When you hear the word “faithful,” what comes to mind? A loyal pooch – maybe even a service dog – that’s always there when needed, no matter what? A spouse who has never strayed, even in times when their own trust was put to the test? Or perhaps, an employee who has worked for a company without fail, even in periods of great adversity? The geyser, “Old Faithful,” in Yellowstone Park that spouts off predictably every day?
I’m tempted to think in those terms as well, but at its heart, faithful means to be “full of, or filled with faith.” This faith, in turn, might be the single-most factor that enables a canine to be there whenever needed, a spouse to remain true to his or her wedding vows, or a worker to continue to carry out job responsibilities even during tough times.
As we read the Scriptures, we find the term “faithful” used somewhat differently, however.
For instance, in one of my favorite verses, 2 Timothy 2:2, the apostle Paul admonishes, “And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Okay, you might be thinking, but what does Paul mean by “faithful”?
We get a clue in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, the so-called “hall of faith,” which presents an impressive list of people who exhibited extraordinary faith throughout biblical history. This list begins with Abel, who died at the hands of his envious brother, Cain, and proceeds to cite people like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel the prophet, even a prostitute named Rahab.
So, what was it that singled them out as faithful people? I think there’s a simple answer to that: They weren’t fearful. Or to state it another way, they weren’t filled with fear.
Each of these men and women, if you study their stories in the Scriptures, could have found many reasons to be fearful. Instead, they chose to remain faithful – to the God they believed in and served, and to the unique callings the Lord had placed on their lives.
We might argue, “Yes, but that was centuries, even thousands of years ago. What does that have to do with us?” Times may have changed, technology may have revolutionized ways in which we live, but the nature of humanity isn’t very different from what it was back in their day.
Look at it this way: If you find yourself out of work, or employed but in a job you detest, are you faithful – filled with faith – or fearful? Should you (or a loved one) receive a frightening diagnosis from a doctor, are you faithful or fearful? When you encounter financial challenges of one kind or another, and can’t see a way to resolve them, are you faithful or fearful? When the “happily ever after” you anticipated when you exchanged wedding vows with your spouse hasn’t materialized as expected, are you faithful or fearful?
How we respond in these and other circumstances – which prevails in the perpetual battle of faithful vs. fearful – makes all the difference in the quality and fruitfulness of our walk with Jesus Christ.
As the Hebrews faith chapter concludes, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40). Whenever we find ourselves in the spiritual shopping aisle, confronted with the choice of Faithful or Fearful, it’s proven: Faithful is always better.
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