I follow the Washington Commanders. In our church we have many Eagles fans and some Steelers fans. I follow the Commanders because my dad went to seminary in Washington DC, and there he caught the bug and passed it on to me and my brother. In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to be a Washington fan. They regularly made the playoffs and won three Super Bowls.
It’s been very difficult for the past 30 years, however, to be a faithful Washington Commanders fan. You might ask, “Who are the Commanders?” Is that some arena football team? A USFL team? No. It’s the new name of the former Washington Redskins. I support the name change, but I will admit a name change makes it hard to feel connected to the team. Actually they’ve had two name changes in the last few years. The team first abandoned the old name, and team leadership decided to go with a temporary name, “The Washington Football Team,” while they took some time to think about it. Along with the name changes, the team has performed terribly for years. On top of that, the front office is a mess, filled with scandals and mismanagement. It’s hard to be a faithful fan when things aren’t going well.
We see that tendency in many areas of life. The difficulty of faithfulness, especially in the face of struggle. Can we be faithful when life is hard? Can we be faithful when we don’t want to be faithful?
Over the last month we have been studying what is called The Fruit of the Spirit. This week we focus on Faithfulness. One of Jesus’ first followers was a guy named Paul. He started a lot of churches, and he wrote them letters. To the churches in the region of Galatia, which is in modern-day Turkey, Paul wrote about The Fruit of the Spirit.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul wrote that Christians are people who walk in step with the Spirit of God. We are thus to be led by the Spirit so we can grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. What is the Fruit of the Spirit? In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine qualities that are the fruit of the Spirit.
In the previous weeks we’ve studied love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and now this week we study faithfulness. We’ll get to the definition of faithfulness in a future post, but usually what we think of when we think about faithfulness is a person who is committed, who is true, who has given their allegiance to something, and they follow through.
When my wife and I were missionaries, we were so thankful for faithful supporters. People who kept their promised commitment.
Or consider a faithful worker. She shows up on time, works hard, rarely takes sick days, supports the boss, and promotes the company…year after year after year.
How do we become faithful like that? To answer that question, we first need to ask and answer another one, “What is the root of faithfulness?”
In Romans 3:3-4 Paul asks a very thought-provoking question, “What if some lack faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” It is a question that perhaps all of us have wondered from time to time. There are moments, perhaps long periods during which we feel like our faith is weak. We don’t feel we are worthy of God. We might be struggling personally. Maybe we have given in to a sinful habit or attitude, maybe we feel very far from God. Evaluate your relationship with God. Are you close? Are you lacking faith? Does it feel a bit scary or unsettling to consider those questions?
In those dark times, we can wonder, with Paul, “Is God justified in turning his back on me?” Maybe when we are so faithless, God doesn’t have to be faithful to us? Is that true?
Here’s Paul’s response: “Not at all.”
Hear this very clearly: Even when you lack faith, your lack of faith does not affect God’s feeling toward you. How do I know this? Because scripture very clearly tells us how God feels about us when we feel like we are lacking faith.
First we’ll look at a passage from the Old Testament, Lamentations 3:22-23.
Before we read those verses, let’s try to set them in the context of the book of Lamentations. The author of the book of Lamentations, the lamenter, is wrestling with God about a situation happening in the ancient nation of Israel. That situation is identical to what we learned in our study of Ezekiel a few months ago. Remember how the city of Jerusalem had been invaded by the King of Babylon, and some of Jews in Jerusalem had been taken away in exile? Remember how their precious city and temple had been destroyed? The Lamenter, probably the prophet Jeremiah, was living in that time, and he is so deeply frustrated with God. We’ve talked about lament as the expression of our frustration with God. A couple months ago Clint Watkins guest blogged about lament, using the example of Psalm 77, which is a song of lament. The psalms are filled with laments, which are people crying out in God to anguish. The book Lamentations is a big, long awful, painful lament.
Maybe you have felt that way sometimes. You are going through a long period of waiting, and hurting, and confusion, and you’re praying and you’re not receiving a response from God. It doesn’t seem fair. It seems wrong. You’re wondering if God is going to keep his promises. You might be having a crisis of faith. Do what the lamenter does. He gets around to the truth that God is faithful.
Dwell on God; think about who he is, and though the pain you’ve been going through is great, remember God’s love and compassion. Then burst forth in praise. That’s exactly what the lamenter does in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Though the world seems like it is falling apart around us, God is faithful. There is nothing that can affect his faithfulness.
Likewise, let’s hear a verse from the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 2:13 Paul writes, “Even when we are faithless, God is faithful, because he cannot deny himself.” Faithfulness is rooted in God. He is the truly faithful one. Even when we ourselves are falling apart, when we think we are losing our faith or feel apathetic about God, or perhaps we being rebellious, God is still faithful. God’s faithfulness means that he is consistently loving and caring for us. I once heard the phrase about God: “There is nothing you can do that will make God love you less.” He is faithful. You can always depend on him.