“He said to them, Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
What does it mean to be faithful? I work in an organization where people have served 10…15…20…even 28 years! We have a reputation for becoming “lifers” here. This got me to thinking, will I be one? The answer is, IF God calls me to stay. I pray I won’t stay simply out of convenience or in the name of faithfulness. It would be scary to leave, but I want to be faithful for the right reasons.
Senator Robert Byrd has been a Senator since January 3, 1959, serving the country for 40 years. Impressive. Brett Favre quarterbacked from 1992 until 2008 when he retired, starting in 291 games. That’s faithfulness! Still, when he returned to the field after his retirement, some of the zeal was gone, the spark and excitement that once was Brett Favre had dissipated. His faithfulness became painful to watch—I for one was ready for him to go quietly. That’s the way it is! Some people just don’t know when to quit. But sometimes they should!
The ability to persevere is admirable; the inability to continue moving forward and embrace new seasons and new frontiers in life is not. Sometimes we admire someone’s faithfulness, when in reality they are mostly fearful of letting go and taking a step toward something new. How can we tell if we are acting out of faithfulness or fear? This is really the question…
To begin with, true faithfulness should be grounded in faith. (Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?) Faithfulness believes that God is going to do something as a result of our efforts. If we have lost this expectation, it could be we are holding on to what God did in the past, not looking forward to what He wants to do today and in the future. If somehow we believe the best is behind us, we may need to ask ourselves, am I remaining faithful for the right reasons?
Also, I believe faithfulness should produce fruit. If we are persevering in faith we should see new crops and fresh growth in everything we do. Psalms 1 says we: “will bring forth its fruit in its season, [our] leaf also shall not wither; And whatever [we do] shall prosper.” There must be fruit throughout our season of faithfulness. If we can’t identify the fruit of our efforts, or see any recent growth, this could be a sign that our season to remain faithful is drawing to a close. Perhaps God is trying to get your attention to ask you to pursue something entirely different with Him.
Another trait of true faithfulness is action. Faithfulness should not be just a passive, enduring existence. There may be times when you feel God has put you on the shelf for a season, and He holds you back from doing the one thing you feel called to do. He may even ask you to remain faithful when nothing is happening in your circumstances. However, this does not mean He requires nothing from you during the wait! He asks us to give thanks at all times, to love our neighbors, to work heartily for Him, and to look for opportunities to bless those around us. We cannot use the idea of being faithful to excuse not doing all we can when we can.
I don’t want to confuse faithfulness with seniority. Does God really look at years of service the way we do, I wonder. Is pure faithfulness or “steadfastness” always the basis for spiritual promotion? I’m not sure. At least not as we often define faithfulness. Perhaps he looks at our hearts to see why we have persevered, and if we are remaining faithful in what He called us to, not just what is comfortable and familiar to us.
These are tough questions I think. As a person who has worked in a ministry setting for just 13 years, I can tell you I recognize the difference in my own life. I have stuck with a ministry longer than I should have because I loved what I was doing. I loved reaching people, hearing how I was helping their lives. I saw fruit at every turn. BUT when God was done with it, I had to move on regardless of what strokes it gave me and how much I would miss it. Working in a ministry position is no different. Just because you can stay in a position, or have for many years, doesn’t mean that’s all God has for you. When He starts tugging at your heart, don’t ignore Him in the name of faithfulness. We can’t let our fear or comfort hinder the work God wants to do in our lives.
“Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die?”
(II Kings 7:3)
This reminds me of a story in II Kings about three lepers. They sat outside Jerusalem day after day with no where to go and nothing to do. They were as faithful as could be in what they were doing. One day they asked themselves, why are we sitting here until we die?? In other words, we have nothing to lose, what are we going to do about it? You may know the rest of the story in that they went up against Israel’s enemies and God used them to defeat the enemy’s army. All because they were willing to believe that God might have something bigger and better for them. Their prior existence had ceased to produce fruit and they were basically waiting to die. They knew if they sat there any longer, any hope to see God move in their lifetimes was gone. They were not content to sit and remember Israel’s past victories. Instead they made a radical step and ultimately made history.
Like the lepers, we may have forgotten how to dream big dreams for God; we may have forgotten that His promises are never about the past, but always about the future. Our place of comfort and commitment may come at a price if we miss out on what God has for us next.