There is a little cemetery in downtown Baltimore that sits on the corner of Route 1 and Green Mount Avenue.  The cemetery contains the graves of many notable philanthropists and business leaders along with at least 17 Civil War Generals, 8 governors, 7 mayors, 3 Senators, and 1 Secretary of State.  Apparently it is a popular cemetery to visit and according to their website even sells t-shirts, coffee mugs, and canvas tote bags to commemorate your visit.  Within this cemetery of distinguished people lies the grave of John Gresham Machen, the one-time defender of the historic Christian faith in the early 20thcentury.   His tombstone is adorned with a simple cross and has an inscription written in Greek, “Faithful unto death.”  These are the words that Jesus spoke to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Faithful unto death.  This is, I imagine, what we all would like written on our tombstones.  We would like to hear the words of Matthew 25:21 spoken to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We do not settle for a mere projection of faithfulness, the likes of which is described in Proverbs 20:6 “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”  We want to be faithful.  Faithful to our families.  Faithful in our calling.  And most of all faithful to our Lord.

Paul Addresses Faithfulness

1This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians in this way: “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”  This is a fitting way for him to begin this confrontational letter to the Corinthians — to begin by reminding them of his authority as an apostle.  But here in chapter 4 he says he should be regarded as a servant and steward.  He is an apostle, yes, but he should be regarded by others as a humble servant and faithful steward.   Paul knows that he as been entrusted with much and so he seeks to be found faithful.

In our study of the fruit of faithfulness we will go in 3 directions.  First, we’ll consider a weed that needs to be pulled and then an artificial fruit to be detected, and finally we’ll conclude with some practical ways to grow in faithfulness.

#1 A Weed to be Pulled: Faithlessness

The opposite of faithfulness is faithlessness.  The Bible addresses both.  We are called to walk in faithfulness and to shun faithlessness.  Jesus laments in Mark 9:19 “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”  If this was true of the generation in Jesus’ day, how much more is it true in our day?  We live in a faithless world.  We are, after all, living in an increasingly secular age that does not recognize any legitimate authority outside of the individual.  Therefore the only faithfulness the world knows, is being faithful to yourself.  They call it “being true to yourself.”  “Be you!”  Welcome to the age of authenticity where the greatest crime you can commit is failing to be true to yourself.  If you wake up tomorrow and want to be a woman, be a woman.  If you want to be a man, be a man!  Just be faithful to you!  As one song writer put it “If you want to be me, be me, And if you want to be you, be you, ‘Cause there’s a million things to do.”

But Jesus calls us to a different form of faithfulness — not to ourselves… but to him!

 # 2 An Artificial Fruit to be Detected: Perfectionism

Notice in our passage that Paul does not say “it is required of stewards that they be found  perfect.”  No, he says “that they be found faithful.”  Perfectionism and faithfulness are not the same thing!

Perfectionism is a sinful obsession with our performance.  A perfectionist is often a procrastinator because he has difficulty finding the perfect time, the perfect way, perfect conditions to get started.   A perfectionist is easily overwhelmed with the details of life because everything has to be just right.  Ultimately, a perfectionist is robbed of joy because of his enslavement to performance. Some perfectionists are motivated by control.  Others by appeasing others.  None are motivated by the glory of God.

Our world fosters perfectionism rather than faithfulness.  The great lie of our modern age is that we no longer have limits.  Thanks to technology we have fooled ourselves that we can know everything, go anywhere, and do anything.  The world no longer has the boundaries it once had.  Many of you work at job, for instance, that has no boundaries. You are always “on” — expected to have near limitless time, energy, knowledge, and ability. You have fooled yourself into thinking you can be perfect — that you have no limits.  The problem is — you do have limits!  God has not called you to perfectionism but to faithfulness.

#3 What Faithfulness Looks Like

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.  What does this faithfulness look like in our everyday lives?  We’ll turn to the Proverbs to help paint a picture of that faithfulness.  (Most of these categories of faithfulness I’ve borrowed and slightly adapted from Rick Warren’s book God’s Power to Change Your Life.)

-1- Faithfulness means keeping your promises.

Proverbs 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

-2- Faithfulness means finishing what you start.

Proverbs 19:24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.

-3- Faithfulness means making the most of your time.

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

-4- Faithfulness means standing by your friends.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

-5- Faithfulness means managing your money.

Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

-6- Faithfulness means doing your best at work.

Proverbs 12:11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why might the Corinthians have been surprised to hear Paul say in 1 Corinthians 4:1 that he should be regarded as a servant and a steward?
  2. Would those closest to you regard you as servant and steward? Why or why not?
  3. Why is it important for a steward to be faithful?
  4. Paul does not say that stewards are required to be perfect.  What is the difference between being perfect and being faithful?
  5. In what says are you tempted towards perfectionism?
  6. What do you think is the heart issue behind perfectionism?  How would you encourage someone who struggles with the need to be perfect?
  7. Which one of the six pictures of faithfulness do you most need need grace to work on?
  8. What practical things can you do to begin to walk in greater faithfulness?


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