Sunday, July 12, 2009

What is Real Faithfulness?

Our culture is currently experiencing a crisis in faithfulness. People make marriage vows and commit to be faithful to one another, only to break them when temptation comes along. People make financial commitments, only to break them when the budget gets tight. People join a club or fitness center but stop going as soon as the schedule gets squeezed. People make spiritual commitments to the Lord and to the church, only to drop them if the weather looks good for boating on any particular weekend.

The interesting thing about this lack of faithfulness in our society is that the very people who are breaking their commitments often consider themselves faithful. As a culture, we have forgotten what faithfulness is. Instead we prefer to create our own version of faithfulness even if our activities deny the real meaning of the word.

I was thinking about this recently after a series frustrating experiences with some young people who considered themselves faithful, but who clearly were not. I realized that these young people really do not understand what faithfulness is.

Though there may be many definitions of faithfulness, the one I like best is: “Faithfulness is consistently and competently doing something you enjoy for an extended period of time even in the face of difficult situations.”

The first aspect of this definition is consistency. If we only do something every so often, that is not faithfulness. While no one is perfect, faithfulness demands that most of the time we are consistently doing a certain thing. If we are not consistent, then we are not faithful.

The second aspect of this definition is competency. Some people do things consistently, but they do them in such a low quality way that someone else has to come along after them and correct their errors. Doing something that poorly is not true faithfulness. Faithfulness requires doing something with a level of competence that someone else does not have to fix our mess.

The third aspect of this definition is doing something you enjoy. Sometimes we do things because we have to. While there is something commendable about doing the right thing even when we don’t feel like it, to really be considered faithful, we must actually enjoy what we are doing. Otherwise our bad attitude begins to show through and the results of our efforts will be significantly less than if we were doing something we actually enjoyed. This is the probably the aspect of this particular definition that people will struggle with the most. But can we really consider ourselves faithful if we hate what we have committed to?

The fourth aspect of this definition is that that the activity must be done for an extended period of time. Anyone can do something for a short period of time. But doing something for a little while does not demonstrate faithfulness. While there may not be an exact length of time that defines all aspects of faithfulness, a general rule of thumb is that when a person has done a certain activity long enough that people associate that person with that activity, they have probably entered into the realm of faithfulness. If we haven’t done an activity long enough for people to associate us with that activity, we probably haven’t been doing it long enough to be considered faithful to that particular task.

The fifth aspect of this definition is that the activity must be done even in the face of difficult situations. All commitments that we make will face challenges. People who forsake their commitments at the first sign of difficulty are not demonstrating faithfulness. True faithfulness requires a person to continue the activity even when doing so costs them something. We never know how important something is to us until we have to sacrifice in order to keep that thing in our lives. Once we have remained committed in the face of difficulty and sacrifice, then we have demonstrated true faithfulness.

If our culture is to survive for another generation, we must rediscover faithfulness. We need to help our children understand faithfulness to marriage, to family, to their jobs and most importantly, to their faith. Without it, our culture will continue to decay and eventually unravel. Let us commit ourselves to faithfulness in every situation.

9 comments:

  1. Amen Brother, well said. So many faithful men have gone before us, their examples are a great encouragement as we strive to be Faithful in the the Strength of the Spirit that lives in us. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of faithfulness, He has set the bar. My prayer is that we would reflect Christ like faithfulness in our lives and pass this faithfulness on to the next generation through God honoring examples. May our lives be an example of the Gospel lived.

    To God be the Glory!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hershel StricklandJuly 14, 2009 at 1:01 AM

    Just read through Ruth tonight. Talk about an example of faithfulness. Good blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Warren TreichlerJuly 14, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Thank you.
    Good job.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hershel StricklandJuly 14, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    I enjoy reading all the entries.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great is thy faithfulness!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think the struggle that so many seem to have out of the five aspect you defined is the idea that it must extend over a length of time. We are so used to the instantaneous that we struggle with anything that is going to require us to wait. For example, the other day I stopped in at McDonalds to pick up a sandwich and a drink and when I saw the ... Read Moreline at the counter I calculated the time I would have to wait and determined that it wasn't worth it. I was not committed to the purchase because of the time I would be required to stand in line. I needed to eat...I WAS STARVING...but was unwilling to invest the time needed. A weak illustration perhaps, but one that many can probably relate to...I know because they all beep at me when I don't notice the light has turned green.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One way we can teach faithfulness is to point people to Christ and His faithfulness, and His glory.

    2 Cor. 3:15-18 says, "Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."... Read More

    The only way people can be faithful is if they are regenerated and the Spirit of Christ transforms them. In the ministry, our role is to display the glory of Christ before them. In so doing, they will be transformed from one degree of glory to another.

    Dr. T, thanks for continuing to challenge us and inspire us with your words of encouragement and exhortation. Keep pressing on!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good words. Richard Foster said, "Discipline means being able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done." Spiritually speaking, we have a lack of ability as Believers to faithfully do the things that need to be done when they need to be done. That has seeped into our culture as well.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    http://www.crossbooks.com/BookStore/BookStoreBookDetails.aspx?bookid=58188

    The book is also available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles.com and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.

    ReplyDelete