June 1st, 2014
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. — Hebrews 10:23
The questions to be answered are . . . What is the big deal about being faithful? Shouldn’t I be free to do whatever I feel like doing whenever I want? Why would God restrict me like this?
Answers: We are created in God’s image and because God is faithful, we are wired for faithfulness. Faithfulness works for both our own benefit and the benefit of others. Faithfulness is a product of love. We will never find peace, hope, security and safety unless and/or until we are faithful to our covenant relationships. And we will never find the love necessary to be faithful until we look to Jesus.
It is only when we look at our relationship with God, our spouse and others as a covenant relationship rather than a consumer relationship will we be able to be faithful and they be faithful to us.
If we do not look to Jesus to find the faithfulness and stability to maintain emotional, intellectual and spiritual stability, then we will never have the assurance and love necessary to give ourselves faithfully to our beloved.
The Book of Proverbs as a whole takes a view of marriage that remains proverbial to this day: there is nothing in the world worse than a bad marriage, and at the same time nothing better than a good one. (Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 34)
The Word for the Day is . . . Faithful
1985 Wester’s : 1)- Strict in performance of duty; unswervingly devoted; loyal to one’s promises; trustworthy.
1828 Webster’s Dictionary: 1. Firm in adherence to the truth and to the duties of religion. 2)- Firmly adhering to duty; of true fidelity; loyal. 3)- Constant in the performance of duties or services; exact in attending to commands. 6)- True to the marriage covenant. 8)- Constant, not fickle. 9)- True; worthy of belief.
Loyalty: Standing with those I am serving in their time of need.
Loyalty means not that I agree with everything you say, or that I believe you are always right. Loyalty means that I share a common ideal with you and that, regardless of minor differences, we strive for it, shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another’s good faith, trust, consistency, and affection. (Karl Menninger)
Hitler would have no Christians about him, for the Christian owed a higher loyalty than loyalty to the state.” (William Barkley; The Gospel of John, 234)
In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor. And you have a relationship as long as the vendor is giving you a product at a good price. But you are always looking to an upgrade. And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship. But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise. And the relationship is more important than my needs. My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”
Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited. (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)
If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety, a place where you can finally be yourself. You see in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out. But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities. You can finally be yourself. (Tim Keller)
When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feeling grow. For example: The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up. You give and you give and you never get back. It is not a consumer relationship at all. You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them. There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them. And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow. (Tim Keller)
What is the big deal about being faithful?:
I. Faithfulness enjoys God’s blessing because we are created in God’s image, Who is faithful. Adultery(unfaithfulness or double-mindedness) saddles us with God’s judgment and curse because unfaithfulness is militating against God’s image in us. (Ps 18:25; 31:23; 97:10; Prv 2:8; 28:20; Jer 3:1-10; Mt 19:3-9; 1 Tm 5:9)
If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—“OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless. Just how far can I go with other women? Can I hug them? Kiss them? Go to bed with them? How often? How many?”—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man. If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love. And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—“Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance. What can I get away with? How far can I push it?”—that Christian will end up equally impoverished. Paul’s response says it all: “God forbid!” (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 186)
“I can’t promise you forever,” a Hallmark card says, “But I can promise you today.” It’s the quintessential love card for the 90s: No commitment, just warm feelings…as long as they last. No wonder 60 percent of marriages are failing. Young people are literally training themselves for relationships without commitment. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 205)
One almost inexcusable practice in marriage is disloyalty. Have you ever been out socially and heard a wife or husband berate and criticize the partner in front of mutual friends? This embarrassing practice is engaged in by partners who do not seem to be able to communicate in private and seek the safety of the group to vent their pent-up wrath. It is one of the most damaging wrongs a person can use against his or her partner. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 37)
You should never criticize your partner to others for two reasons. First, rehearsing grudges or nursing gripes stamps them more indelibly upon your mind. Second, the desire for approval is one of the basic drives of man. Nothing can make a person feel less approved of than to find that his partner has been so disloyal as to criticize him to an outsider. If needed your pastor or a professional counselor can be consulted, but don’t discuss the situation with anyone else. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 38)
Be sure of one thing, your partner needs your approval for his or her adjustment in life and marriage. Most people respond better to commendation than to condemnation. (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 114)
When men (or women) begin a pattern of consistently dishonoring their spouses–even if it’s only in their minds–within a matter of a few weeks they can lose nearly all their loving feelings for them. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 32)
Time and again, when honor begins to take root in a home, within a matter of a few days or weeks, your feelings will start to change. Your husband may seem like a beat-up old violin, but the moment you begin treating him like a Stradivarius, your world and his can change for the better. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 32)
When your loyalty is to God on weekends but only to the bottom line on weekdays, you’re driving a wedge between yourself and God. It would be like saying to your spouse, “As long as I’m home, I’m committed to you. But when I go off to work, well, I might fool around a little.” That would create a rift in your relationship, wouldn’t it? Similarly, if you’re living a fragmented faith, you’re saying to God, “I’m committed to you in certain areas of my life. But you need to know that when I’m at work, I’ve got a mistress called my career.” Doesn’t it make sense that this would stymie your relationship with him? (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 52)
James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Jas 4:8). Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties. That is double-mindedness. It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.
E. Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result from being inwardly divided. In The Christ of the Mount (200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:
(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).
(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).
(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).
(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).
(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).
(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).
(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).
(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).
(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6). (Jason Martin; The Sermon on the Mount, 130)
Faithfulness without temptation to infidelity is not true faithfulness. Faith without temptation of doubt is not true faith. Purity without temptation to impurity is not true purity. (Paul Tournier; Guilt & Grace, 45)
II. Faithfulness allows a person to reciprocally operate in security, safety and hope. (Prv 31:1; Isa 26:3-4; Mt 25:14-30; 1 Cor 4:2; Jas 1:2-4, 12)
Hope is the banner of the faithful. (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, 175)
Since promising is the key to identity, it is the very essence of marital love. Why? Because it is our promises that give us a stable identity, and without a stable identity, it is impossible to have stable relationship. Hannah Arendt wrote, “without being bound to the fulfillment of our promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each person’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities.” (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 96)
When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 100-01)
I recently overheard a radio talk-show psychologist attempting to give a caller an ego-boost: “God loves you for what you are. You must see yourself as someone special. After all, you are special to God.”
But that misses the point entirely. God does not love us “for what we are.” He loves us in spite of what we are. He does not love us because we are special. Rather, it is only His love and grace that give our lives any significance at all. That may seem like a doleful perceptive to those raised in a culture where self-esteem is elevated to the supreme virtue. But it is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches: “We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly” (Ps. 106:6). (John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 120)
Joy is the feeling of love,
Peace is the practice of love,
Patience is the preservation of love,
Kindness is the expression of love,
Goodness is the action of love,
Faithfulness is the loyalty of love,
Gentleness is the attitude of love,
Self-control is the restraint of love.
“All of the law,” Paul wrote in the Romans, “is fulfilled in this one word, love” (13:10). When we love God, we seek to do His will. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 44)
Remaining tender during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship (Jas 1:19, 20). (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 61)
In God’s faithfulness lies eternal security. (Corrie ten Boom)
“Small things are small things,” Hudson Taylor, the missionary statesman, said, “but faithfulness with a small thing is a big thing.” (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 29)
Moral authority is the credibility you earn by walking your talk. It is the relationship other people see between what you say and what you do, between what you claim to be and what you are. A person with moral authority is beyond reproach. That is, when you look for a discrepancy between what he says he believes and what he does, you come up empty. There is alignment between conviction and action, belief and behavior. (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 179)
III. Faithfulness is a product of agape love. God calls us to love. Therefore, we must be faithful to truly love even in the face of the unlovable or unfaithfulness. (Jn 13:34-35; Rom 13:8; 1 Cor 13:4-8; Gal 5:22-23; 1 Pt 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 23; 4:7-12)
It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife. I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her. It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 155)
A friend of mine is a doctor who specializes in marriage and relational issues. He says he can tell in a couple of seconds whether a marriage will last. Seriously, a couple of seconds. This is a science called thin slicing, and he’s incredibly accurate in his predictions. He says it’s all about respect. How he looks at her. How she looks at him. He insists that a few seconds of observing how a couple looks at each other is all he needs to know if the marriage will make it. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 143)
Real love can only be identified in the face of loving the unlovable. Love in the context of beauty, pleasure and self-satisfaction cannot be verified as love but only as drivel.
Love is not love until you recognize how difficult it is to love. And love without that recognition is not love but simply drivel. (Steve Brown)
The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often as repeated deeds.
Genuine love is honor put into action regardless of the cost. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 39)
The most effective way to open the door to needed changes in a relationship is to honor a loved one. And once we’ve made that decision to honor, love is the action we take no matter how we feel.
