at the chair. In order to demonstrate that the chair will hold me...I sit down in the chair. I trust it to hold me. Biblical faith and belief in Jesus means we trust him.

This is more than intellectual acknowledgment of Jesus. Biblical faith is an all in commitment to Jesus that results in salvation and leads to the person doing and being like Jesus.

In the NT Faith is important because the entire message of the NT is a call for us to place our faith...to believe and trust...in the person of Jesus Christ and to trust that his sacrifice is what restores our relationship with God and brings us salvation. It is a call  for us to have complete reliance.

It means we have to give up a belief that our good works save us or give us better standing with God. We have to give up a belief that you can go around Jesus to have a relationship with God. We have to give up a belief that just because we love someone and they were a good person...that automatically qualifies them to live in God’s Future Kingdom. The NT calls us to believe that our salvation is found in Jesus Christ, and only in Jesus Christ.

This leads to second way the Bible uses this word...we place our trust or faith in something or someone because this is someone who can be believed or trusted.

They are reliable. They are trustworthy.

Jewish Rabbi’s often spoke of faith as walking backward into the future...they are looking at how God has acted faithfully in the past, so they can place their faith in Him as they move into the future. This is why, as you read the Old Testament, you will find the writers telling and retelling and retelling about the Exodus, the 10 Plagues, Sinai, the manna and quail...they are looking at how God has acted faithfully over and over and over again. And because God acted that way in the past, you can trust His faithfulness as you move into your future.

This idea, by extension, falls on people who are called to be faithful. We are considered faithful when we have a pattern of being trustable. Paul says, those who walk in step with the Spirit and develop these Fruit of the Spirit will be people who are faithful. People who are reliable and trustworthy.

Why be faithful?
And there are some great Biblical promises for those who are faithful...

Genesis 5:21-24, in just a few short sentences, tells how God rewarded Enoch’s faithfulness...
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Faithfulness was God’s requirement of Abraham, Genesis 17:1-2 says,
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

When Moses was preparing for his death, he gathered the Israelites together, reread the Law God had given him, and then, Deuteronomy 28:1 says,
“If you fully [faithfully] obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” The passage then goes on to give a long list of the ways God wanted to reward the Israelites...but they could not be faithful.

Moses’ life was one of faithfulness that had amazing benefits? I guess you would say, Genesis 12:6-8 says,
“When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.”

We could look at verse after verse of the ways and benefits of God as he rewards those who are faithful. Those who follow Him fully. Those who develop the character deep within them to be trustworthy and reliable people whom God can use.

I think Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10-12 are the reason so many people and churches falter...Jesus says,
““Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

...He who is faithful in little...God wants to see faithfulness in the little that he has given us. He wants to see us be trustworthy when he gives us the small things.

He wants to see our attitudes towards others when they just aren’t living up to our expectations. Are we going to be faithful to the Biblical call to love our neighbors. How are we going to handle that situation where it would be easier to tell a little lie?

He wants to see how we handle our money?

He wants to see how we handle our time and talents for Him?

He wants to see if we can be trusted; if we are reliable!

What does it mean to be faithful in our everyday life?
Being Faithful means we are truthseekers!
Christians have been known to believe some of the stupidest things...even after it has been completely discredited.

In the early 1990’s Trinity Broadcast Network announced the discovery of Hell on a Russian drilling project. The Scientists were drilling into the earth and found extremely high temperatures, and when they lowered a specially made microphone into the hole they heard millions of human voices screaming out in agony!

TBN had gotten the story from an Evangelist. It had been and has been repeated millions upon millions of times from one Christian to another...all saying, “This has been proven!”

And it hasn’t. It was made up by a man to mock the gullibility of people in the church.

It isn’t just that story...

How about the recent Facebook story about the newly hired Pastor who entered his new church dressed as a homeless man. After he was announced, he made his big reveal...the story, while a good metaphor, is not real...and yet Christian after Christian shared the story not just saying, “Here is a story with a good meaning!” But sharing it as a true story.

Truthseeking is important. We have to be willing to see and accept truth where it may be found. The flipside of this is that we must be willing to call out falsehood when it is found.

So many in the church are willing to reject science when it actually demonstrates something to be true. We have to be careful that we don’t misrepresent the beliefs of others with whom we disagree. We have to tell true stories and passing them off as true when they have been proven to be completely false.

