Monday, December 5, 2016

Ye Faithful, Are You Coming?

Now that we’re fully immersed in the Christmas season, turkey cadavers successfuly transferred to our trash cans, it’s time for hearing lots of familiar holiday tunes. We’ll all be “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” We’ll feel sad if we learn “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” And we’ll go to sleep “Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

But we’ll also listen to more traditional music that points to the real focus of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. One of those is the revered hymn, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” The words and melody will echo in churches across the land, but what do we really mean by “faithful”?

This book by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee tells
about God's faithfulness - and ours.
It’s a word that frequently appears in the Bible, sometimes to describe God’s people and other times regarding God Himself. Recently I was part of a small group of men and women discussing what it means to be faithful. Synonyms suggested included being steadfast, reliable, persevering, devoted, and demonstrating unswerving commitment.

The Scriptures offer God’s perspective on how He perceives faithfulness. In Luke 16:10, Jesus declared, “He who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much.” He made a similar statement in Matthew 25:21-23, in a parable describing shrewd stewardship: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things….”

In both instances, Jesus seems to be saying that faithfulness means more than regularly attending worship services, or learning how to speak and act in prescribed ways. It’s being faithful even in little things, whether it involves responsibilities, resources, or whatever God chooses to entrust to us.

The tiny book of Philemon says this applies even to spiritual growth. “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 6). As I understand it, this is telling us that if we are faithful to share what God has taught us with others, whether in an evangelistic or discipling setting, He then will give us more. Conversely, if we’re not willing to pass along what He’s already given to us, why should He entrust us with more?

At the same time, faithfulness is not something we muster up on our own. Our source is from God alone. For instance, the apostle Paul admonished his young disciple, Timothy, “if we are faithless, (God) remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Writing to members of the early Church, Paul offered this encouragement: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My friend, Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee, has compiled a book called Faithful, No Matter What. In it he presents more than 40 captivating stories about how God manifested His faithfulness in the lives of men and women, sometimes in miraculous ways, and sometimes in an ordinary but very timely manner. Many of these accounts also tell of how these individuals in turn have endeavored to respond to God’s faithfulness by being faithful to Him – no matter what the circumstances might have been.

Indeed, we can be faithful to God only because of our faith in Him, our trust in His faithfulness. So this season, as we hear the familiar refrains of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” let’s remember that we can come to Him only because of the great things the Lord has already done for us.All Ye Faithful,” let’s remember that we can come to Him only because of the great things the Lord has already done for us.

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