Text-driven preaching does not endeavor to place God’s various attributes as a framework of understanding of any given text. Instead, depending on the passage in question, the preacher might find himself with an opportunity to expound on any number of God’s divine attributes. Preaching these various attributes of God pieces together a wonderful mosaic of God’s divine character.
One such attribute of God found within the Bible is faithfulness. Despite the Bible’s testimony of God’s faithfulness, a problem exists. Our culture seems to have lowered its view of faithfulness. Just the other day as I was driving, I stumbled upon a radio show I had never heard before. A woman had called in to the show for help with her marriage, and the host was eager to offer assistance. The “assistance” involved calling the woman’s husband and telling him he had won a free flower delivery to the person of his choosing. If he were to choose his wife it would guarantee his faithfulness just as his selection of someone else would indicate his infidelity. Faithfulness, it would seem, rested on the recipient of a bouquet of flowers. Is this a fair way to determine faithfulness? How does such a belief affect the very definition of “faithfulness?” To preach God’s faithfulness we must show three things: What it is not. What it is. Who it is.
To preach his faithfulness, show what it is not:
It is to this jaded, betrayed, and untrusting group, a faithful God is a farce and a fairytale. They don’t see faithfulness around them, and they assume if it exists, it is in some far away distant reality. 1 Samuel chapters 9–13 recount a portion of the life of King Saul. Saul, the first king of Israel, failed the test of faithfulness. He assumed God’s instruction was optional or at most, it required perfunctory obligation. In failing to recognize the inviolable nature of God’s instruction, Saul failed to be faithful. This failure is something people in the pew understand. They have failed to be faithful and they yearn for a different outcome for Saul. They have been disappointed by the lack of follow-through of others. Presenting God’s faithfulness through the literary foils found in scripture is a useful way to display God’s faithfulness. We show them what they understand, to show them what they can hardly comprehend. As Balaam reports in Numbers 23:19, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” God’s faithfulness is readily understood through the lens of what it is not.
To preach his faithfulness, show what it is:
Occasionally our culture catches a glimpse of the vestigial imprint of God’s faithfulness. All our best attempts to adequately display perfect faithfulness fall far short, but Scripture holds a repository of God’s faithful deeds. In Deuteronomy, Moses is used by God to prepare the Israelites prior to the entry into the land. He does this in part by reminding them of God’s faithfulness. He writes, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them.” (Deut 7:9–10a) Effectively, they are told God will hold up his end of the covenant because that is who he is. God is faithful. The Psalmist phrases his faithfulness floridly, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (Ps 91:4) Yet more concretely we read, “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Ps 119:90) God’s faithfulness should be preached as tender and steadfast given the first image from Psalm 91. Additionally, we are given the enduring aspect of its timeless nature in Psalm 119. The Psalmist exclaims, God’s faithfulness will outlast our lifetimes and he holds it fast.
To preach his faithfulness, show who it is. Preach Jesus as the faithfulness of God.
Jesus is God incarnate. He perfectly embodies God’s transcendent faithfulness and brings it close to our experience. In Jesus, we come to know and familiarize ourselves with the faithfulness of God. The Son displays the faithfulness of God in both his teaching and in his life. The preacher will find in the life and teaching of Jesus ample biblical support for developing a robust understanding of God’s faithfulness.
In Luke 7 Jesus uses three parables which relate to a lost sheep, coin, and finally a son. In each of these parables, it appears Jesus is correcting the hearts of the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling over Christ’s choice of table companions, namely tax collectors and sinners, groups of people deemed unworthy by Jesus’ detractors. Preachers have an amazing opportunity to put the patiently enduring faithfulness of God on display in these parables. The rejoicing which takes place when that which is lost is found is a window into the rejoicing in heaven when men and women respond in faith to the gracious extension of salvation by God. God’s faithfulness to faithless and disinterested prodigals is on display.
Jesus’ faithfulness is most readily seen in his obedience to the Father. Repeatedly he tells the disciples he was sent by the Father to accomplish the Father’s will, not his own. His life beckons them to also come and live faithfully submitted lives unto God. By extension, the preacher can call his congregation to come, weary, broken, and ready to shoulder their cross in faithful obedience to God. He can trace the hardships of Jesus, his rejection, his betrayals, and show how these are met with uncompromising faithfulness to his mission. Finally, he can show the indefatigable way Jesus moved ever closer to his atoning death on the cross. Jesus, faithful and true to the glorification of God and the redemption of humanity. Jesus, the perfect picture of God’s faithfulness.
Matt Beasley is Staff Elder and Pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas.