Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God,
the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy
with them that love him and keep his commandments to
a thousand generations” Deuteronomy 7:9 

      If you are a dog lover, as we are, then you know how incredibly faithful our four-legged furry friends are to us. The trust and relationship between a dog and his master (even those who are less than kind) is one of life’s higher aspects, especially in light of the decline of good character traits in our lawless and immoral world. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the faithfulness that dogs possess is one of God’s ways to cause us to stop and think about our own faithfulness, or lack thereof. Even more importantly, how much do we thank God with all of our hearts for His faithfulness?

      In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for faithful is aman, (aw-man’) which means “to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; to be true or certain of long continuance, stedfast, sure, trusty.’ (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.) The faithfulness of God isn’t something He possesses; rather, God is faithful, just like God is love, holy, all-knowing, all seeing, everywhere present, unchanging, all-powerful and so forth. God’s faithfulness is something that we all-too-often hold lightly, or take for granted. Yet, where would we be without His aman?

      Deuteronomy 7:9 tells us that “the faithful God” keeps “covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments.” As with all of God’s promises, there are conditions to be met, which, in this case, is to love him and keep his commandments. King David said in Psalm 31:23, “O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.” We are all given free will to choose whether we will remain faithful to love and obey Him, or instead trust in ourselves and proudly do it our way.

      When you consider all the heroes and martyrs of the faith in both the Old and New Testaments (as well as in Church history up to and including the present) it is their faithfulness that shines forth like a beacon to us who are still on this earthly pilgrimage. If the matter of being aman is not settled in our hearts and minds once and for all, then most likely we will end up as weak, double-minded, fainthearted, ineffective, lackluster, nominal Christians instead of the overcomers we are called to be. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. . . . . No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” Matthew 16:10, 13. The principle in these verses is clear, and expressed by Joshua when he challenged the Israelites, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” Joshua 24:15.

      Concerning nominal Christians, A. W. Tozer said, “There are two kinds of faith: nominal faith and real faith. “Nominal faith accepts what it is told and can quote text after text to prove it. It is amazing how nominal faith, nominal belief, can weave texts into garments, cloaks and curtains for the church. We have so many of these all around the church, and I must admit that for the most part they are beautiful. But they serve no function in our spiritual walk.

      “The other kind of faith is what I refer to as real faith. This faith depends upon the character of God and looks nowhere else.

      “The Scripture does not say of Abraham that he believed the text and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham believed God. It is not what Abraham believed, but who Abraham believed that truly counted.

      “The man who has real faith, as over against nominal faith, has found the right answer to one important question: What is God like? No question is more important and demands a proper answer.

      “What is God like? The men of true faith have found an answer to that question, by revelation and illumination. They know in whom they have believed.” (My Daily Pursuit, pg. 137.

      In 2 Timothy 1:7-13 Paul is not only admonishing Timothy to faithfulness, but is reiterating his own confidence in God’s faithfulness with these words: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

      We cannot remain faithful to our high calling if we keep looking back, as did Lot’s wife. (Genesis 19:26). We cannot faithfully run the race and finish the course unless we forget “those things which are behind…reaching forth unto those things which are before”…pressing “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b, 14).  We cannot remain faithful if we fail to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). We cannot remain faithful by looking back at the world, and longing for it in our hearts as did the mixed multitude from Egypt and the Children of Israel (Numbers 11:4, 5). We cannot remain faithful without counting the cost (Luke 14:28). We will fail to be faithful if we do not set our affection on things above (Colossians 3:1-3). Faithfulness will fail if our heart is not fixed (Psalm 112:7; 108:1). We will fail to be faithful if we forsake our calling by loving this present world as did Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). Unfaithfulness in our walk makes us unfit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62) because it takes faith to be faithful, and without faith, one cannot please God. Unbelief in any area of our spiritual life leads to nominal Christianity, which not only weakens what faith we do have, but loosens our resolve to be faithful. Bottom line, our lack of faithfulness displeases the Lord, destroys our testimony, and brings a reproach on the Gospel.

      The question is, did Jesus have the latter days “Christian” religious system in mind when He asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” Luke 18:8b? According to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, there will “come a falling away first, and that man of sin…revealed, the son of perdition.” In 1Timothy 1:19 we are warned, “Holding faith, and a good conscience: which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” How many pew-warmers are there today in churches across the land who, in their hearts, have let their faith slip, and as a result are living in sin contrary to the Word of God, having “seared their consciences,” and are making “shipwreck” of their testimony and spiritual lives? There is no doubt but that we are witnessing the fulfillment of 1Timothy 4:1, 2 which states, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron”. Many of those who have departed from the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3b) have, however, not departed physically from churches they attend, but remain sitting in the same pew, singing songs, enjoying the social functions, and participating in “church activities”. Like noxious weeds in a garden, they take root, blend in and become part of the landscape, and are allowed to do so in spite of the clear instructions given in God’s Word!

