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Be Faithful

“It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” [1Cor. 4:2].

“Doing what is right to GOD gives you peace not regret” ― Rudzani Ralph

What do you think of when you hear the term, “faithful”? Here are some associations: true to one’s word, steady, loyal, constant, committed, reliable, trusted, believed. What do you think of as an opposite of faithful? God’s view on these concepts may surprise you. Let’s first consider, what faithfulness is, and why is it important. Then we’ll approach the issue of how to be faithful.

First a practical definition, faithfulness is doing what God has called you to do with the right attitude.

Jesus embodies faithfulness. Christ’s faithfulness to the Father and to us should motivate our faithfulness to God and others. In my twenty-five plus years of ministry experience I’ve grown to appreciate this quality as vital. Unfortunately, I’ve seen very dynamic and talented people who were not faithful and therefore produced little fruit for the kingdom. I’ve also observed people who were faithful in their careers and to their family but never demonstrated faithfulness to their calling. These people similarly did not appear to bear much kingdom fruit. In contrast the people who learned to be faithful like Jesus are pillars. They not only are faithful in their calling but they also show faithfulness in the marriage family and career realms. And as you might imagine they bear abundant fruit for Christ’s kingdom.

Jesus links faithfulness and goodness. When we stand before Jesus we yearn to hear our Lord commend us for how we lived our lives for Him. In the Parable of the Talents Jesus describes those who have used their God given abilities for His kingdom as “good and faithful” [Matthew 25:14-30]. In the same parable Jesus declares that those who are unfaithful are wicked. We generally associate the unfaithful as, flaky, unreliable, not dependable, and procrastinators. So the apparent harshness of Jesus’ assessment is remarkable and sobering. In essence if we are not good and faithful we are lazy and wicked.

Paul links faithfulness with effective Christian living. Faithful people are aware that time is a commodity and that every individual’s supply is limited; and time should be used wisely to accomplish what God has called them to. Paul understood this when he exhorted, “Redeeming the time because the days are evil” and connected the call with the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit [see, Eph. 5:16-18, Gal. 5:22]. Jonathan Edwards’ resolution to never to waste a moment of time may represent the extreme ideal of faithfulness. Paul wanted the church at Corinth to know that although they possessed spiritual gifts and thus potential they needed to understand that those gifts would not be developed without faithfulness. So the gentle correction and exhortation, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” [1Cor. 4:2]. God apparently places a premium on faithfulness. Finally, in Paul’s swansong address to Timothy he charges his protégé, “And the things that you heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithfulpeople who will be able to teach others also” [2Tim. 2:2] [emphasis mine].

Faithfulness is characterized as finishing well. I love fireworks! I love the spectacle, the anticipation, and the celebration. I love that no matter how much education you have that you are reduced to monosyllabic utterances like “oooh and aaah!” And then it’s over no more fireworks time to pack up and go. I don’t want my Christian life or ministry to be like fireworks. God desires faithfulness characterized by finishing well. If the Christian life is a race then it is a marathon not a sprint. In Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, the hare is speedy, but lacks faithfulness. The tortoise prevails despite his obvious limitations, because he is a faithful plodder. Step by step, competing by the rules, making steady progress, he finishes to the praise of those at the finish line. God would rather have faithful tortoises than unfaithful hares.

God would rather have faithful tortoises than unfaithful hares.

I want to be like Paul: be faithful and finish well. The Apostle Paul was committed. He was able to say to the elders of the church at Ephesus that even death threats were not going to move him from finishing his ministry to the Lord. “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” [Acts 20:24]. Paul was faithful even to the end. Paul’s final letter of the divine record concludes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2Tim. 4:7-8]. I, along with countless others, saw Pastor Chuck Smith a very faithful man finish well. That is the type of testimony that I want.

On the other hand, Demas did not finish well. Consider his regression: Paul refers to Demas as “a fellow laborer” [Philemon 1:24 (59A.D.)]. Paul was saying that they were in the same league. About a year later, Paul simply says, “and Demas” [Col. 4:14 (60A.D.) “Luke the beloved physician and Demas”]. Paul makes no comment about Demas being in the same league. Finally, Paul would write, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2Tim. 4:10 (62 A.D.)]. In essence, Demas failed to finish well, because he loved this world more than God. The sad commentary of Demas life is that he failed to finish well.

Faithfulness requires commitment. One of the great obstacles in our culture and the Church today is commitment. Faithfulness and commitment are related concepts. People are afraid of commitment because they are frequently afraid of making sacrifice for God or others. We can bring this attitude of our culture into the church. A lack of commitment is demonstrated when we approach our relationship with the Lord as an option for our lives rather than the essence of our lives. The problem is that we are double-minded [Ja. 1:6-8]. Our lack of confidence in God is caused by a lack of commitment to God, which results in being unstable in all your ways. People do not want to put too many eggs in a basket if they don’t expect the eggs to make it to the desired destination. The solution is described at the end of James’ letter [Ja. 4:6-8]: 1. Submit to God, 2. Resist the devil, 3. Draw near to God, and 4. Deal with sin [cleanse & purify]. Faithful people are committed to God. Finally, it is comforting to know that even when we fail to be faithful God remains faithful [2Timothy 2:13]. Nevertheless seek to be faithful.

