July 23, 2006

The Faithfulness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Attributes of God Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:9


The Faithfulness of God

Deuteronomy 7:9
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Proverbs 20:6 states, "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?"

You don't have to live very long on this planet to learn that there are very few trustworthy individuals. Rarely do people maintain deadlines, arrive on time and follow through on commitments. A handshake, a marital or church covenant and a promise mean very little to our society today. Self rules and self dominates regardless of the inconvenience or hurt it may impose upon others. Lifelong friendships have ended over a disagreement or the reception of malicious gossip. I find it sad, but not surprising, to hear individuals say, "I have no confidence in humanity."

But what about God? Can we depend on Him? Is He faithful?

In 1981 the Ladies Home Journal asked its readers, "In whom do you trust?" Walter Cronkite received 40% of the vote. Pope John Paul received 26% of the vote. Billy Graham received 6% of the vote. And coming in fourth place with 3% of the vote was God.

The Israelites were given a task of gigantic proportions. The offer was exciting but to the naked eye, impossible, moreover, suicidal. You see, God told the Hebrews to cross the Jordan River, displace numerous groups more powerful than they and possess the Promised Land.

Do you remember what the majority of the spies reported after seeing the strength of the people? "The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there" (Dt. 1:28). They cried, "We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight" (Num. 13:33). Then the masses "grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness'" (Num. 14:2)!

When all this doubt was swirling among the ranks, Moses, as a good leader, turned people's attention back to the Lord. The stiff-necked people needed a reminder that if God gave a promise, He would be faithful to bring it to completion.

Please open your Bibles to Deuteronomy 7. Beginning in verse 6 we read, "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them" (Dt. 6:6-11).

Notice what Moses said in these six verses. In verse 6 Moses reminds the people that God specifically set the nation apart for His special use. In verses 7 and 8 Moses emphasizes the fact that Israel was chosen not because of her size or intrinsic goodness (cf. Dt. 9:4-6). They were selected simply because God chose to love them as an act of His sovereign grace and to remain trustworthy to the promise He made to their forefathers. So God can be depended upon, and that trustworthiness was proven (verse 8) in the way He delivered Israel from Egyptian captivity. Therefore, verse 9, "Know…that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness."

That was Israel, but what about me? Can I trust God? Will He keep His promises? How can I know He is in control? Why does God allow bad things into my life? What about my unfaithfulness to Him? Why does He seem so distant at times? Will He ever leave me? You will never have peace with God until you have answers for these questions.

This morning as we continue our series on the attributes of God, I would like to consider His faithfulness.

Possibly the greatest respect we can give someone is our unfailing trust. To believe a spouse or friend will remain loyal during times of adversity, to trust a person to follow through on his commitments, to allow someone to watch our home or our children expresses the highest degree of confidence in another's character. The lowest blow is to say, "I can no longer trust you," whereas the highest praise is to ascribe to another absolute faithfulness.

Since God is the sum of all moral excellence, we should not be surprised to see the Bible go out of its way to emphasize God's faithfulness. Jerry Bridges said, "The entire Bible is a treatise on (this) theme. God's faithfulness appears in precept or illustration on almost every page" (The Practice of Godliness, p. 146).

Psalm 89:8 says He is clothed in faithfulness.

Psalm 96:13 says He judges in faithfulness.

Psalm 119:75 says He afflicts His children in faithfulness.

Psalm 143:1 says He responds to prayer in faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says He permits our temptations in faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 1:18 says He is faithful to His Word.

Isaiah 25:1 says He is faithful to His plans.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 says He is faithful to protect us from Satan.

1 John 1:9 says He is faithful to forgive our sins.

Psalm 145:13 says He is faithful to fulfill His promises.

Psalm 119:86 says He is faithful in His commandments.

1 Peter 4:19 says He is faithful during our suffering.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 says He is faithful to sanctify us.

1 Corinthians 1:9 says He is faithful to keep us saved.

And 2 Timothy 2:13 says He is faithful even when we are not.

Is it any wonder that the prophet Jeremiah, when undergoing great suffering could shout, "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22-23)?

Considering the biblical record, A.W. Pink said, "He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening He will make good." A.W. Tozer adds, "God, being who He is, cannot cease to be what He is, and being what He is, He cannot act out of character with Himself. He is at once faithful."

