Allen Jackson - The Power of Faithfulness - Part 2
I'd like to ask you a question. It's a bit theoretical, and I'm not gonna give you an answer, but what spirit do you suppose is prevalent over our nation these days? That's worth some thought and some reflection. I could tell you some expressions I see. We're very much against authority. Lawlessness is flourishing. We refuse to submit to the most basic expressions of authority. We won't enforce our borders. We won't accept even federal law. We reject laws if we don't like them. Well, they're just immoral. Well, folks, we've submitted to a lot of immoral laws over our history. Some of them we have had the courage to reverse, some not. The overwhelming majority of us don't intend to submit to God. Simple things like not to forsake the gathering together of one another.
"Well, I don't have to be in a group of people to be a Christian". Well, okay. I'm sure you don't. You can become a Christian in the parking lot at the grocery store. I know that's true. I've helped people do that. But you won't find maturity in the Lord by yourself. "Well, there's so many hypocrites". I know, scoot over, we'll make room for one more. We'll squeeze you in. "I went to church, and I got hurt by people". Yeah, me, too. "Well, preachers are", I know. Trust me. You know, the challenges of Daniel's generation are really not that new to our generation, and I want to suggest to you that they're more about spiritual things than they are empires and politics.
Now, this is why the church has such a significant role. And while I keep encouraging you not to be angry at others or to point accusing fingers, begin to seek the Lord in a new way, because he's given us authority that we haven't accepted or understood, and so we haven't given expression to it. For Daniel to serve in the court of the king, you know his story. He's a Jew. He's born in Israel, but Jerusalem is overrun. Judah is overrun by the Babylonians. It's destroyed. The temple is destroyed. The population is slaughtered. The Babylonians had a habit. They'd take a few of the more outstanding young people and take them back for court service, and somehow Daniel made that team. He got chosen. He made the cut. But to serve in the court of an ancient near eastern king, the men would be made eunuchs.
And Daniel, that's a hard beginning for a young man, to have your nation destroyed, your God humiliated, your friends destroyed, your family disrupted, the dreams that you had or your parents had for you, or your grandparents had for you, they're not a possibility. They're not just postponed or delayed. They're not gonna happen. You're not gonna go to Jerusalem for Passover. You're not gonna make those pilgrimages to Jerusalem. And the way your family has celebrated the faith, you're not gonna celebrate your faith. There's not gonna be a daily sacrifice. Your life's forever different. And then physical suffering is forced on you, and yet Daniel continues to seek the Lord. I take a moment with him, because some of those same challenges are still prevalent in our world. We're facing a challenge. Our children are facing a challenge. It's emerged in the last few months or years that is unprecedented. They're told to be confused about things that are not confusing.
Well, they're rationally not confusing, but there's a spirit or spirits that have been unleashed that are creating tremendous confusion. I'm not making light of it. If I travel away from here, and I talk to groups that I don't know, and I bring up this topic, I have to do it initially in jest, and I'll get them to chuckle with me for just a moment, because it's too serious just to broach that. But we do enough life together. I'm not suggesting this is easy or casual. I'm suggesting that its origin is spiritual. It's not good science. It's not enough data to direct this. It's more about thought and influence. Gender alteration is not a new thing. It's been practiced throughout history. But typically it's been understood as a form of punishment. It was a form of mutilation, a form of diminishment and humiliation.
My father was a veterinarian. I grew up around, when animals are neutered, it's usually for one of two very clear purposes: to prevent reproduction or to significantly reduce their aggression. We are stunningly silent on this as a culture and the church at the forefront of that silence. Men and women are created by God with unique abilities, and they're designed for unique contributions. That is true. Not lesser or greater, not more important or less, not elevated one above the other, both very important and both unique. Our children are being subjected to propaganda, which leads them to confusion and frustration. It is rampant amongst us. It's not going to happen; it is happening now. And there's some powerful public voices in public education that have the arrogance to stand in the public square and declare that parents shouldn't even be notified when their children are being influenced to make these decisions.
It isn't parents' rights to oversee the information that their children are being educated with. It's insane. You can't yield the authority over our children's lives to the state. And it's not just about our children. It's about the children. We were silent while 60 million were sacrificed. Surely, that's enough to motivate us to find our voice. There is a spiritual struggle taking place, and the future of the generations who will follow us are going to be determined by our courage or the lack thereof. And we can't afford the luxury of just choosing to be distracted. That doesn't absolve us of our assignment to be faithful, to lead with our faith. You can't imagine yourself to be a person of faith and not be a faithful person.
Let's take the balance of our time and see if we can understand a little better the response of faith. I'll start with Moses. He's one of our biblical heroes, both in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and then he's pulled into the New Testament, as well, his story in Hebrews chapter 3 and verse 5 says, "Moses was faithful as a servant in all of God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future". Moses was faithful as a servant in all of God's house. How'd you like the book with that label? When you see the Lord, he turns around and points to say, "There is somebody who is faithful in my whole house". I'd be good with that.
