The Lord Who is Faithful

Deuteronomy 7:9

Today we are beginning a new sermon series entitled “The God You Can Trust.” For the next six Sundays we will be looking at what the Bible says about the faithfulness of God. In order to orient our thinking in the right direction, here are five Scriptures that introduce the topic:

Exodus 34:6—"And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.’”

Deuteronomy 7:9—"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

Isaiah 49:7—"This is what the Lord says—the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’”

I Thessalonians 5:24—"The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

Hebrews 10:23—"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Let’s isolate the key phrases:

“Abounding in love and faithfulness”

“He is the faithful God”

“The Lord who is faithful”

“The one who calls you is faithful”

“He who promised is faithful”

The Ever-Faithful God

Many other verses might be added to this list to bring home the point that God is faithful. In the words of Pastor Alan Walker, “God is still God, and God can always be trusted!”

But is it true? An old friend from another time and another place sent me a message. The last several years have been difficult because of problems with a wayward child. He wrote to say that the child will soon be sentenced to serve time in a juvenile detention facility. Then he wrote these words: “God has been ever faithful to us and her through this period of ‘the spirit of Cain’ (irrational and total rebellion). Perhaps she will yet become like the prodigal in repenting.” Here is a man who has discovered—and is daily learning anew—the truth that God is faithful even in the midst of a heartbreaking family crisis.

Last night Bruce Thorn called from his home in Sheffield, Alabama. During our conversation he mentioned that God had been speaking to his heart on a certain subject. He had asked several other friends and they confirmed it to him. The message was this: God is challenging his people to trust him. In a world where every day brings new revelations of chaos and moral confusion, we need to ask ourselves if we really trust God. It’s one thing to say “I trust in the Lord” when the sun is shining and all the bills are paid. It’s something else to trust him when the dark clouds settle round us and the bill collectors are at the door.

Who or what can we trust? We live in an era of planned obsolescence. We buy a car knowing that it will last two or three or maybe four years. We buy new clothes knowing they won’t last more than a year or two. It’s worse with computers. This week I bought my third computer in the last five years. I purchased a whiz-bang, superfast computer from an Internet auction house. But even though I got a great deal, I know I’m going to have to replace it in several years. That’s how fast technology is moving ahead.

Add to that the uncertainty of life. Companies downsize. Bosses say, “Let’s talk about your future because it’s not here.” Friends move away, marriages dissolve, children leave home, and our health doesn’t last forever. Friends and loved ones pass away. And we live in fear of cancer or a sudden heart attack.

Semper Fi!

In this world of ceaseless change, God is the only constant. As Moses declared, “He is the faithful God.” That’s an important word for today. The Marine Corps motto is: Semper Fidelis (or shortened to Semper Fi)—Always faithful! But how many people do you know who do exactly what they say? Before you answer, let me rephrase the question. How many people do you know who do exactly what they say every single time? Let me rephrase it again. How many people do you know who do exactly what they say every single time and do it with such thoroughness and perfection that you never have to worry about anything they say or do? Again, before you answer let me ask it this way: How many people do you know who no matter what the circumstances and no matter how they feel will always do exactly what they say every single time and do it with such thoroughness and perfection that you never have to worry about anything they say or do because you know if they say it, they will definitely do it without fail, without change, and without excuse?

The answer to any question depends on how you ask it. Most of us probably think we know some people who do exactly what they say. That is, we all know some reliable people who seem very dependable to us. But in the end, the question is not about reliable or very dependable people. It’s really not about people at all because no person could meet all the qualifications of the last question, which is really about God. He alone is 100% faithful 100% of the time.

A World of Broken Promises

We live in a world of broken promises. Leaders pledge peace and secretly make plans for a war. Marriages end over trivial disputes. And presidents wag their finger and say “I didn’t,” knowing full well that they did.

I happened to catch a few minutes of a national radio talk show where the host discussed several prominent celebrities whose personal hypocrisies have been exposed. He then asked a penetrating question. “Is there anyone out there who is what he claims to be?”

If you’re looking in this world, the answer is no. But if you look outside this world, you discover that God is what he claims to be.

Numbers 23:19—"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind; does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

John 17:3—"The only true God.”

