In many Christian circles today there is a strong emphasis on “faith”. We are often told if we have enough faith we could move mountains and do the impossible. It doesn’t matter the problem, all you need is a good dose of faith and God will come running because he is compelled to honour his own word if we activate it. After all, didn’t the Bible say “if you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you?” (Luke 17:6).
This part of the Bible’s message has always been a best-seller, however out of context it is applied (this article is not about defining what true biblical faith is, that will be the subject of another article). The popularity of the “Faith Movement” is evidenced in many overflowing mega churches, where people from all walks of life regardless of their true spiritual state line up to move their own mountains (unemployment, singleness, sickness, visa, infertility, etc.).
However, in the midst of the Faith buzz, another word that has vanished from many Christians’ vocabulary is the word “Faithful”. This is the word used by the apostle Paul to describe the Christians in Ephesus and Colossae. In the salutation of his letter to the Ephesians he writes, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Again to the Colossians he writes, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.”
What does it mean to be Faithful? It does seem that for Paul there is no difference between the two words, Christian and Faithful. He assumes that a Christian is also faithful, it is therefore not surprising that in both letters he put those words together. Real Christians are also Faithful.
Jesus, the Faithful One.
The Bible does not give a definition of the word Faithful, however it provides a picture of what it means to be Faithful both through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews in 3:1-2 writes, “…consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was Faithful to him who appointed him…” Jesus’ life is the definition of what it means to be Faithful. He lived every day of his earthly life not pursuing his own will, but the will of him who sent him. He said of himself in John 5:30 “…I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” As Christians, Jesus Christ is our model of faithfulness, living a life that prioritises the will of God over our own comfort and self-preservation. He lived his life on earth not pursuing earthly gain or fame but seeking to accomplish the task for which his Father sent him. That’s what all faithful servants do.
The apostle Paul echoing the same truth said in Acts 20:24, “…I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus…” Paul lived every day after his conversion as a servant whose sole purpose and passion was to honor Christ.
How Does A Faithful Life Look Like?
Not only was the life and ministry of Jesus the full reflection of what it means to be Faithful, he also taught his disciples what a Faithful life should look like. Both Matthew and Luke record teachings of Jesus on what it means to be Faithful, three of which are discussed in this article.
Faithful Servants Stay Dressed for Action
In Luke 12:35-42 Jesus told his disciples “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”…Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager…”
According to Jesus, a faithful life is one which is lived in readiness and expectation of the master’s coming. As Christians, God has called and entrusted us with the responsibilities of disciple making (Matt 28:18-20) and holy living (1 Pet.1:13-25). One day the master [Jesus] will come back and “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). The Faithful servant is the one who is living each day with that day in view. The day of the Lord should fuel our faithfulness. The reason why we have so much carelessness in Christendom today is because many Christians have lost sight of the master’s return.
It is striking that Jesus told this parable after he had warned his disciples against anxiety and preoccupation with the cares of this world. He said to them “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried”(Luke 12:22-29). The greatest enemy of a Faithful life is anxiety and cares of this life. As servants we can get distracted and lose focus when we take our eyes off the master’s agenda and get preoccupied with our own endeavours. To be Faithful means staying alert and focused on the Christian calling.
Faithful servants maximise the resources of their master
In Matthew 25:26, Jesus teaches that the opposite of Faithful is “wicked and slothful”. The story of the talents is one of the most famous stories in the Bible, where Jesus tells a parable of a man who entrusted his property to his servants in proportion of 5:2:1 to three servants and embarked on a long journey. After a long time, he came back requiring the servants to turn in their accounts. The servants who received five and two had doubled the talent entrusted to them, for which they were commended as faithful servants and given additional responsibilities. The servant who received one talent went and hid his accusing the master of injustice and heavy-handedness. The master called that servant “wicked and slothful”
As Christians we have each received resources from God, be it time, relationships, natural abilities etc. One thing we know from the story is that everybody received a talent, yes, they weren’t equal but they all had resources nonetheless. You may not be as talented in singing as the other person, or may not have the same relationships or natural abilities but the truth remains that we all have received some opportunities from God. The question is “are you maximizing those opportunities for the glory of God?”
Stop comparing yourself with others and get to work. It does not matter what you do, what matters is the person you’re doing it for (God). And it does not matter the size of your opportunity, because the reward for being Faithful is the same regardless of the size (Matt. 25:21, 23).
Faithful servants are good stewards
In Luke 16:10-12, Jesus told his disciples, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Unrighteous wealth here refers to money and possessions, and true riches refers to spiritual stewardship and responsibility in God’s kingdom and ultimately heavenly reward as well (ESV Study Note). In other words, your reward hinges on how well you steward whatever material resources God has entrusted to you.
Our approach to money says more about our spiritual condition than we realise. Here in Luke 16 Jesus is not only talking about rich people, rather he is talking about every Christian and how we used the material resources God has entrusted to us. Regardless of how much we have, we are all stewards and unless we are faithful with that which belongs to God, we might as well forget about any hope of receiving true riches in the kingdom.
How faithful are you with your resources? Are you using what God has entrusted to you to further the cause of his kingdom (giving for the advancement of the gospel and sharing with those who are in need)? And here I’m not talking about playing lottery with God – sowing seed so that He will multiply what you have given him (Matt. 6:19-21)
A Faithful Life Could be Risky but Eternally Rewarding
Living a Faithful life is risky, it may cost you your life, but the reward is worth the risk. My favourite church of all time is the Church of Smyrna. It was the only church among the seven churches in Revelation that Jesus didn’t have anything against, yet for their faithfulness they were likely to suffer dire consequences. In Revelations 2:8-10, we read,
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Living a Faithful Christian life does not guarantee earthly blessing. You may have the greatest of faiths and still your mountain of unemployment, singleness, sickness, visa, infertility, etc. may not move. Jesus here in Revelation promises something of far superior value than wealth and health. He promises the crown of life. The words of Paul would be apt in concluding:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).