Summary: Since God is forever faithful to us, He desires for us to be faithful to Him and to others. A faithful person walks in the truth not matter what happens to him.
Flourishing in Faithfulness
Rev. Brian Bill
Someone asked me a couple weeks ago if the jokes I hear about Wisconsin offend me. I told him that I ask for it by bringing up “God’s Country” so often in my sermons. That reminds me of the man who decided to write a book about churches from around the United States.
He started with a very large church in California when he noticed a golden telephone on the wall with a sign that read, “$10,000 a minute.” He tracked down the pastor and asked him about the phone. The pastor told him that it was a hotline to Heaven and if he pays the price he can talk directly to God. He thanked the pastor and continued on his way.
As he visited churches in Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan and Minnesota, he found more fancy phones, with the same sign and the same explanation from each pastor. He finally crossed the “cheddar curtain,” arrived in Wisconsin, and walked into a church. He saw the usual golden telephone but this time the sign said, “Calls: 35 cents.”
This fascinated him and so he asked to talk to the pastor, “Reverend, I’ve been in cities all across the country and in each church I’ve found a golden telephone and have been told that it’s a direct line to Heaven. But, in all the other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute, and here the call is only 35 cents. What’s up with that?”
The pastor smiled and replied, “Son, you’re in Wisconsin…here it’s a local call.”
This morning we’re focusing on how we can call out to God in deep faith so that we will flourish in the fruit of faithfulness. As we come to the seventh fruit of the Spirit, let’s read Galatians 5:22-23 together: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
If you want to go deep and long in your faith, let me recommend two books that have greatly impacted my understanding of what it means to be a faithful follower. Some of what you will hear this morning can be attributed to insights that I’ve gleaned from these outstanding authors:
Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan, 1999)
If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg (Zondervan, 2001)
Strictly speaking, the word in Galatians 5:22 is faith, which is one of the most common terms in the New Testament. It can be correctly translated as faithfulness because it has the idea of fidelity as well. The English word was originally linked to the thought of personal dependability and meant, “to fasten oneself to.” I like that image because it shows that we are to fasten ourselves to Christ before we can become reliable people.
The Greek word for faithfulness means a “firm persuasion, conviction and belief in the truth.” When the Hebrew words “faithful” or “faithfulness” describe God in the Old Testament, the focus is on firmness, steadiness, safety, and certainty. It’s the same root that gives us the word “amen.”
Number 12:7 tells us that Moses was faithful. Acts 6:5 describes Stephen as a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 36:5 describes God’s reliability: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” The faithful God overflows with faithfulness and His faithful people follow Him.
When Paul decided to send Timothy back to the church in Thessalonica, he didn’t want to know how many people they had, or if they had a building, or how much their offerings were. His primary concern was whether or not they were flourishing in their faithfulness. Let’s look at a few verses from 1 Thessalonians 3:
Verse 2: “We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith.”
Verse 5: “…when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith.”
Verse 6: “But Timothy has…brought good news of your faith and love.”
Verse 7: “…we were encouraged about you because of your faith.”
Verse 10: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
When Jesus told the Roman centurion in Luke 7 that He would go to his house to heal his servant, this commander told Jesus to just say the word and his servant would be healed. When Jesus heard this tremendous expression of faith, verse 9 says, “…He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” On the other hand, when Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth, He couldn’t do any miracles there because Mark 6:6 tells us, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”