Monday, 11 November 2013

The Faithfulness of God (2)

In a previous post some comments were made about the faithfulness of God and what it means. But what does this attribute say about his relationship with us? Here are some aspects:

God is faithful when we are tempted. One verse that teaches this is 1 Corinthians 10:13: ‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’ This verse indicates that God knows how much a person can take and will always provide the grace to escape. Sometimes the way of escape is literal, as it was in Corinth because Paul says in the next verse that the Corinthians should flee from idolatry. That was their way of escape. At other times the way of escape is by not remaining in isolation but going and spending time with others, asking them for help in prayer or in other ways. The point is that no one has an excuse when he or she falls because God always provides a way of escape. It is good to know that ‘the Lord is faithful’ and ‘will establish you and guard you against the evil one’ (2 Thess. 3:3).

Yet even when we sin, God is faithful and provides for our cleansing. In 1 John 1:9, we are informed that if ‘we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ The reason why he is faithful is because ‘the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin’ (v.7). Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sins, the Father has already promised to forgive us our sins, and the Spirit comes to lead us to confess our sins in order to receive forgiveness and restoration.

In his faithfulness, God will chastise backsliders, but their security depends on his faithfulness. ‘Chastening is not only reconcilable with God’s loving-kindness, but it is the effect and expression of it. It would much quieten the minds of God’s people if they would remember that His covenant love binds Him to lay on them seasonable correction’ (Arthur W. Pink). ‘I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me’ (Ps. 119:75).

God is faithful when circumstances are difficult. There are times in the lives of all when it is not easy to believe that God is faithful. Heaven seems to be silent to our prayers, and to our tears. The devil whispers or shouts that God, if he is there, does not care. Often, these times come in situations when we have been faithful to God.

One book that is concerned with the difficulties that God’s people faced is Lamentations, written at a time when Jerusalem was in ruins, when it seemed as if God had failed to keep his promises to protect his people. In the midst of such tragedy, the writer affirms in Lamentations 3:22-26: ‘The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.’ The destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of its people were signs of God’s faithfulness, of the fulfilment of the judgment he had warned them about on many occasions. And he had preserved a small remnant who had remained loyal to him. Even in times of great trouble, believers can see the faithfulness of God and gain spiritual strength. In this situation, the fact that he was faithful in judgment means that he will also be faithful in mercy. He is faithful in all he does. In such situations, ‘those who suffer according to God’s will should entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good’ (1 Pet. 4:19). God has promised, that ‘as your days, so shall your strength be’ (Deut. 33:25).

God is faithful regarding the spiritual prosperity of his church. God will ensure that believers will come from every nation. He has promised to bless the gospel, and he always keeps his promises, because his ‘faithfulness endures to all generations’ (Ps. 119:90). Because he is faithful, the race of Israel will yet be converted. ‘As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Rom. 11:28-29).

God is faithful in regard to all aspects of his people’s life. For example, it is an argument to use in prayer as David did in Psalm 143:1 (he begins in verse 1, ‘Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!’ The psalmist knew that God was faithful to his character, to his covenant, to his promises, and used this knowledge as a strength when he prayed.

Needless to say, God’s faithfulness should be a feature of our thankfulness. Psalm 92 is a guide as to how to spend the Lord’s Day, and in it the writer affirms in verses 1 and 2: ‘It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.’

Because of who the Lord is and what he has done, the appropriate advice we can give to one another is, in the words of Hebrews 10:23, ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’

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