Summary: Third in series Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God From Our Closest Relationships On Earth. In this message Dave shows that maintaining faith in people must be based not in confidence in them, but in confidence in God.
Part 3 in series
Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth
Wildwind Community Church
February 21, 2009
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Here we are tonight, in week 3 of our series Relating to God: What We Can Learn About God Through Our Closest Relationships On Earth. In week 1 we talked about the foundation of all healthy relationships, which is trust. Last week we talked about – what? Commitment. If trust is the foundation of healthy relationships, commitment is their oxygen. You cannot build and maintain trust without commitment. Today I want to speak to you about faithfulness/fidelity. See if you trust someone, you can then make a commitment to them. Once you make that commitment, what must you do? You must be faithful to keep it. Remember, last week I said you can make a commitment as you are, but to keep a commitment you will have to cultivate the quality of faithfulness. So we’re going to look at faithfulness and fidelity today.
Several years ago someone in the church disagreed with a decision I made. (That’s the only time this has ever happened!) This person disagreed quite strongly, in fact. So strongly that the language that was used was not, “I strongly disagree with you,” or “Can you explain where you’re coming from?” but rather language like, “How could you do this?” And later on, “How could you do this TO ME,” as if I had woken up one morning and made a deliberate decision to shatter this person’s world. I tried to calm them down. I said, “Christy and I have loved you and invested in you for years. We care deeply for you. We want what is best for you. We know you don’t agree with this decision, but we truly believe it is what needs to happen and that you have an opportunity here to step up and grow in huge ways.”
The response blew me away. This person said, “I’m sorry, I cannot accept this. I loved you. I looked up to you. And now you have done this to me. You and Christy aren’t the people I always thought you were. You’re not the people I loved and cared about and who I knew cared about me.”
I pleaded with this person, “Please don’t say that. You can disagree with my decision. You can be angry at me. You can even leave my church, but please do not abandon faith in me. Please do not choose to believe that those years we have poured into your life and loved you and cared for you were just an act. Please be willing to maintain faith in us, please trust our hearts. Please choose to believe, even when you can’t see it, that we love you and have your best interests in mind.
This person said, “I can’t believe that. You are not who I thought you were.” And they left the church. We’re on good terms today and Christy and I still, as always, care deeply for this person and wish them the best. But this is a person who, when things got difficult between them and us, chose to abandon faith in us. This person decided to no longer be faithful to Christy and me because they were willing to seriously entertain the idea that deep in our hearts we did not love them or care for them.
How quickly we lose faith in each other. How quickly we lose faith in God. If you don’t understand that statement, read the Old Testament – basically the story of God’s faithfulness to us, and our fickleness toward him. Whether we’re talking about human beings or about God, maintaining faith is sometimes going to be the hardest thing you will ever do. After all, every person you ever trust and then commit to (as a friend, colleague, spouse, etc.) will hurt you. They will let you down. They will anger you, embarrass you, frustrate you, bewilder you, and disappoint you. Every one of them. In every relationship you are ever in with any human being, you will have moments where it will require all your effort to continue to believe in this person’s good intentions for you. You might not see any evidence of it at times. Maybe that’s why faithfulness is called FAITH-FULLNESS. When these times come, you will have to be full of faith, and willing to trust the good intentions and the heart of someone even when you don’t understand and don’t agree. And by the way, here’s a piece we can’t forget. You trust that person’s heart, even though that person could still be wrong! See, it’s not that you trust that the person who has acted hurtfully is RIGHT – you just choose to trust that the person cares about you and is committed to you as a friend, a spouse, etc. In other words, faithfulness is making a decision to trust in the good will of another person toward you, and refusing to abandon your underlying confidence in that person. Faithfulness is honoring the Holy Spirit’s work in their life. Faithfulness is granting permission for people not to be perfect. Sometimes faithfulness is being willing to put more faith in the good things you have seen in a person in the past, than in what appears to be rotten things you might be seeing today. Part of my faithfulness to Christy is that when she has off days, grumpy days, down days, or whatever – I choose to believe in her as a person. I do not abandon my faith in her as a deeply good woman, a person upon whom God has laid his hand and declared his good favor toward. In other words, I trust her heart. That’s faithfulness. And Christy grants that faithfulness back to me. We had had an argument a few months ago and I was pretty disappointed in myself about the way I had come across to her. I got to work the next morning and there was a post-it note on my computer monitor from Christy. It said, “You are a good man.” It did not say, “Congratulations for acting like a donkey – I loved it.” It didn’t say, “We’ll pretend that what happened didn’t happen.” It said, “I know what happened. I was there. I saw you not acting very good. But you are a good man.” That’s faithfulness. Faithfulness is refusing to believe that the other person is really as bad as they may have acted toward you. Let me ask you something. When someone hurts you, are you capable of maintaining faith in them? Or do you go off the handle and start slinging the gossip and rhetoric: “how could you do this to me. I guess you’re not really who I thought you were.” Are you capable of dealing honestly with a person who has hurt you, and yet affirming the basic goodness of that person? Or to you, is a person evil every time he/she has done something that upsets you, angers you, or disappoints you? Sometimes men are surprised when they start seeing their wife’s dark side. They ask, “Who is my wife really? Is she the one I was in bed with last night who said all those amazing things to me, or is she the crabby one that came home from work today? The answer: she’s both. But my friend, if she weren’t a woman of good will, if her heart was not loving toward you, if she were not basically well-intentioned toward you, trust me, there would be none of those good times between the sheets. When you see things in her that are dark, remember what is truest about her – she is a good woman – a woman of good will. Maintain your faith in her. Women, is your real husband the guy who took you out for your anniversary and wined and dined you and got you an awesome card and flowers and seemed to get everything right? Or is he the dude who sometimes gets so angry? Answer? He’s both. But if he weren’t a good man, if he didn’t love you, if his intentions were not good toward you, that anniversary thing wouldn’t have happened. You wouldn’t hear those occasional sweet remarks. It takes effort for him to do that stuff and if he’s doing ANY of it, it’s because he knows you need it. When you see things in your husband that are dark (or maybe just disgusting!), remember what is truest about him. He is a good man – a man of good will. Maintain your faith in him. Focus on his flaws and he will grow discouraged and give up because he wants to make you happy and if he can’t, it’s easier not to bother. But continually affirm his goodness, and I assure you he will become what you affirm. Don’t abandon faith in him. Husbands and wives, we cannot abandon faith in each other. Remaining faithful is about so much more than staying out of the sack with people you’re not married to, right? It’s continuing to believe in our partner’s goodness. If you don’t see goodness in your partner, is that because it isn’t there? Or is it not there because you consistently don’t see it?