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8. FAITHFULNESS: What does it Mean to be A Mature Christian Disciple? - Hebrews 11:1-19

What does it Mean to be A Mature Christian Disciple?
8. FAITHFULNESS (Hebrews 11:1-19)

By Ted Schroder
August 13, 2017

Horton Hatches the Egg is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published in 1940. The book tells the story of Horton the Elephant, who is tricked into sitting on a bird's egg while its lazy mother, Mayzie, takes a permanent vacation to Palm Beach. Horton endures a number of hardships but persists, often stating, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!" Ultimately, the egg hatches, revealing an elephant-bird, a creature with a blend of Mayzie's and Horton's features.

Faithfulness is loyalty, someone who can be relied upon to fulfill his promises, someone you can trust to do his duty, who will not be persuaded to renege on his allegiance, to betray his friends, to give in to pressure or be tempted to change his mind or to abandon his principles or beliefs. Faithfulness is the character of God: "Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies (Ps 36:9). "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lam 3:23). Thomas Chisholm wrote his famous hymn:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not thy compassion they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

"Here is a trustworthy saying: if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Tim 2:13).

Faithfulness has to do with reliability, with changelessness, with consistency, with trustfulness. Hebrews 11 lists the people of faith down through the centuries as examples to follow: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, the knight of faith, who "obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." He was enabled to become a father in his old age because God "considered him faithful." They looked forward to the fulfillment of God's promises even when they did not receive them in this life. There was Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David, Samuel and the prophets. They endured much suffering. They were destitute, persecuted and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

The New Testament is full of people, like Barnabas, who is described as "a good man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:24). That is how a mature Christian disciple should be described. Such faith requires courage, commitment, endurance and steadfastness. John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress provided the character of Faithful who accompanied Christian on his journey. When they entered the town of Vanity Fair Faithful was put on trial for witnessing to the Gospel. He was condemned to a cruel death. Bunyan writes, "Now I saw that behind the multitude there stood a chariot and a team of horses waiting for Faithful, who as soon as his adversaries had taken his life was taken up into it and immediately carried up through the clouds with the sound of a trumpet. He was taken by the nearest way to the Celestial gate."

The opposite of faithfulness is faithlessness. It is when we abandon our faith, betray our beliefs and desert to the enemy. This was the case in many nations in Europe during World War II. In Italy and Germany so many took the easy road and allowed Mussolini and his Fascists and Hitler and his Nazis to take over their countries. In France the government capitulated and collaborated with their conquerors. Many preferred to collaborate with the Nazis in order to survive and even prosper. They betrayed their neighbors and former friends to informers. You could not trust anyone. Faithfulness became rare.

Today the culture of secularism, materialism and demonic atheism presses upon our hearts and minds through the universities, the media and the arts. Unbelievers censor the witness of Christians who follow the teachings of the Scriptures. Christians are persecuted for their beliefs. There is an atmosphere of intimidation that seeks to silence those who would uphold their right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Many preachers water down their message and down pedal anything that might be considered confrontational or provocative. The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in the United Kingdom was hounded by the press and forced to resign his position because he held biblical views on morality. He said that he could not be faithful to Christ and be the leader of his party so he resigned under pressure.

A U.S. Senator in a tirade against the confirmation hearing for the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget argued that his private views that Jesus was the Savior of the world were Islamophobic and hateful and therefore disqualifying for public office. If you are faithful to Christ you must be prepared for opposition and pressure to conform. The early Christians were martyred for their faithfulness and accepted their suffering with honor and dignity, being proud to be allowed to suffer for Christ.

What does it mean for you to be faithful? Jesus told the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) to teach that each of us is given a certain amount of gifts and resources and opportunities by God to put to work for him during our lifetime. To two of the servants who invested wisely and were productive he said, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" To the one who buried his God-given gifts and did nothing with them he condemned.

Jesus concluded, "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." Faithfulness will ultimately be rewarded even though you have to go through suffering in the short term. Remember that the people of faith of the Old Testament did not receive what was promised. They were looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises of God.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man
(Prov. 3:3-4).

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23). "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True" (Rev 19:11). If we want to be a mature Christian disciple we will follow him who is Faithful and True and be full of faith and the Holy Spirit.


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