How about you? I'd rather that be said than about any accomplishment I could think of, any award I could be given, any resource I could accumulate, any power I might be able to ascribe, if God would say of us, you are faithful in his entire house. You with me? That's his statement about Moses. We think about Moses, and we think about the plagues, and the conflict with Pharaoh, but if you look at Moses' life, that's a very little, tiny sliver of his life. He's faithful in all of God's house. Do you aspire to that? See, we have this very damaging idea that's infected us. We talk about, "I'm saved".
Now, I believe in conversion, and salvation, and the new birth, and being born again, but we've taken it like a vaccine. "Oh, I'm not really responsible for much else now. I've been born again. I've even been baptized. I have a certificate". I'm concerned about the messaging we've given to the church. Numbers 12, it says, "Listen to my words. When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But not Moses. He is faithful in all of my house". There it is again. Exodus 40, he says, "MOSES did everything just as the LORD commanded him". Wow! Are you aspiring to that, or are you just counting on God grading on the curve? "I believe in forgiveness, brother. I'm a grace person". Well, I believe in forgiveness, too, and I am most grateful for grace. If you look it up in the dictionary, you'll probably find my picture. But I don't want to live a sloppy life.
I'll take a moment with Matthew's perspective. Some of you I know prefer the New Testament. Matthew talks a lot about our faith. In Matthew 6 and verse 30, Jesus is talking. He's trying to encourage his audience not to become totally overwhelmed with worry. He tells them half a dozen times in that sermon on the mount not to worry, but he said, "If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith"? Awkward, awkward. Can you imagine standing before Jesus? He said, "Well, bless your heart, you of little faith". I'd rather not.
Matthew uses that phrase five times. Jesus talks to his audience or his disciples about having little faith. Now, if you could have little faith, you could have great faith. It's a matter of logic. Look at Matthew 17. "The disciples came to Jesus in private and said, 'Why couldn't we drive it out?'" A father brought his son, who was demonized, and the disciples couldn't help him, and Jesus did. And so the disciples come and say, "Why couldn't we do that"? And Jesus said, "because you have so little faith". You have so little faith. Now remember faith and faithful really inseparable notions. "You're faithful in so little. You're not really faithful over very much. Yeah, you followed me, and you'll do what I tell you to do; but if I'm not standing there coaching you, you're not particularly faithful to what I've been showing you. You're faithful in such a small way".
See, I'm not even sure we've been invited to be faithful. We've been told we needed to believe something. We've gotta get our belief organized. If we get our belief orchestrated, that's where we like to study. We want to be sure we've got everything in the appropriate folder and then go, "Yeah, I believe that, and I believe that, and I believe that". And then we sit back in our rather inert, inactive state. And the real challenge, the condition we're invited to is to be a faithful person. "You have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you".
Jesus said it's not the magnitude. You don't have to be faithful over things that are perceived as grandiose. You can be faithful in small things and have tremendous authority. Now, Jesus, there's no evidence in his ministry, that he literally commanded mountains to move, but he certainly commanded some mountainous problems to move. Matthew 25, it's the parable of the servants. And when they're being rewarded in verse 21, "The 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. Come and share your master's happiness". Good and faithful servant. May I submit to you that faithfulness is a very important characteristic of discipleship. He didn't say, "You well educated disciple".
And again, I'm not opposed to education. Learn all you can. If you're not reading, you're losing ground. But faithfulness is the great expression of your faith. Are you a faithful servant? Are you faithful in how you utilize your time and how you utilize your resources? Are you faithful to the people of God? You understand faithfulness, sometimes more than we understand the principle of faith. Same chapter. Jesus, or the master is going to respond to the servant who didn't do so well. Some of you know the story. It says, "The man who'd received the one talent came and said, 'I know that you're a hard man, that you harvest where you haven't sown, and you gather where you haven't scattered seed. So I was afraid. I went out and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant. You knew that I harvest where I haven't sown and gather where I haven't scattered seed?'"
It's a question. In this case, the one who isn't rewarded, the one who isn't celebrated makes a self-diagnosis. Actually, what he provides is an excuse. He's impugning the character of his master. He said, "I know you. You're a hard man. You harvest where you didn't plant, and you expect a crop where you didn't sow seed. You're frightening". Can you hear just a tinge of rebellion in there? "I know you". You might think humility would be a better approach at this point. But no, it's not there. And then listen to the evaluation. The master said, "You're wicked. You are wicked. You are wicked. And on top of that, you're lazy". Wow.
Now remember what you know about the character of God. He's close to the brokenhearted. He's a friend to the outcast. He's a comfort to the alien or to the stranger. He welcomes a prodigal. So, something else is happening in this parable, and then you don't want to use your squishy notion of God to miss the learning point, or we might fall on the wrong side of the equation. You were entrusted with something, and you chose not to do anything with it. And when you're asked to give an evaluation, rather than to acknowledge your choice, you impugn the character of the one who gave you the gift. And God said you're wicked. And the outcome of that individual is not good. Is it fair to say at this point that faithfulness should be more highly valued than we've thought about.
