Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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2 Timothy 2:11–13 (NIV)


Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
     we will also live with him;
if we endure,
     we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
     he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
     he remains faithful,
     for he cannot disown himself.

CONSIDER THIS

The fruit of the Spirit is love, and it looks like faithfulness. Somehow I have come to think of faithfulness as something akin to an unfailing, committed kind of consistency. For instance, we have all heard it said of a couple, “He was faithful to her.” It’s another way of saying, he didn’t cheat. It strikes me as a low-bar, anemic understanding of what the Bible means by faithfulness. Should we really be celebrating a person because they didn’t cheat on their spouse?

The biblical notion of faithfulness means full of faith. And let’s remember, faith is not a grit your teeth variety of commitment. Neither is faith a blind belief in something you can’t see. No, faith is the Spirit-given ability to see what can’t be seen with the naked eye. It is the gifted capacity to see beyond what is and into what could be.

Growing up, our farm consisted in three different tracts of land. They were really three farms. There was the homestead tract on Oakwood Bayou. We referred to it as “The Farm” or “The Place.” Then about ten miles from there we had the Hellum’s Place bordering Belco Lake on one side and the Arkansas River Levee on the other. We called that place “The Levee.” Lastly, another ten miles from there was a tract of land we farmed in a town time forgot called Watson. We referred to that farm simply as “Watson.” While everyone worked in all places, Uncle Martin oversaw The Farm and my dad oversaw Watson. Watson was at the proverbial end of the road and quite possibly the poorest town in all of America (then and now).

It brings me to this dimension of the love of God the Scriptures refer to as faithfulness.

Watson was among the hardest and most punishing land we owned. It was the thickest, blackest, “buckshot” dirt you’ve ever seen. In drought, the cracks in the land would stretch to two inches wide. And when it was soaked by water, it would form a gummy, sticky mud they called “gumbo.” I have multiple memories of getting a tractor stuck after a big rain, walking three miles (in the mud) to get another tractor and then getting it stuck trying to pull out the first one.

It always felt at least ten degrees hotter in Watson. Honestly, I hated Watson. We all did; except my dad. He loved Watson. Never have I ever seen a person so faithful to such a seemingly desolate place as my dad was to Watson. It was like he saw a very different place than we were seeing. He gave each of the fields an honorific name, after the men who worked that land alongside him. I will forever remember driving down the turn rows with him in the peak of growing season and him calling out numbers over the crops. He would stretch out his arm and say, “60 bushels!” over one field and “50 bushels!” over another. He was prophesying the yields over the acres. This was no name it and claim it gimmick, but the hope-filled faith of the deepest kind of sweat equity. He was demonstrating a super ordinary, visionary faithfulness. (And danged if it didn’t happen!)

Every one of the three hundred and twenty-seven souls who lived in Watson knew my dad, and he knew just about every one of them. He could not drive down the road without being flagged down and solicited for a no-interest loan or an outright gift. His truck was like a mobile national bank of sorts. In my idealistic college years, when I was smarter than everyone else, I would scold Dad for enabling the cycle of poverty by giving them money with no apparent accountability. He would say something like, “They are struggling, but they still want good things for their children and families.” My mom and dad cared for those families like they were our very own—because they were. They were wedded to the land just like we were. All of our lives and livelihoods were bound up together.1

In those days my mother was an elected official. She was the county treasurer of Desha County and the best there ever was; hence always unopposed in elections—until she wasn’t. In those days a new pharaoh arose in the county and he quickly recruited opponents for all the incumbents. It’s a long story for another day, but the election turned out to surprise us all. It was nip and tuck. Mom closed out election night with the narrowest of leads. Only one ballot box was outstanding. Yep . . . Watson. And you already know where this story is going. Not only did our many friends not vote, the ones who voted had been drummed up to support the opponent. She lost.