Genuine love is honor put into action, regardless of the cost. It comes from a heart overflowing with affection for God, freeing us to seek another person’s best interest. (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 40)
Another sign of those with an “elder brother” spirit is joyless, fear-based compliance. The older son boasts of his obedience to his father, but lets his underlying motivation and attitude slip out when he says, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you.” To be sure, being faithful to any commitment involves a certain amount of dutifulness. Often we don’t feel like doing what we ought to do, but we do it anyway, for the sake of integrity. But the elder brother shows that his obedience to his father is nothing but duty all the way down. There is no joy or love, no reward in just seeing his father pleased. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 57-58)
Faithfulness = a fruit of the Spirit
Christians know that it is our love for God, and, even more basically, His unconditional love for us, that motivates faithful, healthy service and growth. (Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, 80)
IV. We find faithfulness modeled best in the character of God, especially in Jesus. To look anywhere else for faithfulness that offers salvation is to breed despair, desperation and discouragement into your life. (Ps 12:1; 18:2, 25, 31, 46; 25:10; 33:4; 62:2, 6-7; 95:1; 111:7-8; 145:13; 146:6; Prv 3:4; 20:6; 30:5; Lk 2:52; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thes 5:24; 2 Thes 3:3; 2 Tm 2:11-13; Heb 8:9; 10:23; 11:11; 12:1-2; 1 Pt 4:19; 5:10; 1 Jn 1:9)
A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ. — Vance Havner.
The worth and value of our soul is measured by what we love. If we love corrupt and wicked things we become corrupt and wicked. But the person who loves God spiritually grows and matures until he becomes like the One he loves. What a person loves is constantly on his mind. And what we think about has a power to transform our soul. We become like what we behold. (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 39)
We learn from the phrase “he grew powerful in his faith” that faithfulness is not only a gift from God but also a skill or even a virtue that can become stronger with use: we learn how to be faithful in the process of trusting God. This means that even if we think we have very little faith in God, by living into the faith we do have, we can watch God increasing our faith and ourselves growing stronger in faith. Abraham and Sarah had to learn to trust God: when they first heard the promise of God’s gift of a child to them in their old age, they laughed (Gn 17:17; 18:12-15). (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 53)
Jim Wallis of Sojourners defines hope as “trusting God in spite of all the evidence, then watching the evidence change.” This is also a good working definition of faith (trust in God) and of faithfulness (obedience to God in spite of all cost). “No lack of trust made him waver,” says Paul, holding up Abraham as the model of the one who trusts God, “but he grew powerful in his faith as he gave glory to God” (4:20). (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 53)
Marx, you’ll recall, called religion “an opiate” for the people. Yet Marx had it exactly backwards, at least as far as his words pertain to Christianity. Opium deadens the senses; Christianity makes them come alive. Our faith can infuse a deadened or crippled marriage with meaning, purpose, and–in what we so graciously receive from God–fulfillment. Christianity doesn’t leave us in an apathetic stupor–it raises us and our relationships from the dead! It pours zest and strength and purpose into an otherwise wasted life. (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 151)
The great Husdon Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, used to say that the right way to translate the text, ‘Have faith in God’ (Mk 11:22) is this: ‘Trust the faithfulness of God.’ This translation does not put the emphasis on your faith and say that you have to hold on desperately to God. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40, 71-72)
Feelings are great liars. If Christians only worshiped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on. Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith. Paul Scherer is laconic: “The Bible wastes very little time on the way we feel.” (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 50)
Why do we need police officers, corrections officers, judges, licenses, custom officials IRS agents U-Scan clerks or monitors, auditors, checks and balances in government? Because we are not inherently trustworthy.” (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments)
My feelings are important for many things. They are essential and valuable. They keep me aware of much that is true and real. But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God. My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not by what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people.” The image that announces the dependable, unchanging, safe, secure existence of God’s people comes from geology, not psychology. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 83)
Worship point: Just try to be faithful to all in whom you have a covenant relationship. Then, realize that God is able to do so. That should cause you to worship.
Spiritual Challenge: Be faithful as God is faithful by looking to Jesus. Whenever tempted to break a promise or be unfaithful to those counting on you; look to Jesus for the strength, hope, resolve, perseverance and love you need to remain faithful and become more and more like Jesus.
God does not guarantee us success, but he does promise his blessing in every circumstance. God does not require us to succeed, but he does tell us to be faithful. Faithfulness is determining what God wants and going for it. If we are faithful but miss, we have done what we should. To not be faithful is to join the ranks of the fired servant in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, 99)
Wedding ring = a one-man band.