EVENTUALLY #6: Faithfulness
Minister: Rev. Kerry McCormick
Text: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (NRSV)
Title: Keep on Keepin’ On
Theme: In a series, “Eventually” on the Fruit of the Spirit, we address Faithfulness as God’s steadfast and constant care for humanity. How shall we exemplify this fruit in our discipleship?
Prayer for Illumination
Lord, Open our hearts and our minds that, as scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen
2 Thess 3:1-5
1 Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,
so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you,
2 and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you,
that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command.
5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued:
"Is anyone up there?"
"I AM here. I AM the Lord. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer."
"That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch."
The man thought about it for a moment, "Is anyone else up there?"
Pop quiz time! On the back of your bulletin, please write down your answers to these two questions: first, write down a number of how many M&Ms you think are in this bag; and second, list your 5 favorite songs. I’ll get to the answers in just a little bit so you have some time to think about it. And it’s not an open book test in terms of counting M&Ms, just take your best guess.
Faithfulness is an attribute or character trait that the Old Testament continually praises and the New Testament directs us as disciples to develop. It’s mentioned 550 times throughout scripture. Again as with all the other Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is rooted in the nature, character and work of God. God is dependable, the One who will never let us down or disappoint us. God is our “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). God is the One who promises us:
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you” [Hebrew 13:5, et. al.].
Faithfulness is linked to faith, and indeed the two words are one and the same in New Testament Greek. "Pisteuo" translates to persuasion – as in, God’s action inviting us into relationship; conviction (as God’s truthfulness), especially the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection as effective for salvation; assurance of God’s loving care (shalom, chesed). To be faithful is to be trustworthy, dependable, and reliable (are we talking used car sales or fiber?). It conveys the idea of an unshakable loyalty, as in, God’s steadfast provision for Israel. God is, and was and ever shall be.
Our response to God’s faithfulness is just as important. Maybe because of our VBS theme last week, I keep thinking about the geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful. I have only visited twice – once as a child on a family trip and again about 10 years ago with my own children. Old Faithful erupts every 60-110 minutes, releasing between 3,500 and 8,500 gallons of water up to 140 feet in the air. The geyser gushes from an unseen source with such reliability that visitors can be assured that they will see a natural wonder like few other truly remarkable experiences. Nearly 10,000 people from every nation are drawn daily during the summer months to view this breathtaking sight.
I wonder what it would be like if my faithfulness as a follower of Jesus Christ was more like Old Faithful. Stemming from an unseen source, what if my faith would gush regularly, reliably so that others could be drawn to the well of eternal life offered in the living water Christ provides through my willingness to serve. I think that’s what I want from my faith life, eventually.
- Imagine saying to yourself, “I’m sure this is just what I need; I have all the confidence in the world in the manufacturer, the dose and the directions. I believe this will resolve the pain in my head if I just take it.” And then imagine putting the bottle back on the shelf. The awful headache rages on without relief.
Sometimes the pain we experience in our lives is imposed upon us from a disease or a life circumstance beyond our control. Sometimes, though, we create painful situations through our own choices. God’s faithfulness toward humanity stands ready always to forgive. In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah reminds us, “21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
We don’t like confessing our sins. We shy away from passages like I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As though only ax-murders, tax collectors and Pharisees need to confess their sins. The rest of us aren’t really that bad, right? We don’t need to dwell on our guilt, and yet it would still be healthy for our faith if we got honest before God, however, and admitted that sometimes we mess up and our need for grace and forgiveness are endless. It would be faithful of us to depend on and trust in God’s promises to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Trying praying this with me: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.”
Confession makes our faith real. It’s only part of the equation, though, as we hear and accept absolution, “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” It is our faithful recollection that we are forgiven that opens the door for us to be free to “delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways.”
Faithfulness means we do more than say, “I believe,” it means we put our faith into action. Otherwise our faith is like medicine we know would help us if we would only take it and let it be effective in our lives. I do not want to encourage you into the idea of works righteousness here. Salvation is a free gift – like grace - and nothing you do will earn God’s favor.
Turn to the person sitting on either side and tell them this: I love you / and God loves you / and there’s nothing you can do about it!