I Corinthians 1:9—"God … is faithful.”

I Corinthians 10:13—"But God is faithful.”

I John 1:9—"He is faithful.”

I John 5:20—"Him who is true.”

When take together these verses establish that God’s faithfulness is not some minor or secondary part of God’s character. To say that God is faithful goes to the core of who God really is. He keeps his word because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be God!

We could multiply similar verses in every direction because all that God does rests on his faithfulness and every blessing we receive comes because he is faithful to keep his promises to us. If God were not faithful, we could not be saved, would not dare to pray, would have no sure hope for the future, and would go down in death in desperate fear wondering if God will keep his promises. But we live in faith and die in hope precisely because our God is faithful.

With that as an introduction, let’s think together about three specific implications of God’s faithfulness.

I. Every Word He Says is True

The Bible contains several words for truth, One of the most important is the Hebrew word emet, which means stability, firmness, or certainty. We get the English word “amen” from the Hebrew emet. Every time we say amen we are really saying, “It is certain” or “Yes, it is absolutely true.”

Therefore, to say “God is true” is the same as saying “God is faithful.” Here’s a simple definition: God’s faithfulness means that because he is the truth, everything he says and does is certain. That means he is 100% reliable 100% of the time. In the words of Lewis Sperry Chafer: “He not only advances and confirms that which is true, but in faithfulness abides by his promises, and executes every threat or warning he has made.” He says what he means and means what he says and therefore does everything he says he will do. He does not fail, forget, falter, or vacillate. I f he says it, he means it, and you can stake your life upon it.

And where will we find the true words of God? In the Bible. God has given us an entire book filled with his words. If that be so, then our job is read that book. Study it. memorize it. learn it. Build your life upon it. We are to love God’s Word to the point that his words flow through us like the blood that flows through our veins.

God says “Amen” over every word he speaks. This means that we can trust the entire Bible because it all comes from God. Whether we read in Genesis or Joshua or II Kings or Ezra or Lamentations or Luke or Galatians or II Thessalonians or III John or Revelation, we can trust what we read because God is the ultimate author and every word he speaks is true.

As a side note, let me mention that we will end 1999 with a public declaration of our faith that every word of God is true. For the last 90 hours of December we will sponsor a Bible Reading Marathon from the pulpit of Calvary Memorial Church. Hundreds of our people will join in a consecutive, unbroken, nonstop reading of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We will go round the clock from 6:00 a.m., December 28 to 12 midnight on December 31. In so doing we will proclaim our confidence that God’s Word is true and that every part of it deserves to be read and believed as we enter a new millennium.

Here is a second implication of God’s faithfulness …

 

II. Every Promise Will be Kept

Here is a second wonderful implication. Because God is faithful, he keeps every promise he makes. Have you taken the time to trace God’s promises through the Bible? If you haven’t, I recommend that you begin underlining every promise you find. When did God make the promise? To whom was it given? What were the conditions? How was it fulfilled? How does it apply to us today? There are thousands of promises covering every situation we face—including salvation, the forgiveness of sin, prayer, marriage, children, disappointment, insecurity, and a whole host of other issues. You might want to buy a Bible promise book at a Christian bookstore. There you will find hundreds of promises listed by category.

Second Corinthians 1:20 says that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” Eugene Peterson (the Message) translates the first phrase this way: “Whatever God says gets stamped with the ‘yes’ of Jesus.” When God the Father makes a promise, God the Son says from heaven, “Yes, it is so.” God the Holy Spirit writes the promise in the Word and then applies that Word to our hearts. Thus, all three Persons of the Godhead unite in bringing God’s promises to us. That’s why when we read a promise of God, we can truly say “Amen.” If God has said it, we can count on it.

Many years ago I came across this powerful summary statement in Joshua 21:43-45.

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

What a grand statement that is. If we go back and read Joshua carefully, we see how God kept his promises:

—Not quickly (it took seven years)

—Not without a struggle (there were many battles)

—Not without some failure along the way (cf. the sin of Achan in Joshua 7)

—Not without some loss of life

But what God said, he did. No one could have said in advance how it would happen. But it did. In the end the Israelites were totally victorious.