We know God's greatest act of faithfulness was to send the Messiah as promised, Jesus Christ. And speaking of faithfulness, Jesus Christ was prophesized to be "a faithful priest" in 1 Samuel 2:35 (cf. Isa. 11:5; 16:5). Hebrews 2 says He was the "faithful high priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb 2:17). And Revelation 19 describes His return, calling Him "faithful and true" (Rev. 19:11; cf. Rev. 1:5; 3:14). Christ was and is and is to be faithful (Rev. 1:4; Heb. 13:8). We serve a faithful triune God! Christ is faithful. God the Father is faithful to judge those without Christ (2 Thes. 1:6-10), as He is faithful to forgive those who flee to Christ for refuge (1 Jn. 1:9). We should also not be surprised that the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of faithfulness in those who have trusted Christ (Gal. 5:22).

Joseph understood and could attest to God's faithfulness. Motivated by jealousy, first His brothers wished to murder him, but then they decided to sell him into slavery. Season after season of suffering Joseph endured before God began to reverse the tide. Eventually Joseph, through the providence of God, was promoted to a top officer in Egypt second in command to Pharaoh alone. But while Joseph's prosperity increased, his brother's decreased. Famine in the land forced them to Egypt to buy grain. Ironically, they found themselves under Joseph's control. Would Joseph seek revenge or have mercy on his brothers?

Joseph came to understand God's faithfulness in the crucible of suffering. Despite the physical and emotional pain that was brought into his life, Joseph could see a God at work beyond his circumstances. As a matter of fact, God's purpose was filled not in spite of his brothers, but through his brothers. Joseph was able to forgive because he could see beyond their bad actions to a God who is faithful to bring good in the lives of His children. So as God was faithful to provide for him, Joseph was faithful to provide for them. And while they feared losing their lives, Joseph could say, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Gen. 50:19-20).

In the late seventeen hundreds a young man by the name of William Cowper witnessed the death of his older siblings and mother before he turned six years old. He was bullied in the schoolyard as an adolescent, something he referred to as "savage treatment." He frequently battled worry that added to his chronic depression. He attempted to end his life three times.

However, William began to recover which coincided with the beginning of his conversion to Christian evangelicism. Despite periods of severe depression and a life marked by suffering, Cowper has become one of our most beloved hymn-writers and living testimony of God's faithfulness. Like the Psalmists that give us much comfort, his suffering gave him a greater understanding of God's character.

He wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessing on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain:
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

This past week we watched the safe landing of the space shuttle. Much unlike the outcome for the shuttle two flights earlier.

Evelyn stood with the other families of the space shuttle Columbia's crew at the landing site in Cape Canaveral, Florida, waiting for her spouse, space shuttle commander Rick Husband, to return home. The shuttle was just minutes from landing when NASA's Mission Control lost contact with the crew. To the best of Evelyn's memories the next few moments were a blur of events: video images of Columbia breaking apart over the Texas skyline, NASA officials scrambling to move the family members away from view of television cameras. Evelyn remembers looking at the faces of her son, Matthew, and daughter, Laura, then 7 and 12.

Evelyn Husband lost the love of her life, in the national tragedy. But a year later, she shared her message about God's healing hand. In an article entitled, Finding Purpose in Pain. It was the beginning of Evelyn's efforts to deliver a powerful message that even in the midst of intense suffering, God is faithful. She said, "Deep inside, I knew God was going to walk me through this somehow. I knew it because He'd walked with me through other crises earlier in my life" (Corrie, Cutrer, Finding Purpose in Pain, Today's Christian Woman, Jan/Feb 2004).

You have heard the Bible clearly affirm God's faithfulness. You have heard three testimonies that affirm God's faithfulness. But can you in your own life affirm the faithfulness of God? Is this just another doctrine in your quiver of sound theology or do you really believe in your heart that God is faithful?

First of all, as we consider this subject, we must remember that God is faithful to His Word. If He has made a promise in Scripture, He will surely bring it to pass. D.L. Moody once said, "God never made a promise that was too good to be true." So we are able to trust that which we read in His Word and likewise must not hold Him accountable to that which He never promised.

As a pastor I have witnessed many people angry with God casting disparaging remarks on His faithfulness. Some are disappointed for not having a spouse or children. Some are mad at God for the spouse or children they currently possess. Others question God's faithfulness over a worsening health concern or rejection from a desired job or an unsatisfied physical appearance or undesirable bank account.

