In our fast-paced, high-demand world no one starts off wanting this. In fact, in the business world, it might even get you labeled as someone with no-drive or little ambition. It isn’t flashy. There are no top-selling books telling you how to achieve it. It’s a trait that’s fleeting in our world and is more necessary now than ever.
It’s written about throughout Scripture but is probably one of the most inglorious of God’s attributes. Faithfulness. We like that God is faithful, but it isn’t typically a strength that people set out to achieve for themselves. In church circles, it can be dismissed with thoughts like, “yeah, he didn’t accomplish much, but at least he was faithful.” Faithfulness sounds honorable, but it can also sound a bit boring. And there’s not a lot of flash in honor these days. Compared to other attributes of God, faithfulness has no pizzazz.
Faithfulness is No Small Attribute
God is powerful! God created this unimaginable universe with millions of galaxies. God is eternal. He lives forever. His existence is not dependent on time and space. There is no time when God didn’t exist and there never will be. God is all-knowing. He has an intimate and intricate knowledge of every creature and every system that exists. Those are exciting attributes of God. And compared to them, God’s faithfulness can seem like small potatoes.
It’s not! God’s faithfulness is the bedrock of our ability to know and relate to him. Without faithfulness, the whole system he put in place would collapse. How would the world work without faithfulness? We would never know when the Sun would rise, or if it was ever going to rise again. What if tomorrow the process of photosynthesis stopped working because it decided to take a month off? What if someone turned off gravity, for just 5 minutes? Life would be chaos. For life to thrive, there must be things we can count on. We need to know our God is like this – faithful!
What got me thinking about this was a statement I read this morning in a book about the Trinity. Moltmann wrote, “God can do anything, but he ‘cannot deny himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13): ‘God is faithful.’” (The Trinity and the Kingdom, pg. 153).
11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
12 If we endure,
We will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
He will disown us;
13 If we are faithless,
He will remain faithful,
For he cannot disown himself.”
(2 Tim. 2:11-13 NIV)
There is a lot we could unpack in those short verses, but I want to focus on the last statement. “He will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” If God were unfaithful He would be denying himself, or disowning himself. To disown himself is to live outside of who he is, what he’s done, what he’s promised and what he’s expressed as his will. And if God did that any chance of us or anyone knowing Him would be gone.
Faithfulness and Knowing
Someone who is unfaithful is unknowable. The unfaithful person is a deceitful person. We know this in our guts. We know we can’t trust them. Think of the man who cheats on his wife. His life is wrapped up in lies. First, he’s violated his promises and his expressed love. He’s lied about appointments and schedules to arrange the rendezvous. On the outside, he pretends all is well and behind the scenes, there is another reality at work. Unfaithfulness makes it impossible to know someone. They are self-covering, not self-revealing. They are self-protecting, not open and authentic.
Way back in the 1992 election for President, there was an independent candidate running named Ross Perot. Perot was a Texas businessman who was a quirky little guy. He had a folksy way about him for a multi-millionnaire. He made a statement that was shocking, he said, he would never hire a man who was unfaithful to his wife. His reason went like this, “If he’ll lie to the woman he’s living with, he will lie to me.” In other words, unfaithful people can’t be trusted, because you never really know them.
If God were like that, our hopes of having a relationship with him would go up in flames. On the other hand, God’s faithfulness assures us the possibility of knowing him because he is self-revealing, open and authentic. We can count on who he is. We can believe with full assurance some very important things.
Here are a Few Biggies about God.
- God loves. God cannot deny his love. He cannot act in any other way than to be loving. It is true, to understand and experience his love, we may have to learn what love is. But
- God is merciful. When we come to him, we can trust in his mercy. He won’t turn down the soul who cries out to Him.
- God is good. He only does good. He cannot do evil. He can only give what is good.
- How can we know these things about God? Because he has revealed himself in his Word and in
hisSon, Jesus. Why can we come to know God as love, mercy, and goodness? Because he is faithful. If these things were ever true, they are always true. He will always only live in harmony with his character. He cannot deny himself. He cannot disown his way of being.
What Does God’s Faithfulness Mean for Me?
- God is knowable. As I read his word and listen to
hisSpirit, I can come to know and trust him. He has opened the door to a relationship and his faithfulness makes it possible to grow in intimacy and oneness with Him, just as Jesus described it.
“I (Jesus) have made you (the Father) known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them (John 17:26).”
- God is approachable. God is not hidden behind the veil, like the Wizard of Oz. Nor is he like a pagan king who rules his people with an iron hand and always at a distance. He is like the Father of the wayward son in Luke 15, who runs to meet the one who has started to take a step toward home. Jesus declared those words even more clearly when he said, “Come to me.”
- God is worthy of trust. We can depend on him to respond in keeping with His nature. We can trust His offer of forgiveness. We can look for his help with the eager expectation that he will show up and move for our good.
- God has created me for faithfulness.
- My unfaithfulness is a denial of who I was created to be. How did God create us? He created us in his image. He created us to be at one with him. And like Adam, we turn away in unfaithfulness. In Christ, we are made a new creation. We are re-created for faithfulness. When we are unfaithful, we deny our new self in Christ.
- My unfaithfulness makes me unknowable. When I am unfaithful to God and others, I build a wall around me. I destroy authenticity and vulnerability. Trust is shattered. I have decided to try to live unseen and unknown. That is a miserable, empty, lonely existence. It violates the very thing I was created for – to live as one who knows and is known.
- My unfaithfulness is a rejection of the Spirit of God. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When we walk in oneness with God’s Spirit, faithfulness grows in us. If faithfulness is missing, we have left God’s Spirit to walk our path, alone.
How Can We Nurture Faithfulness in Our Lives?
- Create a new picture of faithfulness. Do you want to be the sun, or an asteroid? The sun can be counted on. An asteroid is an erratic heavenly body that just shows up to wreak havoc from time to time. Do you want to be noticed like a powerful storm cloud, or do you want to be the mountain that no storm can move? Do you want to be part of that old couple on the beach who walk hand in hand, knowing each other, or that guy who is long past his prime still looking for love? What’s your image? Remember, faithfulness is not the opposite of excitement or effectiveness. It is the doorway through which the real you can make an impact on someone’s life.
- Get honest. Faithfulness doesn’t require perfection, but it does require honesty. I don’t have to say everything to everyone, but I do have to present the true me. No facades. No games. No trying to improve our image without the work of substantive change.
- Thank God for his faithfulness. Create a habit of noticing and appreciating that he can be trusted. Appreciate his fulfilled promises, his work in redemption, his active movement today giving hope and changing lives. These all point to our God who is knowable just because he is faithful.
- Follow the lead of God’s Spirit. In Christ, we are given His Spirit to lead us. He will lead us toward honesty. He will lead us to follow through. He will lead us toward authenticity and vulnerability. He will lead us to genuinely love the world around us just the way he does. In the end, faithfulness is a result of living in harmony with Him.
God Commends Faithfulness
Faithfulness is one of God’s bedrock attributes. Without it, the rest are unknowable. And without being faithful ourselves, we are unknowable. Don’t deny who God created you to be – a faithful, life-giving human being. One of Jesus’ greatest commendations to one of his followers is calling him/her faithful. He used it in the story of the talents. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).