How to be faithful:

Grow-up. The early church regularly engaged in essential disciplines to help them grow as disciples (Christians), “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”[Acts 2:42]. Here, we see four essential elements to spiritual growth:

1. Doctrine: They regularly learned and lived (applied) the Word of God. We are blessed to have the opportunity to study the Word of God, and to have access to sound Bible teaching. Those who regularly learn and live doctrine will grow faster than those who do not. Sound doctrine is necessary for proper spiritual development.

Those who regularly learn and live doctrine will grow faster than those who do not. Sound doctrine is necessary for proper spiritual development.

2. Fellowship: The church is a community. When we gather regularly as a community we encourage others as well as being encouraged by them. When we spend time together with other Christians we strengthen each other and grow.

3. Breaking of bread: The breaking of bread refers to common meals as well as partaking of the Lord’s Supper [communion]. The observation of the Lord’s Supper is intended to stir believers to remember the Lord and develop an intimate relationship with Him. The practice of common meals is intended to encourage the development of meaningful intimate Christian relationships with other believers. Faithfulness flows from an authentic relationship with Jesus into authentic relationships with others.

4. Prayer: The church needs to learn to depend on God. Prayer strengthens relationship with Christ, and declares our dependency upon Him. Through prayer we communicate with God. We not only make our requests known to Him, but we also hear from Him. People of prayer grow.

People of prayer grow.

Show up. Learn to commit. As you mature, it is typical that you begin to make commitments to serve the Lord. It is only reasonable that once you begin to appreciate God’s love, you want to respond and serve Him. Once you make a commitment come through. Let your “yes” be “yes.” If you say you will do something or be somewhere other people should be able to expect you to do it or be there because you are faithful. Sometimes the fear of not being faithful can paralyze us so that we won’t commit. Other times people commit without an earnest desire to come through. Faithfulness yields a desire to commit and come through.

In essence I want to grow up, show up and be faithful.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

Looking Back

It’s been a little over fifteen years since my wife Marie and our three kids moved from Southern California to Aurora, Colorado eager to ‘see what the Lord might do’.  Well, the Lord has done, and continues to do great things and to think that we almost didn’t see them due to my lack of faith, fear, and all around humanity.  Mistakes surround our ministry here, yet God has used them to disciple, mature, and display His glory to us in wonderful ways. I’m grateful, as I’m sure many of you are, for our God who, even when we are faithless, remains faithful! Reflecting upon His loving care of us, a few things come to mind that will surely help you in your church planting adventure.

God cares about you more than He cares about you planting a church. While it might be the most important thing on your mind right now, it’s not God’s. He loves you. He sent Jesus for you. He desires a deeper more intimate relationship with you. If planting a church is coming before your relationship with Him, you’ve got it backward and unless you change, a painful readjustment is up ahead.

If planting a church is coming before your relationship with Him, you’ve got it backward and unless you change, a painful readjustment is up ahead.

God loves the people in the city you’re praying about. If you don’t share that love for the people and your identity is bound up in being a pastor and planting a church, don’t do it. Wait. Cultivate that love with God first and foremost so you can genuinely love your neighbor as yourself.

God is worthy of your holy life of obedience.  As the vessel God uses, your dedication to holiness in the life of ministry is of utmost importance. We have witnessed in the past great men, friends, pastors and leaders whom God has used greatly not guard their personal holiness.  Through sin, they disqualified themselves from ministry hurting many along the way. Let’s pray for them and for us! God is worthy of a growing life of obedience from us.

God is gracious and compassionate, full of mercy and truth.  Set the foundation of His church plant not upon methods and techniques or ideas and philosophies, but upon the grace of God, teaching people to not rely on the resources of Adam, but rather to live in the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Grace. Grace. Grace.

Set the foundation of His church plant not upon methods and techniques or ideas and philosophies, but upon the grace of God…

I’m a church planter at heart. God has wired me that way. Even with fifteen years of ministry passing so quickly, we still see ourselves cooperating with God in the planting of His fruitful church. I love the thrill, the challenges, and the results of seeing God do great and glorious things through the life of the local church. I especially love encouraging, serving, and equipping church planters of every generation to go forward in their calling, walking by faith. If you need or want help, reach out. We’re here to serve you.

I shared a Bible study here at Calvary Aurora not too long ago entitled, “Biblical Truths That Have Helped Me in Servanthood”. Of course I’m learning all the time, but I believe it will encourage and edify you.  It can be found here.