      Concerning apostasy, that is, turning back, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us with these words of warning, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” Hebrews 3:12, 13. This is a strong warning to Christians that their faithfulness to the living God can indeed be destroyed if they allow the deceitfulness of sin to harden them, resulting in an evil heart of unbelief. Peter likewise warned against apostasy in 2 Peter 3:17, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” 2 Peter 3:17.

      It makes Christians “nervous” whenever the subject of apostasy comes up because, let’s face it, we all trip, slip and slide from time to time and fail the Lord. In such times the Holy Spirit will convict us in our hearts, and we will humble ourselves and repent because nothing is more miserable than having our relationship with the Lord broken because of sin. In such cases, we have not denied Him in our heart, nor have we come to a place of total disbelief and rebellion in our heart where we choose to go on living in sin (which is iniquity or moral impurity). Simply put, because we all have free will, whether saved or not, apostasy is when a person makes the decision to forsake Christ after coming to Him, and to continue living in sin, and deliberately turns his or her heart against the Lord and commands Him to leave his or her heart and life. (I knew of such a person who did this after “accepting Christ” who afterward chose to go deeply into the occult, and then committed a ritualistic suicide.)

      When I think of all the times I have failed the Lord, great comfort is gained by His inspired Word through Jeremiah the Prophet, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22, 23. When you consider the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance—all of these are expressed daily in our lives as we choose to remain faithful to the LORD and His Word. The faithful Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” 2 Timothy 2:10-12.

      It’s been my experience that people are usually faithful to what they value, love and highly esteem. However, once there is a shift in their attention, and subsequently their affections, they can easily drift off course and begin to slide into the ditch. Satan, being crafty, subtle, shrewd, cunning, crafty and treacherous knows how to draw our hearts away from the Lover of our souls. Satan knows full well the basic needs and desires of human beings; thus, he knows our weaknesses caused by our fallen disposition. When we have unresolved issues, unconfessed (or unforsaken sin), he sends in the perfect “setup” to dissolve our resolve to remain faithful to the Lord and our calling.

      The temptations we all face boil down to who we are going to believe, and who we are going to serve. Within ourselves we have a decision to make. Are we going to serve the fleshly man, or are we going to serve the spiritual man? Are we going to serve the world, the flesh and the devil, or are we going to “come out and be separate” (which is consecration) and present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service? (See Romans 12:1). “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Romans 12:2.

      A person can be faithful to his or her doctrine, creed, religious practices, and church but fail to be faithful to Christ. A person can be faithful to his or her theology, philosophy, ideology, and particular worldview, but be unfaithful to Jesus. A person can be faithful to his or her job, family ties, close friends, and community, but remain unfaithful to the Lord. In Isaiah 29:13 we read, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.” We must be honest with ourselves and ask if we are like the people Ezekiel wrote of when he said, And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Ezekiel 33:31, 32.

      In regard to faithfulness, Oswald Chambers put it well when he wrote, “It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if the things that happen were completely controlled by people. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and that exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of our faithfulness comes. If we will just learn to worship God even during the difficult circumstances, He will change them for the better very quickly if He so chooses.

      “Being faithful to Jesus Christ is the most difficult thing we try to do today. We will be faithful to our work, to serving others, or to anything else; just don’t ask us to be faithful to Jesus Christ. Many Christians become very impatient when we talk about faithfulness to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more deliberately by Christian workers than by the world. We treat God as if He were a machine designed only to bless us, and we think of Jesus as just another one of the workers.

      “The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”

      As we look at the world around us and see the unmistakable signs of His coming, we can relate to David in Psalm 12, verse 1, where he says, “HELP, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”  You can hear the despair in David’s voice as he cries out to God for help because the faithfulness of those who were known as godly had failed. And what is the evidence of this? Verse 2 says, “They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.” These men, who had been considered among the faithful, are now revealing their divided heart by the flattering words coming out of their mouths. To be faithful to God means that you will speak the truth in love, not fearing what man will think or say about you. The truth is a godly person cannot be “politically correct” because that would involve lying and dishonesty. This is so important to the Lord that He says in verses 3, 4 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?”

      Friends, we must remain faithful in our hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful to speak the truth, faithful to exalt Him in prayer, worship and our manner of living. Faithful to believe, and firmly stand on the immoveable Rock until He comes, for has He not promised, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” Revelation 2:10?

      Jesus promised, “He that overcometh the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” Revelation 3:5

      Our God is always aman. What about you?