The next characteristic we are going to look at in having a fruitful life for God is faithfulness. Faithfulness is a common characteristic used to describe God. “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works” (Psalm 145:13; ESV). God’s word is as sure as the creation itself. “I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens” (Psalm 89:1-2; NRSV). Even in the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah could make a similar proclamation: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23; ESV). In these passages we see that the thrust is that we are able to rely upon God. When God says something, we are assured it will be accomplished. God is trustworthy.
The faithfulness of God stands in stark contrast to the faithfulness of humanity. “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6; NAS/ESV). I believe we all know the truth of this statement made the writer of Proverbs. Many people think they are loyal and many people claim to be faithful. But finding someone who truly is faithful is rare. Our words are often not dependable. We see politicians make statements that are parsed in such a way to give them wiggle room to get out of what said. While faithfulness is rare among people, for a godly person faithfulness is an essential quality of his or her character.
What Is Faithfulness?
Webster gives an excellent definition of what faithfulness is: “Firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty.” Thayer defines the word similarly. The word denotes “reliability, dependability, loyalty, and trustworthiness.” We have a number of great examples of faithfulness in the Bible. Daniel is an excellent example that shows us what faithfulness looks like.
“So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him” (Daniel 6:4; NRSV). Notice the author records that the reason no faults or complaints could be found against Daniel was “because he was faithful.” Notice that the contrast to faithfulness is “negligence” and “corruption.” Faithfulness depicts an honest, reliable person who can be trusted by what they say and do. With the rest of our time, let us look at three things we must do to be called faithful in the eyes of the Lord.
The first thing “faithfulness” means is absolute honesty. This, of course, is the very characteristic of God. As Paul opens his letter to Titus, he says, “…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…” (Titus 1:2; HCSB). God is honest in an absolute sense. There is no deception or duplicity with God. The Proverbs also show that honesty is a key component of faithfulness. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22; ESV). Notice that “lying lips” are contrasted with “acting faithfully.” Somehow we think that lying is really not a big deal. Perhaps we justify lying because it can be done easily. Not only is lying an abomination to the Lord, but we need to see that we cannot be fruitful to God if we engage in lying and deception. Faithfulness is about being trustworthy and reliable. You and I cannot rely on each other if our words can be doubted. There is truth to the adage that a man is only as good as his word. It is shameful that our society has become such that a person’s word cannot be trusted. People speak with the intent to deceive or without any intention of keeping their word. Christians must be different. If we break our word, then we are just like the world and are not showing the light of God to others. Do people trust us when we say something or have we become unfaithful to them because we have violated our word? God demands us to be truthful so that we can useable servants.
Another characteristic of God that makes Him faithful is that He is completely dependable. God repeatedly calls for humanity to depend upon Him and not on themselves. In the same way, we are to be completely dependable as followers of God. As we have noticed with Daniel, he was completely dependable, so much that he became a powerful and influential leader in the Babylonian and Persian Empires. We know what it is like to deal with people who are not dependable. It is frustrating at the least and very problematic when trying to accomplish tasks. The writer of the Proverbs said, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so the slacker is to the one who sends him on an errand” (Proverbs 10:26; HCSB). The undependable person is like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes: a total irritation.
Dependability is about keeping our commitments. If our society needs to reemphasize the virtue of honesty, it certainly needs to learn about dependability. We have become people who keep our commitments only if they are convenient. I see that dependability is not being taught to our children. If they do not want to do something, we think it is okay for them to break their commitment. As adults, we can do the same thing.
David begins Psalm 15 asking who can live with God and notice one of the subsequent answers. “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts…” (Psalm 15:1-4; NIV). We have to keep our word. We must keep our commitments and duties if we are going to faithful people to God and to others. This is what distinguishes godly faithfulness from the ordinary dependability of the world. We will keep our word even when it hurts us.
Jerry Bridges said it well: “For person who is practicing godliness, then, dependability is a duty owed not only his fellow man but, more important, to God. Reliability is not just a social obligation; it is a spiritual obligation. God is even more concerned about our faithfulness than is the person relying on us in some particular situation.”
The third component of faithfulness is unwavering loyalty. Loyalty is about sticking with someone through thick and thin. This is also another characteristic of God when He speaks about His faithfulness. God stays with us regardless of the difficulties we experience. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We are to have the same character that we will remain with each other, even through difficulties. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). There is no such thing as a “fair-weather friend.” Someone who stays by us only during good times is not a friend at all. A great example of this loyalty is David’s friend, Jonathan, who even went against his own father to help David.
But often we want loyalty regardless of our errors. But this is not what the scriptures are speaking about. We are not to loyalty that refuses to admit the faults and the mistakes of a friend. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6; ESV). Notice that the wounds are described as “faithful.” Loyalty includes rebuking our friends when they need to hear that their lives are going the wrong direction.
Loyalty is another rare characteristic in our society. The world is filled with friends during the good times. But few are the people who remain through difficult times. We need to not only seek after true friends, but we need to be true friends. God wants us to be loyal through thick and thin as He is with us.
Where is this loyalty in marriage in our society today? Men and women seem to think that they can exit marriage when it is convenient. Loyalty is to stay with our spouse through difficult times. We are not pleasing to God when we are faithless toward friends and spouses. We want others to stick with us through our difficulties. We need to do the same for others.
Are you faithful? Before we began this lesson, we probably all would have declared that we are faithful. But now that we have looked at how the scriptures define faithfulness, how would you answer? When we think of faithfulness toward God and toward others, we need to think about these three areas:
- Absolute honesty. Do I speak the truth and never attempt to deceive?
- Complete dependability. Am I reliable? Do I keep my commitments, even if it hurts me?
- Unwavering loyalty. Do I stick with people even through difficult times? Do I care enough about a person to not allow him to continue unchecked in a wrong action?
These are the characteristics God is looking for in us to be fruitful in God’s service.