In order for people to believe us when we say, “I know the truth! It is Jesus!”...we have to be people who are trustworthy...people who they can rely on because we are faithful.

And connected to being truthseekers...

Being Faithful means we are truthtellers.
And we are painfully so...look at these passages of Scripture...

Three times in the book of Proverbs it says something like this...

Proverbs 11:1, “The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.”

He is reminding those who follow him that while business may be business...the one who decides to follow Him is still required to live in a trustworthy manner...even when it will cost them financially.

Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

According to Jesus our lives should be lived with such integrity and trustworthiness that all we have to do is say, “Yes” or “No” and people will take it as written in stone.

We seek the truth and we tell the truth...at all costs and at all times.

So when you are at work and the phone rings. The person asks for your boss, and she whispers, “I’m not here!” You have to find a way to live with integrity.

When you wife asks how she looks in this particular dress...you have to find a way to live with integrity...and keep yourself alive.

Being Faithful means we are promisekeepers. 
Psalm 15 starts by asking the question, “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” After giving a list of noble qualities, David says a righteous person is someone, “who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind...”

Keeping promises is difficult...that is why we make promises...so that when tough times comes people know they can count on us.

It is the old pinky-swear. Cross your heart and hope to die. Stick a needle in your eye.

It is swearing on a dead relative’s grave!

We make promises and want people to make promises because we want assurance they are going to keep their word when the going gets tough.

No where is this more clear than in the covenant of marriage. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Forsaking all others. Till death do us part. This is a promise to stay together not just when things are going well, but when they are going badlly. It is a promise to stick out the tough times. It is a promise to find ways to keep the love and connection going rather.

Many of us have been there in the bad times with our spouses. We know that marriage isn’t always fun and requires a commitment...a promise that we will stick it out...and many of us have been hurt because someone didn’t keep their commitment.

Sometimes, promises have to be broken because something outside of our control or beyond our ability to take care of happens...We promise to take our kids to the park and then called into work.

But in the big things we should people who trustworthy and reliable. It does not mean we avoid making promises...it means we strive with all our might to keep the promises we make. As people who live a life of Holy Spirit inspired faithfulness we have to be willing to keep our promises even when the going gets tough...

Being Faithful means we are heartguarders
The primary demonstration of faithfulness comes in our daily walk of obedience with Jesus Christ. Are we faithful to keep him as the central focal point of all our decisions and all our action? Does Jesus’ life and teaching take the lead in questions of morality?

Being faithful means that day in and day out we are seeking to live obediently to God and obediently to do what He has called us to do.

The weekend before I started classes at Nazarene Theological Seminary they had us come for an orientation retreat. We did all the normal informational stuff, but we also had a lot of teaching on developing and growing ourselves spiritually while attending seminary. It seems it is common to do God’s stuff but forget to be God’s person.

So they did these teachings, and one of the things they did was give us a laminated card with Proverbs 4:23 written on it... “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” I have carried that card in my wallet everyday since February 1, 1997 as a reminder that my call is to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

You see in the end we are not judged by our bank accounts. We are not judged by our level of success. We are not judged by whether we made a lot of friends. We are judged by how well we guarded our hearts so we could live obediently to God.

Matthew 25:21 tells of God’s word to those who are welcomed into His presence, “‘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!’”

Conclusion
Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful."

Here is the promise of Galatians 5...that as we walk in step with the Holy Spirit...as we tend the garden of our lives...we will be and we will become faithful. God will develop us into people who are trustworthy.

Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” We will reap a harvest if we are faithful. Those who become weary...quite. Those who become weary stop being trustworthy...they give up. But when we push through the tough times...we reap the harvest God has for our lives.

Jesus was found to be faithful in the task God gave Him, not because he made to the end and it was all smooth sailing. He was faithful because in the Garden of Gethsemane he was willing to pray, “Not my will, but your will be done!” And because of Jesus’ faithfulness...we reap a harvest of salvation!

Getting to the end...finishing what God calls us to do is not going to be accomplished because the road is smooth and easy. We will get to the end of our spiritual growth...we will reap the harvest God has for us...because despite the bumps and bruises and hardships of life we have been truthseekers, truthtellers, promiskeepers, and heartguarders and we haven’t given up...and we have learned to pray repeatedly...Not my will be done, but your will be done!

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