The year is fresh, my friends.
But am I correct in saying that many people feel a bit skeptical, a bit weary, and a lot more worried than optimistic about the future right now?
In uncertain times we have to remind ourselves (and each other) that Christ is light, and there is no darkness in Him (I John 1:15). Just because we live in a dark world doesn’t mean we are doomed to live in darkness.
Easier said than done, right? Because when so much of the news we hear is bad news, we have to get intentional about how we think and how we live. The old saying goes, “You see what you look for.” That means we have to look for truth, goodness, and beauty. As leaders in church, community, and family, this is a vital part of staying faithful through hard times.
Called to Faithfulness
I don’t scroll a lot on social media, but I do follow a few specific influencers who consistently share inspiring and relatable posts. Sally Clarkson is one of those voices in my life, and has been for years. A few days ago, I check her Facebook profile and found this simple statement in the comments section below one of her posts:
“Faithful living is an act of worship to God, not a guarantee of a certain outcome.”-Sally Clarkson
Those words spoke volumes to my heart.
You see, I am one who looks for outcomes; desired and ideal outcomes, preferably. If what I am doing- how I am living- isn’t producing “good” or expected results (in my opinion), I look for another way, a better method.
And you know what’s hard about things like leadership and motherhood and ministry? They are journeys of a lifetime, not a sprint. Results and outcomes have zillions of variables, and can take decades to produce real fruit. In fact, I may never see some of the fruit in my lifetime.
So, yes. I’ll freely confess that many times along this journey, I’ve sat down and pondered if the path I’m walking is actually getting me anywhere at all.
Pondering the path of our feet is a good thing. It’s biblical (Proverbs 4:26). Sometimes we do need to change direction.
But the true north of our lives as Christians doesn’t ever change. We are always called to love God and live in relationship with Him, and to love people.
We are always called to faithfulness (Luke 16:10).
What does “staying faithful to God” look like in real life?
“Staying faithful to God” sounds like a wonderful and notable ideal. But what does it look like in the very muddy waters of real life? How do we stay faithful through hurts, disappointments, loss, grief, or fear?
First of all, staying faithful to God is very much about relationship. It’s not a performance, and it shouldn’t involve guilt or legalism. Just as being faithful to my husband is all about prioritizing and preferring him, so it is with God.
In practical ways: We love God faithfully by staying in His Word. By seeking His heart and learning who He really is (not how religion or culture imagines Him to be). We keep living in His grace so we can more fully give it out.
That second part, loving people faithfully, means that we keep showing up and growing up (maturing). We choose faithfulness to our husband and kids and our calling, even when it would be easier to throw up our hands and walk away. Hard time and storms don’t mean we’re doing something wrong; it simply means we’re humans. The harder the season, the more we lean in to faithfulness.
In practical ways: We learn how to be real. How to have hard conversations with people, and how to listen to honest answers. We do the hard and heart work of personal growth so we can keep learning to love and lead well.
We accept reality, and believe that God can do what we cannot.
Why staying faithful to God matters.
Staying faithful to God through dark times matters greatly for at least three reasons:
1. This life isn’t everything.
This life is all we know but it isn’t all there is. We were created for eternity and for eternal purposes. We can’t lose sight of that.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.II Corinthians 4:16-18
2. Our choices affect others.
It’s been said that “no man is an island to himself.” Faithfulness doesn’t require perfection, but it does imply stewardship- toward God and others.
Our children and family members are affected by our decisions. Friends and other believers are counting on us to stay the course. The decisions we make over a lifetime can either leave a legacy of faithfulness, or wounds that deeply affect those in our circle of influence.
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1 & 2
3. We will give an account of our faithfulness.
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of three servants, each given a different amount of money to invest. When their master returned, two servants were praised for their stewardship.
Matthew records Christ’s words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”Matthew 25:23
But the master had some choice words for the third steward:
“You wicked and slothful servant!”Matthew 25:26
At face value, it can seem that the master was a bit harsh with that third servant. I mean, it’s not like he lost the money; he simply hid it. However, verses 24 and 25 reveal some telling insights about the unfaithful servant:
“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid…”Matthew 25:24 & 25
One day as I sat pondering this parable, I realized something important about that third servant. He didn’t trust the nature of his master, and made decisions out of fear.
His misunderstanding lead to his unfaithfulness. The results were disastrous.
The Nature of God is Faithfulness
Bottom line: our view of God must align with His nature.
God is not a taskmaster. He isn’t “a hard man” who exacts perfect performance from His children. In fact, He knows we will struggle, fall short, and mess up. And yet He pursues a relationship with us and calls us to serve His bride, the Church.
Faithfulness is not the same as duty. In order for faithful living to be an act of worship to God, our relationship with Him must be grounded in love, not fear or guilt. (Read also: How Grace Shapes the Duties of Being a Pastor’s Wife)
God is faithfulness itself.
There is no “variation or shadow due to change” in his nature (James 1:17).
He is eternally merciful, and His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22 & 23).
And that is why, on a cold, dreary, rather bleak January day, you and I can peer into the future with eyes of hope. It’s why our path “is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:17-19).
True faithfulness has nothing to do with circumstances, feelings, duty, guilt, or getting expected results from the efforts of our lives.
It has everything to do with the faithfulness of the One who called us (I Thessalonians 4:23 & 24). Despite every storm and uncertainty, God will always be at work perfecting the “good things” He has begun in us, and in those we love and serve (Philippians 1:6).
Faithfulness is who He is and what He does.
Live faithfully another day, my friends. I’m determined to stay the course too. Let me know how I can pray for you.