Ed Taylor is the founding and Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Aurora. You can also follow the church’s Pastor Ed’s Twitter feed.

The Golden Rule

Ed Compean is a church planter in Githurai, Nairobi, Kenya. You can read his words below about demonstrating love, as well as on his blog.

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Matthew 7:12“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus had such a conservation of words. Here He sums up what we often call the “Golden Rule,” of doing unto others as we would desire others to do unto ourselves. This takes the principle of reaping and sowing to new levels, but also had me thinking of the how precise the commands of Jesus are as compared to what many would say are the 613 commandments of the Old Covenant. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15), and so as I reflect I realize there are few direct commandments from Jesus. Very few. Yet, like so much about Jesus, He elevated the standard from outward physical expression of the law to an inward change of heart expressed by love. 
He elevated the standard from outward physical expression of the law to an inward change of heart expressed by love. 
First was the Great Commandment, which was a profoundly deep, yet simple summation of the law beginning with the point, “You shall love the LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” He then adds the second point, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The two commandments we often combine to call the “Great Commandment” are found in Luke 10 and Matthew 23. If we love Him we will do these two things: we will love God and love people. Jesus says from these two pegs all the law and the prophets of the Old Covenant hang. In a few words Jesus could concisely tell us what ancient and modern commentators take volumes to express (of course I’m taking paragraphs to expound on a small portion of the Sermon on the Mount of which the whole message takes about five minutes to read).
 
Besides the Great Commandment, Jesus left us with has been called the Great Commission, which reflects our love for God and people, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If we love God and we love people, we must tell each of them about the other. We tell God through prayer and our prayer is in love for those that do not know or love Him. This is not the place for a discourse on evangelism and discipleship, but I’ll just say yes to both. If we love God and people we will share that great love, including growing them in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we teach them all Jesus commanded we do exactly what John told us in his first epistle where he condensed the commandment of Jesus to the simple phrase of, “that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 
 
The Great Commission includes that we should teach people to observe all Jesus commanded. To emulate the precision of words Jesus, and John have, the Great Commandment and Great Commission come to: 1) Love God, 2) Love people, and 3) Make disciples that will go and make disciples. The overpowering truth I gain from the words of Jesus, and of John, is that this is all done in love. We love the God that so loved us that He sent His only Son that we could be reunited to Him. His love in us allows us to make disciples that love God enough to obey the commandments of Jesus to love God, love each other and go make disciples. 
We love the God that so loved us that He sent His only Son that we could be reunited to Him. His love in us allows us to make disciples that love God enough to obey the commandments of Jesus to love God, love each other and go make disciples. 

Everyone In Their Places

“I know! Let’s do something that hasn’t been done in hundreds of years!”

That’s basically what Josiah said in 2 Chronicles 34-35 when he decided to lead the Jews to celebrate the Passover. Honestly, it would’ve been a pretty daunting task. Previous kings had greatly neglected God’s system of worship – so much so that when they were rummaging through the Temple one day they found a dusty old scroll. Many people would have pushed it aside or thrown it away, but Hilkiah the priest knew it was something special. He brushed it off, handed it to Shaphan the scribe, and Shaphan carried it to the king. Shaphan reported to the king all that had been happening: what people were doing, how the money was being spent, and then he mentioned, “Oh yeah, and we found this book, check it out” (my own paraphrase, of course). What happens next proves the power of God’s Word…

As the book is read to the king, he tears his clothes in mourning, and immediately inquires what he needs to do. God’s Word convicted him, and he sprung into action. More people need to have this reaction! And keep in mind, he wasn’t even reading from what many would call “the interesting” part of the Bible, the New Testament. There was no mention of John 3:16, the grace of God, or Jesus. It was Moses, the Law, and Levitical Law (sounds fun, right?). As Paul would pen hundreds of years later, “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” – even the Law!

King Josiah decided that they were going to celebrate the Passover in a way that it hadn’t been celebrated in a long time. He kicked it off  by giving from his own herd to jump start the sacrificing. His officials followed suit, and the rest of the people got in line to do their part. My favorite part of the text comes in 2 Chronicles 35:15…

“And the singers, the sons of Asaph,were in their places… Also the gatekeepers were at each gate; they did not have to leave their position, because their brethren the Levites prepared portions for them.”

Everyone was in their places. They pinpointed their gifts and talents, then put them to use. The singers in their place, gatekeepers in their place, and so on. No one had to leave their spot because everyone did their part! What happens when everyone is in their places serving as they should?

“There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet…” – 2 Chronicles 35:18

The Passover hadn’t been kept like that in over 400 years!

When God’s people are in their places doing what they’re supposed to be doing, God can do unprecedented things through us!

Serving as a part of the church isn’t a suggestion – it’s part of following Jesus. We’ve been given gifts that we’re called to regift for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

God wants to do unprecedented things through our generation, so get in your place and get going!