My friends, we must remember God has never guaranteed us any of these things in His Word and consequently must not have His faithfulness questioned because He is not acting according to our human desires. Parents, is your trustworthiness to be questioned because you give your kid a bike as promised and not a Mercedes Benz? As Wayne Grudem said in his Systematic Theology, "God's faithfulness means that God will always do what He said and fulfill what He has promised" (p. 194).

So what has God said and promised in the Scriptures? Where can we trust Him to be faithful to His word? Allow me to provide a few examples.

First and most importantly, God has promised to save human sinners destined for hell. He has devised a plan to save people through the work of Jesus Christ. He has promised that the free gift of salvation is attainable through repentance and faith. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). God is faithful to that promise and He will not change His mind (1 Sam. 15:29).

Furthermore, God is faithful to keep His children saved. That means they will in no way lose their salvation, as He will enable them to persevere until the end. Paul said in Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Our security is not in our own strength but in His, not us holding on to Him but the Good Shepherd holding on to us (Psm. 18:35). The faithful God who cannot lie (Tit. 1:2) promised this.

Additionally, God is faithful to provide for our daily necessities. The Bible says our heavenly Father know our needs (Mt. 6:8, 32). He promises to provide food, drink and clothing (Mt. 6:25). We have His word that all these things will be added to us if we "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Mt. 6:33).

And finally, God is faithful to minister to us during our time of suffering and affliction. Would you not agree, Grace Tabernacle that this is often the most difficult time to trust God? When your world is turned upside-down. When painful circumstances come crashing down upon you. When piles of ashes lie where your most precious treasures used to be. When it appears that God has all but deserted you. When all you've got to hold onto is the promise of His Word. Isn't it during these times we find our faith most tested as we wrestle to trust God's faithfulness?

A.W. Tozer called these seasons of sorrow, "the night." And it is during the night that we learn what all the schools in the world could not teach us. Ironically, it is the pain that leads us to greater trust in God's faithfulness. As gold is refined through immense heat, we are matured and refined through affliction further into the glorious image of Jesus Christ.

We learn that all things do work together for good (Rom. 8:28). We learn that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We learn that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35). We learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We learn to trust in God's character and not our circumstances. We learn no detail of our life is outside His loving purpose and sovereign control. We learn His solution far surpasses our most creative imagination. We learn God is often closest when we least feel His presence. We learn Hebrews 10:23 which calls us to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

Tozer said, "You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth's trifles and filling your heart for longing for the peace of heaven" (Source Unknown).

And my friends, as painful as the night can be, soon your heart will begin to approve of the whole thing. And you will look back on the trial and give thanks knowing that Jesus led you all the way. We read in the prophet Isaiah, "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God" (Isa. 50:10; cf. Job 29:2-3).

Beloved, this is not the teaching of modern Christianity. This is far from the whole health, wealth and prosperity gospel. But this is what the Apostle Paul experienced when He pleaded with His Lord three times to remove the "thorn" from His flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). And after understanding the sufficiency of God's grace (2 Cor. 12:9) he learned to say, "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

Even some of the best churches only find time to praise God when events are favorable. However the mature reserves the greatest praise for God when he or she sees the greatest demonstration of God's grace. When the suffering individual is not relieved as requested and still able to praise God for His goodness. When, as so many in this church are experiencing pain beyond my comprehension are not healed but yet still can sing, "Great is Thy Faithfulness."

Where do you turn when you are tempted, fearful, anxious, discouraged and afflicted? Do you look to God, lean upon the Rock, Christ Jesus and trust the Holy Spirit, the Messenger of guidance, comfort and instruction? When your faith is put on trial, when Satan wants you and the world is laying snares before you and the flesh begins to doubt and despair - Are you during these times trusting in God's faithfulness?

Faithful people are loving people because they consider the needs of others more important. Therefore the Bible repeatedly affirms that God is both loving and faithful. But moreover, God is more zealous than anyone else for His glory. That troubles some people. But my soul finds great comfort in that truth. For I know that God must always act according to His glory and therefore must always act in faithfulness to His Word despite my frequent unfaithfulness to Him (2 Tim. 2:13).

other sermons in this series

Aug 6


The Greatness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Isaiah 40:25 Series: The Attributes of God

Jul 30


The Love of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 John 4:8 Series: The Attributes of God