On Being Faithful

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. I CORINTHIANS 4:15.

One might call these verses a preacher's Declaration of Independence. Paul speaks of three bars before which a minister's work appears: private judgment, public opinion, and Divine justice. A preacher judges himself, he is judged of others, he will finally be judged of God. What matters most is that final judgment, for ''to his own master he standeth or falleth.'' Paul did not worry about what people thought of his ministry. He realized that he was not capable of measuring it properly himself. When our Lord sent His disciples out to preach, they returned and reported to Christ, not to a committee. So we are to report one day to the

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Judge Himself, and He will appraise our work and that day shall declare it.

   The text is verse two: Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.'' Two words stand out, ''steward,'' and ''faithful.'' Verse I says that we are stewards of the mysteries of God. A mystery in the New Testament is not a glorified puzzle but rather something which we never would have known had not the Holy Spirit revealed it. ''And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory'' (I Tim. 3:16). We are stewards of that glorious mystery, ''stewards of the manifold grace of God,'' as Peter puts it. The word ''steward'' means a householder; it reminds us of our Saviour's word: ''Every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old'' (Mt. 13:52).

   One may think of a minister as a householder standing before the people with all the treasure of God behind him, giving out of that wealth with never a fear of a Mother Hubbard experience, for that cupboard will never be bare! He is not a depository but a dispenser. And we are all stewards, not of our money alone, as so many understand stewardship, but of time and talents, all we are and all we have.

   It is required in such stewards that they be found faithful, trustworthy. The Word of God puts high value on old-fashioned faithfulness. Certainly ''God is faithful'' (I Cor. 1:9; 10:13); ''Faithful is he that calleth you'' (I Thess. 5:24); ''The Lord is faithful''

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(II Thess. 3:3); ''He is faithful that promised'' (Heb. 10:23).

   God is faithful, and He expects His people to be faithful. God's faithfulness does not excuse us from our obligation, for ''it is required'' of us that we be faithful. God's Word speaks of faithful servants, faithful in a few things, faithful in the least, faithful in the Lord, faithful ministers. And all points up to that day when He will say, ''Well done, thou good and faithful servant.''

   In John we read that many believed on Jesus when they saw His miracles but that He did not believe in them. We have a song, ''Can the Lord Depend on You?'' It ought to be sung more often. John wrote to Gaius, ''Thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest. . . '' Gaius was not fitful or flashy, he was faithful. It has been said that the greatest ability is dependability. There is not much preaching on old-fashioned faithfulness. Perhaps one reason is that faithfulness is not very glamorous. If a wife murders her husband, that gets into all the papers. But there are thousands of faithful wives and mothers who never get the spotlight, who grace their homes with loving service, whose husbands and children rise up to call them blessed.

   What a terrible time we have in our churches trying to keep people faithful in attendance and loyalty! How we reward and picnic and coax and tantalize church members into doing things they don't want to do but which they would do if they loved God! The only service that counts is faithful service that issues from love of Christ. The choir singer who does not sing from the heart should get right or get out. True faith shows up in faithfulness.

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   The work of the pastor is frowned upon in many quarters because it calls for faithfulness in a daily grind of unromantic, colorless duties, and some try to side-step that by moving into more exciting activities.

   Christian living calls for faithfulness. Not everyone can sing or preach, but all can be faithful. Maybe that is what takes the glamour out of it—anybody can do it! Anyway, there isn't much of it. Too many saints go up like rockets and come down like rocks. They prefer to be flashy comets instead of faithful stars. But God prefers those who faithfully let their light shine to those who fitfully show it. It is better not to shine so dazzlingly at one time but rather to shine daily, all the time.

   This is the Age of Goofus, of trickery, hocus-pocus, freaks, sleight-of-hand, ''now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't.'' Everything is done with mirrors. Everything is measured by ''How big?'' and ''How loud?'' Everything must be huge, gigantic, colossal, super-duper. Even the new drugs are ''wonder drugs'' — you take them and wonder what will happen next. In such a time it is hard to interest people in plain old obedience and faithfulness. Even Christians must be entertained at church. The Light of Truth is looked at but not walked in, and, being hearers but nor doers, men are blinded by excess of light. Too much light will blind as surely as not enough light.

   God's Word has much to say about being steadfast, grounded, settled, built on a rock, not carried about every wind of doctrine. We are not to be weary in well-doing. We ought to be able to say, ''My heart is fixed.'' Of course, some saints are permanent fixtures, but our permanence should be the living permanence

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of a tree, not the dead stability of a tombstone. Too many restless Christians today move from church to church, preacher to preacher, always wanting to be right but never getting right with God, ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Some are always laying foundations but never building thereon. Others are ''hypodermic saints,'' living on shots of religious excitement instead of growing normally by food, rest and exercise. Unless some stabilization is mixed with our salvation, we are going to have a generation of popcorn Christians, popping all over the place.

   It is required of stewards that they be found faithful not fitful. And we are to be faithful over a few things. The preacher who will not preach his heart out before a few people would be no good before a multitude. There are too many eagles on hummingbird nests, too big for their present location and seeking great things for themselves, as did Baruch of old.

   This unfaithfulness shows up at church. Too many saints have no local loyalty. They will support a radio preacher at a distance, which is well enough in its place, but will not help a man of God in their own community. He may not be brilliant or well-known, but God did not call him to be that; God called him to be faithful, and if he is faithful we ought to be faithful to him. Away with that view of the invisible church that makes a man invisible at church on Sunday!

   Such unfaithfulness shows up at home. It is forcefully enjoined upon bishops and deacons that they be faithful at home; and it is expected of the rest of us. It avails nothing to look pious at the Lord's table on Sunday if we show no grace at the breakfast table through the week. It is not well in many Christian

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homes today with husband, wife or child. There needs to be fresh affirmation of Joshua's resolve: ''As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.''

   Back of unfaithfulness to church and home lies heart unfaithfulness to Christ. Our God is a jealous God, and when His people were untrue He calleth it adultery. We Christians are married to Christ (Rom. 7:4), we bear His name. Paul was jealous over his flock with a godly jealousy, for he had espoused them to one husband as a chaste virgin to Christ. James writes to believers: ''Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.'' When we are untrue to Christ we bring reproach on that holy Name by which we are called. If we are in love with Christ, we will be true all down the line, to ourselves, to the home, to church; with our time, talents, money. Jesus did not ask Peter, ''Lovest thou feeding sheep?'' or ''Lovest thou sheep?'' but ''Lovest thou me?''

   Are you a faithful steward? The Judge is coming, and he will reward every man according to his work. Are you ready to give account of your stewardship? Two little girls in school were excited about the forthcoming visit of the school board. ''You'd better clean up your desk, for they might come any time,'' suggested one.

''I'll clean it up tomorrow.''

''But they might come today.''

''I'll clean it up this afternoon.''

''But they might come this morning.''

''I guess I'll keep it clean all the time!''

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   What does your desk look like? Is there a lot of unfinished business on it? Are you up to date with your Bible and prayer? Are there some things between you and others that ought to be straightened out?

   The Judge may come at any time to check with His stewards. And it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

Chapter 3  ||  Table of Contents