“Your opinion matters,” said the flimsy little card that I threw away just after checking out. I get handed these cards every now and then, and I usually look at it and ask, “Does it really?” It would be easy to get the feeling in this life that your opinion counts for very little. But that is not always true. In some cases, thinking like this would make you seriously wrong.
A time long ago, when it was impossible to Google oneself, Jesus looked at a group of guys and asked, “Who do men say that I am?” They answered Him with varying responses that were probably a pretty accurate representation of the popular opinion. But then He asked the most important question anyone has ever or will ever ask. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter piped up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And do you know what Jesus called Peter in response to his right answer? “Blessed.” (You can read about this in Matthew 16:13-20.) What you say about Jesus matters.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about a boss and the three guys that worked for him. It seems this boss was headed out on a business trip, and he called these guys together for a staff meeting before he left. At the meeting, he gave each of them a pretty good chunk of change and left the business in their hands while he was gone. No one got the same size chunk, but they all got something. The one who had been there longest and had the most experience was given five bags of silver. The next in line received two bags of silver. And the new guy at the end of the line got one. When the boss man returned home, he called the three into his office to see how things had gone while he was away. The first guy said to him, “Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.” The master was full of praise and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Then the employee with two bags of silver came in the office and said, “Master, you gave me two bags of silver, and I have earned two more.” His boss said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” This sounds like a great guy to work for! So many people are stuck in thankless jobs working for a boss that seems to find something wrong even when they’ve done everything right. But this is a good man who thanks and celebrates the people that work for him.
It’s in light of this man’s character that I find his conversation with his last staff member so perplexing. Jesus said that the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man.” Does that sound like the same boss we just read about? One who celebrated the success of the people working for him and promoted and praised faithfulness found in his team? We begin to see why this guy failed in his job. He was operating out of a wrong opinion of the man he worked for. He just knew his master was a harsh man when all the while he was actually a very generous and gracious man. It was this bad information that made him afraid of his boss, and it was the fear that made him make a dumb decision.
If the source of his failure was a wrong opinion of the man he worked for, then the cause of the others’ successes would’ve been their knowledge of the truth about their master’s character. Some would say that the point of this parable is that God just wants you to do something with what He has put in your hand. But more precisely, He wants you to do with it what He wants done. He wants you to do exactly what He would do if it were in His hands. That’s the only possible explanation for their master’s excitement over the job they had done. They did what he would have done and got the results he would’ve gotten had he been there to do it himself. Now, notice again his exact words to them: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful.” He found faithfulness in them. The dictionary defines a faithful object or person as someone “marked by fidelity to an original.” A faithful copy of a painting is one that looks just like the original. Whatever good their master found in them must have been there because they first found it in him.
I know that you and I are alike in that we both desire to hear God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” With all my heart I want to hear that when I stand before Him in eternity. But I also want to hear those words from the still small voice inside me as I live here and now. I want faithfulness to be found in me. I want to be a faithful husband to Sarah and a faithful father to Justus and Jessie. I want to be a faithful minister of the Word of God and a faithful representation of Jesus to everyone I meet. We want this because we know God wants this. So why is our culture (including our church culture) so marked and characterized by unfaithfulness?
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” With all my heart I want to hear that when I stand before Him in eternity. But I also want to hear those words from the still small voice inside me as I live here and now.
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” There are plenty of people that will tell you all the good they can do for you but precious few that will actually be there when you need them. And isn’t that what faithfulness really is? It’s just simply being there. How can I be a faithful husband if I’m never there for Sarah? There is no way I can be a faithful father to my kids if I’m not there when they need me. How can you be a faithful member of a church congregation unless you are there? As a pastor on staff at my parent’s church for many years, I grew weary of people saying things like, “We’re never ever leaving this church” and “God sent us here and this is our home forever” and “We’re with you all the way.” You’d think that I’d be happy to hear that from folks, but I quickly learned that it was the ones who talked the loudest about how faithful they would be that would soon be gone and never really heard from again. There was never a shortage of people that said they’d be there, only a shortage of those that were there every time we needed them.
David said in Psalm 40:10, “I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.” Instead of proclaiming our own self-inspired, futile, and failing attempts at faithfulness, we should be declaring how faithful He has been and always will be! We fail miserably at being faithful when we are looking to ourselves as our own source for faithfulness. Remember, whatever you want to be found in you, you must first find in Him. You will become what you behold.
David also said in Psalm 37:3 to “trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” Do you want faithfulness to be found in you? Then you are going to have to first find it in God by feeding on how faithful He has been to you. This is the key to being a faithful spouse, church member, or employee. Sometimes the job or the relationship doesn’t seem to provide within itself any incentive for you to be faithful. Maybe you’re dealing with an unappreciative spouse or boss, and you are thinking to yourself, Why should I stick around when they don’t even act like they want me here? As Christians, we’re not to respond to people according to the way they’ve treated us but according to the way Jesus has treated us.
God is entirely faithful, and I find this to mean three things:
HE DOES NOT CHANGE.
HE WILL NOT QUIT.
HE CANNOT FAIL.
James 1:17 says that with God “there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God isn’t fickle in His affections toward you, up one day and down the next. In Malachi 3:6, He says, “I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed.” This He said at the end of yet another prophetic word about Jesus, the coming Messiah. And then we read in Hebrews 13:8 that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Jesus is the part of God that does not change. He is always saving. Always healing. Always restoring. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23). Have you ever wondered why He hasn’t squashed us all like little bugs for the dumb stuff we’ve done? It is because His faithfulness is greater than our failures, and His mercy endures forever. It’s because love, His love, never fails.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”
In perhaps one of the greatest tests of endurance any couple has ever faced, Abraham and Sarah, after years of faith and patience, finally received the promise that God made to them. Somehow they found the strength, decade after decade, to carry on believing. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11). Her opinion mattered. So does yours.
Your physical body requires food to strengthen and energize it to keep living. In the same way, you will find your strength to carry on faithfully with the plan of God for your life if you will sit down at the table He has prepared for you and begin to feed on His faithfulness. As an appetizer, go back and recall all the things He has done for you: how He has faithfully saved you time and time again. For your entrée, start rejoicing in what God is doing for you right now. Look at what He has put in your hand and the people He has put in your life. He has given to us, not according to what we deserve, but according to His grace through Jesus. And for dessert, get thankful for what is just ahead. When you look at what He’s done with the revelation that He does not change, He will not quit, and He cannot fail, then you can get excited about the sweet things that are yet to come. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” And the best news is He’s still cooking.