Solo fida in Latin means, by faith alone. By faith alone in God through Jesus Christ is salvation ours. I’m saying from the assurance of salvation, which is already ours, let the unseen source of love and forgiveness in your life gush in ways that are life giving to others.
Faithfulness is rooted in God who invites all disciples through the work of the Holy Spirit to develop this same character trait in our own, personal Christian walk. We are called to be servant-leaders as followers of Jesus. Paul often commended his coworkers for their faithfulness in serving the Lord. In Romans 16, he sent greetings to Phoebe a deacon, Prisca and Aquila who had a house church, along with a whole host of others who offered Christ faithfully in their community. In their faithfulness, they were to keep on keepin’ on, and doing the things they have been taught to do: worship, discipleship and service.
In I Corinthians 4:17 he informs the congregation he is sending Timothy to minister among them because “he is faithful in the Lord.” He sends Tychicus [“Tich—ih—cus”] to serve in ministry at Ephesus because “he is a dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord” [Ephesians 6:21], and again he sends him to Colossae because “he is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord” [Colossians 4:7]. These early leaders, women and men, were faithful: trustworthy, dependable, and reliable in sharing the gospel message and teaching others to be followers of Christ in word and deed.
Paul says this in I Corinthians 4:1-2, “This then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Paul affirms that God has entrusted all believers in Jesus Christ with this same ministry, and those whom God has given that trust “must prove faithful.” What he means is that God trusts in and depends upon each one of us to use the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given us in ministry and service to others. The fruit of faithfulness means we all are called to ministry as agents of the Holy Spirit in serving others.
Father Thomas Keating, Trappist monk, in his book FRUITS AND GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT says, “[Faithfulness] is the daily [duty] of … all our actions to God out of compassion for others, especially in service of their concrete needs. [We] serve God without dwelling on what God or others will do for us, and persevere in giving without thinking of [getting anything in] return. Our normal need for affirmation is coming from a new place: the growing conviction of being loved by God that greatly reduces the desire for human approval” [--Thomas Keating, FRUITS AND GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT (New York: Lantern Books), p. 20].
In your bulletin you have an insert to consider ways you might faithfully respond to God’s gracious call to action and compassion. Like Old Faithful, the geyser, you have a chance to keep on keepin’ on, to regularly gush the love and grace God has poured into your life to meet concrete needs without a concern for what you will get in return. Faithfulness is a ‘no strings attached’ deal.
Our FAST FOR FREEDOM project asks that we skip a meal and send the money we would have spent to help others that long for the freedoms we enjoy. Alternatively you might sign up to volunteer and help others face to face. Your donations will help Sunrise supported causes, including:
- High Plains Elementary School - School Supplies and Snacks for children in our neighborhood needing assistance
- Feed My Starving Children - support others or come yourself to pack thousands of meals for children around the world
- Cambodia - Clean Water Wells - help our Mission Team going to Cambodia in November provide clean water for villages they serve
- Liberia - Women's Health - help Marcella Ruch in her effort to secure health care for women in Liberia, Africa
I promised you answers to the pop quiz. There are XXX M&Ms in this bag. Did anyone guess that number? Anyone get something close to that number? How about your favorite song? Which person has the right answer? (No one does – favorite songs are personal choices – there is no one right answer for everyone.) When you choose to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, is it more like guessing the number of M&Ms or like choosing your favorite song?
If becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ is a personal choice, as individual as our tastes in music, is it possible for us to faithfully be informed by God’s promises, to be transformed by the gospel message of life, death and resurrection, and to be conformed to the mind and heart of Christ? There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the expression of your faithfulness. It is simply an outpouring of your understanding of the grace, love and forgiveness first given to you.
The fruit of faithfulness is, eventually, God’s constant promise to us to be the unseen source for all we need. Faithfulness made manifest in our lives means we are steady in our companionship with God – that we are regularly and routinely in contact (through prayer, study and worship), that we are predictable in our outward expressions of service to others as Christ was a servant-leader to his followers. If you believe that God is faithful to humanity, to you, let your faithfulness gush like a geyser. May you be known for the blessing your faithfulness serves and inspires in others and, eventually, may your epitaph read: Old Faithful!
Go with confidence into the days ahead,
trusting in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.
God will not abandon you,
for you are the work of His hands—His own creation—
and God’s love endures forever.
So go in joy to love and serve the Lord!