Loyalty is one of my personal core values. This means that I strive to be loyal to the people around me and I expect them to be loyal to me. I bring this up because the characteristic of a disciple we will consider today is faithful. Loyal and faithful are synonyms. What do you think of when you see the word faithful? From my sampling, most people think of the marriage relationship.
There are many marriage relationships in the Bible. One marriage relationship that exudes faithfulness is Hosea and Gomer. Hosea, a prophet of God, is told to go and take Gomer, a “lady of pleasure,” to be his wife (Hosea 1:2). He was to make a covenant with a woman who was known for giving herself to any man who promised to supply what she needed, usually money. Hosea committed himself to this woman and they had children together (Hosea 1:3, 6, 8). She strayed from her life with Hosea and went back to the way she lived before they made the covenant. She was not faithful. Hosea, however, remained faithful. He did not look to other people to supply his needs and desires. He trusted God, and obeyed God when he was told to go buy Gomer back, bring her home, and love her as he did before.
Hosea and Gomer’s relationship was meant to be a physical representation of God’s relationship with his people, his wife, Israel. As Israel strayed, looking to other gods to supply their needs and desires, God would wait for them to return and even go rescue them from their overseers. Hosea represented God’s faithfulness to his people. Gomer represented the people wayward straying. Neither Gomer nor the Israelites were faithful.
Faithful is defined as “firm in adherence to whatever one is bound to by duty or promise.” It carries the thought of dependable and reliable. Trust is involved, along with loyalty. In the Old Testament the word steadfast is often used in conjunction with the word faithful. It is the idea of being solid in the decision to continue to be loyal to a person or promise.
When a person chooses to accept Jesus, not only as Savior (the one who rescues them from sin and the penalty of sin), but also as their Lord, they commit to a covenant with him. In this covenant, God does more than the person can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and the person is simply instructed to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37).
This is the kind of love God expected of the saints of the Old Testament. One can see it when Moses talks to the Israelites after giving the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). And again, when Samuel gathers the Israelites at Mizpah and tells them to turn away from the foreign gods and to return to loving the LORD with all their hearts (1 Samuel 7:3-4). God wanted the hearts of the people. He wanted them to be steadfast and faithful, as he had been to them.
Faithfulness is an internal decision that is manifest in different ways. In a marriage, it is manifested by giving emotional and physical love to only one person. In the workplace, faithfulness is shown by being reliable to show up and complete your job with excellence. In a friendship, support and encouragement may feel like faithfulness to the other person. With God, faithfulness looks like obedience, a willingness to live by God’s standards for his Kingdom cause. Living like this may look like loss to you, and those around you.
Much like the Israelites, disciples today look around and see how others are living. These disciples decide that other people must be doing something “right” so they should follow them and live like they live. These disciples justify not doing what God says in the Bible because, “Everyone else is doing it this way.” These disciples give their time and energy to things God calls temporary. They set their eyes on the things of this world, these things fill their thoughts, and their hearts have no choice but to follow. It is not long before they find themselves in the same place the Israelites found themselves, worshiping a calf while their spiritual leader is away. Or doing what is right in their own eyes as seen throughout the whole book of Judges. Or, as in the example of Hosea married to Gomer, straying from God again and again and again.
How might someone become faithful to God?
The typical American (the context in which I live) has so many distractions that it can be difficult to maintain a daily schedule. Our work schedules may vary by day, whether we work on rotating shifts or work from home a couple of days each week. Our schedules are also full, we run from one thing to the next with barely enough time to travel between the two. So many people and things demand our time, from family, who need our time, to social media’s constant call for our attention. Then there are the things we would like to do like read books, learn new things, visit new places, or listen to that podcast.
Slow down. Take some time to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10). Clear your schedule. Take a break from all the screens. Be in nature. Clear your head. Rest. It is not until we slow down, that we even have space for God.
In our harried schedules we tend to lose focus. We begin to see more of the world and less of the Kingdom. Usually we become very ‘me’ focused. “What is my position?,” “What do people think of me?,” “How much am I making?,” “What is my legacy?,” “It needs to be done my way and in my time.”
When we make Jesus our Lord, he becomes the one person we should aim to please. Not ourselves. Not others. We are to live to his standard, not the standard our world and the culture set.
When you slow down, you can take time to set your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). What spiritual habits (disciplines) help you to do this? Plan to do those in your down time.
We have short memories here in the States. We remember the name, but why were they in the news again? And it is no wonder our memories are short with the vast amount of activity and information that fills our days and our brains. We can barely focus on who and what is in front of us without someone who is not beckoning us through text or email.
When you stop to rest and refocus, take time to remember. Remember who God is. God did this for Job as Job walked through physical and emotional pain. In that moment, Job remembered he was not the one who set the foundation of the world (Job 38:4) and he does not control nature (Job 38:8-33). At the end of the book, Job realizes he had only heard about God before. Now he had experienced God.
Take time to remember all God has done. Moses reminds the Israelites as often as he can about all God has done. Several of the other prophets do the same. They all have the same basic sentiment, “Remember when God remembered you. Rescued you. Saved you. Forgave you. Remember how God gave you everything you need.”
Yes, we can remember what God has done for all of humanity (some might call this common grace). When we take time to get personal and specific, we begin to remember the intimacy God initiates with us. We remember how real and active he is in your life and mine. When we realize how much God cares for us personally, our heart begins to open to him. When that kind of love begins to grow in a person, they can think of nothing else but the object of that love. Nothing else can satisfy.
The lovesick heart demands the mind and eyes to focus on the Faithful One. That person’s greatest desire is to love God with all they are and live a life worthy of the high call of our Lord.
What do you need to do to develop this lovesick heart and in turn, become a faithful disciple? Once you have done this, bring someone else with you.
Imagine standing before Jesus one day as he says to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)
This post originally appeared at: Being a Faithful Disciple — The Bonhoeffer Project
1 Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996).