In the previous post we studied a couple passages of Scripture that declare God’s faithfulness. You might read those verses and think, “Okay, I see the words of Scripture, but based on what is happening in my life, it doesn’t always seem that God is faithful.” If we’re honest, we can feel like lamenters in the psalms who cry out to God saying, “Lord, I need you! Why are you taking so long to answer my prayers? Wake up! Are you asleep?” Some of you are wondering why it seems your prayers are unanswered. Does God see my pain? Does it feel that God has left you hanging?
In those moments we do what the lamenter does in Lamentations 3:22-23, we remind ourselves of the truth that God is faithful. The way forward might seem foggy or difficult, but God is faithful. We might to be reminded of this many times. We might need to repeat it many times. We might need to post a visual reminder on our mirror, on our refrigerator, on our screen saver, our lock screen, our dashboard.
Because he is faithful, we can be faithful. We can grow his faithfulness in our lives. That’s what walking in step with the Spirit is all about. We learn to do what he does. Our steps, our pattern of live, our choices begin to look more and more like his. We learn to grow in faithfulness just as he is faithful.
So, what does it mean to for us to be faithful?
Proverbs 3:3 says “Let love and faithfulness never leave you,” and we would do well to find out what that means!
First an important question: What is the difference between faith and faithfulness?
In the Old Testament if you search for the word “faith” you will hardly find it. But if you add “ful” on the end to make the words “faithful, faithfully, or faithfulness,” then you find many more instances of this word. In the New Testament, however, we see the word “faith” a lot, but only a few of the “ful” version. Why the difference?
Is there a difference? The OT Hebrew conception of “faith” was not just intellectual. In other words, for the Hebrews, the definition of faith carried action with it. You showed what you believed by your actions, your faithfulness.
The NT was written in Greek, and the Greeks had an intellectual concept of faith. The word that Paul uses in the Fruit of the Spirit is sometimes translated, in other New Testament passages, as “faith” and sometimes it is translated “faithfulness.”
So what was Paul referring to? Just an idea of belief in our minds? Or a concept that involved action? Sometimes it seems like the New Testament writers disagree.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we saved by grace, through faith, not by works, it is the gift of God.
James says, in James 2 that faith without works is dead.
What saves us? Faith or faithfulness? We need both. We show our faith by our faithfulness!
These two concepts have often been used to create confusion in Christian doctrine. Can we earn our way to heaven by being good? Or do we have to have faith in God? What gives?
The two concepts are not two concepts, but two parts of one and the same concept.
We cannot save ourselves. We cannot work our way to heaven by doing good deeds. Paul said that clearly. Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. He was the only one worthy of being that sacrifice. He representatively took all our sin on him, but he didn’t stay dead. His miraculous rising from the dead, shows his power over sin, death and the devil. Therefore, we place our faith in him, we are saved. But what does it mean to place our faith in him?
Paul describes it this way in Romans 10:9, 10, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
There is a story to be believed. There is content that is true. We believe that Jesus is God and that he rose from the dead. We claim that story as historical fact to be believed.
But the belief, the faith, is not just intellectual.
James makes that very clear. Even Satan believes in God, but Satan’s action is opposed to God. Faith without deeds is dead. Our faith should be faithful. We should have a faith that is evidence by faithfulness.
Abraham is an amazing example of this. You can read his story in Genesis, but a summary is that God asked Abraham to move his family from their hometown to a place God would show him. And Abraham followed God! To place his faith in God, Abraham had to act. Our faithfulness shows that our faith is not just cerebral, it shows that it is real.
Hebrews 11 is the famous Faith Chapter in the Bible. In verse 6, the writer of Hebrews says that “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” We need faith to please God, but that faith shows itself to be true faith when we are faithful. Do you have a faith that is faithful?