I don’t think I have ever seen anything crush Dad like that did. Bright and early the next morning, he got in the truck and drove to Watson in what must have seemed like the longest twenty miles of his life. He never missed a beat. Mom didn’t either.2 Even after the lost election Dad and Mom continued serving and blessing that struggling community another thirty years. That is an other-worldly kind of faithfulness.

if we are faithless,
     he remains faithful,
     for he cannot disown himself.

In other words, faithfulness is the track record of Jesus, and the secret to faithfulness is not trying harder to be more faithful. No, the secret is simply this—Jesus in you. He is the faithful one and he cannot be otherwise.

Wake up, sleeper! Don’t focus on your own lack or failures of faithfulness. That is a lazy waste of time. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Remember, we are faithful by the gracious presence of Jesus in us.

THE PRAYER

Father Farmer God, make of my life a farmers’ market. Make of the garden of my inmost being a place of the faith-filled fruit bearing of love. I want to be so captured by the faithfulness of God that it becomes, in me, instinctive, impulsive, compulsive, and compelling—governed by your Spirit. Holy Spirit, fill me with the vision of faith that I might live out the imagination of faithfulness in my every day life. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.

THE QUESTION

How is your view and vision of faithfulness challenged by today’s reflection? Does it help you to understand that your own faithfulness depends on Jesus’s faithfulness and not on your own efforts to keep it going?

THE HYMN (We sing on the Recording)

Today we will sing the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” on page #44 of our newly released Seedbed hymnal Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. 

P. S. TODAY IS GENEROSITY TUESDAY!!

Giving Tuesday marks for Seedbed the beginning of a thirty-three-day festival of fund receiving (not to be confused with fund-raising). God gives through saints like you and we receive, and God gives through saints like us and you receive. Far from a worldly quid-pro-quo, this is how the fruit of the Spirit works ala agape love. To aspire to what we are aspiring for—which is nothing less than great awakening (of which the Wake-Up Call is only the tip of the iceberg) will require receiving $1,000,000 this year. I encourage you to explore the opportunity here. 

For the Awakening,

J. D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com


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NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

1. It’s funny how people think you are rich because you are generous. Truth be told, rich people don’t lend money at no interest with no expectation of repayment. Only generous people do that. Many people will excuse themselves from being generous because they don’t see themselves as rich. The truth is they neither understand generosity nor money. Generosity has nothing to do with money and everything to do with being filled with Jesus. Generosity is the currency of God’s kingdom. Money can be a powerful sign of it. Truth is most of us (and many of the wealthiest people I know) are infected with the terminal cancer of scarcity. The good news is Jesus has a 100 percent cure rate on scarcity cancer. The treatment looks like giving more away than you think you can afford. Even better, the cure is more contagious than the disease.

2. My parents first grandchild (Allie) came suddenly and unexpectedly very early on Election Day morning. Mom dropped everything, including all the election day campaign plans, and sped to Little Rock for the emergency delivery. She never looked back. Just this Thanksgiving she was telling me of driving out to Watson with Dad to take one of her famous cream cheese pound cakes to the widows of one of the longest serving members of the Farm Team we recently lost.

 

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. JD, this post brings to mind another Biblical concept in addition to faithfulness. In my opinion, this story is demonstrative of what a community of faith should look like. We are to remain faithful even when there’s times when others within that community of faith are not reciprocal. Just like Christ Jesus.

  2. I love your definition of Faith. It reminds us that what can’t be seen is real, permanent, eternally important. Our “reality” is, in actuality, hazy, temporary, and not worth the worry we give it. May the Spirit grow me to truly understand that.

  3. I understand how Jesus’s faithfulness (in himself) never fails, but I don’t understand the statement:
    ‘your own faithfulness depends on Jesus’s faithfulness and not on your own efforts to keep it going.’
    If we are at times unfaithful as per yourstatement: ‘ Don’t focus on your own lack or failures of faithfulness’, Jesus’s faith isn’t keeping it going….otherwise we wouldn’t ever fail.
    Asking in love. Hope you can clarify.
    Blessings

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