“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
You’re not as faithful as you could be.
I may not have met you, but I’m right! Right? Somehow your faith is not as steady, sturdy, regular, or deep as it could be or needs to be. You struggle with doubt and fear. The uncertainties in your life, perhaps right now, have nearly overwhelmed you. Or your faith has cooled to the point of irrelevance. Was it ever real?
The easiest preaching in the world is soaked in guilt and shame. A clever speaker could make someone the stature of Billy Graham squirm. After all, who among us is as perfectly faithful as we should be? It’s always easy to point out faults, and all of us have them, especially when it comes to consistency in faith.
So it’s likely that all readers who’ve stayed with me through this warm and uplifting beginning could agree with the first line. In fact, I’ll embrace it, “I’m not as faithful as I should be.” Perhaps my failure at this point is doubly disturbing, for I have the degrees and background that should make for really strong faith, in the original language no less.
An aside here, I have an MDiv, a Masters in Divinity. In the universe of academia there cannot possibly be a more pretentious-sounding degree. My Doctorate in Theology frankly sounds like a step down. Yet even though I have purportedly mastered The Divine I’m not as faithful as I could be.
Now let’s shift from the negative destruction of error (my lack of faith) to the positive construction of truth, and this truth is very powerful: God is perfectly faithful to me. Even though I limp and doubt, God is faithful to me.
That’s Paul’s point in 2 Timothy. The author of half our New Testament included himself in the phrase “if we are faithless.” I don’t know that Paul ever reached the depths of faithlessness, but I do know from his other letters that he struggled, and wondered, and despaired and was disappointed. His response was not simply “I need to be more faithful!” The solution included “God is faithful to me.” I find that extraordinarily comforting.
You will not make any progress if you consistently beat yourself up for not being faithful enough. You might as well despair because you can’t fly. Life’s shadows can make any of us wonder about the light. It’s simply a part of being human.
A part of being God, however, is that He’s always faithful to you. It’s a major theme of the Psalms. One of our most beloved hymns is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” God doesn’t doubt or give up on you because it is His character to be perfectly consistent. In that consistency He has chosen to believe in you.
We tread in life on the borders of change and uncertainty. I believe that a great deal of our struggle with this inevitability arises from a lack of conviction, of having not made up our minds about the most important matters of life. Of course, I struggle with faith sometimes, and I can, and should, repeatedly affirm my faltering faith. “I do believe! I do believe!” And the struggle often remains.
How different it can be, however, if I will also say “You are faithful to me.” I’ve then focused on God’s enduring and unchanging character. We have moved here more deeply into the realm of grace. “I believe” is my response to God’s revelation, and that takes work. God’s affirmation that He will be faithful to me is His commitment based on grace. He simply will not give up on me no matter how I struggle with my faith in Him.
All of this means God will take care of me. That is settled. As Moses assured the people who faced a variety of enemies, “Do not be terrified or afraid of them, for the Lord God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).
Am I as faithful as I can or should be? Of course not. My lack of faith does create problems for me when I face an enemy such as fear, for example. If I trusted more I would certainly fear less. But whatever terrors swirl around we now have a firmer place to stand, even with a sometimes-feeble faith. For God is as faithful as He can be.
Dr. Terry Ellis
June 30, 2019