This week I read a bit about Gladys Aylward who served as a missionary in China before World War II. When the Japanese army invaded northern China, she was forced to flee Yangcheng, taking with her 100 orphans. As she led the orphans into the mountains, she despaired of ever making it to safety. After a sleepless night, she was reminded by a 13-year-old girl of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. “‘But I am not Moses,’ she replied. ‘Of course you aren’t,’ the girl said, ‘but Jehovah is still God.’” [1]

Is that not a word for today? No matter what mountains may loom before us, God is still God, and we can trust in him.

Do you feel squeezed by your circumstances? Dwell much on the promises of God. Read the promises. Write them down. Put them where you can see them in the morning when you wake up. Put them on the dashboard of your car. Tell them to your friends. Most of all, repeat the promises of God to the Lord when you pray. Stand on God’s promises—and do not let yourself be moved.

Not only is every word true and ever promise kept. Because God is faithful …

III. Every trial has a purpose

Nothing happens by chance to the children of God. I have observed that when hard time come, we tend to think that God has forgotten about us or that what has happened is a mistake or has no purpose. And I have seen that God’s people can endure almost anything if they know there is a reason for it.

Consider these four truths from Scripture:

1) He knows what I am going through—Job 23:10, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

2) He uses my trials to help me grow—Romans 5:3-4, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

3) He calls me to rejoice in my pain—James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

4) He invites me to submit to my faithful Creator—I Peter 4:19, “Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

A small boy was flying a kite high in the sky when it drifted into a cloudbank and disappeared from view. A passerby asked the little boy what he was doing. “I’m flying my kite,” the child responded. The man, looking up and seeing only the cloudbank, said, “I don’t see any kite. How do you know it’s still there.” “I don’t see it either,” replied the boy, “but I know it’s up there because every once in awhile there’s a tug on my string.”

Many Christians feel God has disappeared just when they need him most. Take heart, child of God. Just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he is not there. Keep holding on to the Lord. He is faithful even when you cannot feel his presence. Hang on, and sooner or later you will feel the “tug on the line” that lets you know he is still there.

A Letter From Brandon

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a prisoner who had read What a Christian Believes. He received a free copy (one of nearly 2700 that have been distributed through a project sponsored by Crossway Books and Prison Fellowship) and wrote to say thanks. Here is part of his letter:

Hello, Sir! My name is Brandon and I am currently incarcerated in the Arizona Department of Corrections in Florence, Arizona.

I have just finished reading What a Christian Believes for the first time about 2½ hours ago. Your book has moved me greatly towards picking up the Bible once again.

I was raised a Catholic, went to St. Francis of Assisi from 1st-8th grade. But as I grew older I lost my way down the road and I am so far lost I don’t even know how many miles I will have to backtrack just to find the spot where I detoured at, then start down the proper path again.

I do not know if I can pick a favorite chapter but I will say that I plan on reading “Did Mickey Mantle Go to Heaven?” over and over because not only do I like what it says, but I need to read it more times than one just to remind me what I am supposed to believe about the forgiveness of sins.

That is an extremely hard part of my faith to remember. Shoot, just the faith part is hard for me, Mr. Pritchard.

He signed his letter, “Searching for Christ.” I believe he is not far from the Kingdom. I think the “faith part” is hard for all of us. Being in prison is not an easy thing, but it can be good if your prison time leads you to salvation.

How faithful is God? He is so faithful that anyone who seeks him can find him. I have written Brandon to encourage him to continue to follow in Christ’s steps. Faith is a gift, but even a gift must be opened to be enjoyed. As we exercise our faith, we begin to discover more and more about God’s purpose in our trials.

With that thought we bring this sermon to an end. But stay tuned because next week we will discover how God is faithful to his children in the moment of temptation. Until then remember that because God is faithful …

Every word he says is true.

Every promise will be kept.

Every trial has a purpose.

O Lord, teach us to trust when we cannot see. Help us to hold on to the rope of faith until we feel the tug from heaven that tells us you are still there. Amen.

Notes:

1. I found this story in a sermon by Alan Walker.

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Ray Pritchard

RAY PRITCHARD

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