You see, the influence of your life is expressed more profoundly in your faithfulness to God than any other option that's available to you as a human being. Outcomes are in God's hands. The size or the lack thereof of the audience or the observers not so much, but your faithfulness is our choice. This is what I've been given. These are the opportunities. These are my realities. These are my circumstances. These are the conditions. The just judge of all the earth, he'll make this right ultimately. In the moment, my assignment is to be faithful. We're gonna learn to lead with our faith.
Oh, my time's about gone. One last passage, Matthew 24. Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus gives us some very similar word pictures. This one I chose to conclude with, because he's talking about the end of the age. He's talking about his return, and he says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven". And then he gives the parallel with the days of Noah, as it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. There's a parallel between Noah's generation and ours. I don't have time to get into that. I think we can all agree that Noah's day was pretty wicked. It was bad enough that God's judgment was impending, and no one really noticed. It wasn't that they hadn't been warned. Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and nobody cared. God wasn't unjust. It had been messaged fully. They were just busy. And then it tells us what they were busy with.
"Before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. And that's how it'll be at the coming of the Son of Man". It's a pretty sobering passage. And then the next verse asks the question, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant"? That's the $64,000 question I want to have an answer to. I want to be on the right side of this discussion. "When the master is put in charge of his servants in the household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth". So, you know what's coming next is startling. He said, "I tell you the truth, he'll be put in charge of all of his possessions".
Wait a minute. You've just been a servant, a household servant tending to things that seem to be small and insignificant. They were overlooked by many. Many were buying and selling on greater scales and doing things of seemingly greater import, and you were just serving in the household of God. But when he returns, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you were a faithful disciple, you'll be given authority over remarkable things". Faithfulness matters. Faithfulness to the Lord matters. Look at verse 48. "But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'Nah, it's gonna be a long time.' And he begins to abuse his fellow servants. And he eats, and he drinks with the drunkards. And he will be cut to pieces".
I'm telling you it's hard to reconcile with so much that we've heard. A wise servant is faithful in caring for a household. He's rewarded for that. The opposite is true of the wicked, the unfaithful, and the self-indulgent. A lack of faithfulness is not a small thing. Self-indulgence should not be overlooked. Jesus is inviting us towards a new perspective on being a person of faith. Our conversion model is said, you know, just to recite a prayer and then wait. You're good to go. And it seems to me that a faithful disciple is a person who grows in faithfulness. Moses was faithful in all of God's house. There's a number of individuals, we'll look at it more at another time in the New Testament, commended for their faithfulness. I want to be in that group. I want to be in that group. We're not facing new challenges, folks. Our enemy is the same. The things he uses to subvert us, the immorality, the perversion, the ungodliness, the greed, the lust, the covetousness, the gluttony, those aren't new tricks. It's just our first trip through and our only one.
So, we think we've discovered some new form of temptation. The delivery systems may be a little new, but the temptations aren't. Do we have the courage to stand? Are we gonna put on our armor and engage in the wrestling match? Not with people or organizations or institutions, but with spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. I would submit to you that the future of the generations who follow us are going to be significantly impacted by the choices we make. I know it's not easy. We don't know how to stand. Those muscles have atrophied a little bit. We know how to worship, and we know how to study, and I'm grateful for those things. I don't want to lose those, but we're gonna have to learn how to stand. We're gonna have to learn how to lead with our faith to allow our faithfulness to influence where we work, the neighborhoods in which we live, the balls teams on which our kids play, how we recreate. Are you ready?
I believe you are. I brought you a prayer. I want you to stand with me. We'll pick this up a little further in the next session, God willing. I believe we will see, in the immediate future, not in years and decades ahead, a whole generation of people across this nation that are willing to lead with their faith. We'll stand in amazement. We'll be embarrassed by the places we were silent. And I like to think about the disciples. Jesus looked at them more than once and said, "Do you really have such little faith"? And we have the privilege of following them through a bit of their journey. We don't have that privilege with a lot of biblical characters. We get into the book of the Acts, and the book of Acts we get to watch them mature.
And it's not recorded anywhere but in my imagination. I have an idea that the day Peter and John are leaving the Sanhedrin, after they've just received a beating from them and been told never to mention the name of Jesus again, and they said, "We will not stop". I can see John poking Peter in the ribs and said, "No little faith today". And Paul and Silas are in the stocks in that Philippian jail at midnight, and their backs have been opened with the Roman's whips, and dark has settled over that jail, and they're about to start a worship service. I can hear Paul going, "No little faith in here". Folks, it may have been the story of our lives, but let's write a new chapter. Let's begin a new way. Let's grow up in the Lord a little bit. Let's acknowledge where we've been and what we haven't been, and tell the Lord what we would like to become if he will help us. Let's pray together:
Heavenly Father, You have chosen us and called us out of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of Your Son. Thank You for that great expression of mercy and love. Holy Spirit, teach us to be faithful in our journey. Forgive us for our attitudes of indifference and our indulgent choices. Grant us a spirit of boldness that we may stand faithfully in our generation. In your great power, turn back the forces of evil which prey upon the vulnerable. May Your Spirit be poured out upon us once again, look upon us with mercy, in Jesus's name, amen.