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Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Faithfulness in Your Life and Relationships

How do you cultivate faithfulness in your life and relationships?

Faithfulness is absolute loyalty, reliability, and consistency in your commitments. In the Bible, God’s faithfulness is to His name, to His character, and to His word.

If we are bearing the Fruit of the Spirit; if we are becoming more like Christ; if we are growing in Christ; then we will also be faithful to God’s name, God’s character, and God’s word.

Faithfulness to God’s Name

In the west, in the modern world, we don’t put a whole lot of stock in names, we don’t treat them like names are treated in the Bible. We treat names mainly as a way of distinguishing one person from another, it’s mainly an identifier. But in the Bible, names are also a description, not just the identifier of the person but of the person’s essential character, their essence. Not just who they are in terms of their name, but who they are deeply as a person.

For us to be faithful to God’s name means to put our identity in Him first. The wholeness of our identity, not just,  “my name is Dan Stephens,” but the wholeness of my identity, everything, the definition of me is in God first. It’s above my family, it’s above my country, it’s above my profession, it’s above my resume, it’s above my education. My identity is in God first. As a child of God created in his image, and even though I have sinned and I have damaged that relationship with God, He has forgiven me, and because of that forgiveness, I am becoming more like Him. That’s my identity. Not, “Dan Stephens, the former marine that’s now a counselor, that lives in the United States and he’s a loyal American citizen.”

Your identity, if you are a Christian, is in God first. That’s what it means to be faithful to God’s name.

Faithfulness to God’s Character

God has a number of character traits that are mentioned throughout the Bible, a number of character traits that many different theologians like to emphasize, and just to name a few, God is holy, God is just, He is righteous, He is sovereign, He is loving, He is joyful, He is peaceful, He is patient, He is kind, He is good, He is faithful, He is gentle, and He is self-controlled.

Now, throughout all of the variations of Christianity, Christians are divided as to just how God acts in light of those character traits. I don’t want to argue for any particular stream of theology right now, but however God acts in light of that character He does so consistently. And reliably. And absolutely so.

We as sinful human beings do not act so consistently or reliably. When my daughter is misbehaving, I like to remind her of her character, the things that I know about her. She is kind, she is sweet, she is loyal, and she is respectful. But right now her behavior doesn’t reflect that. Even I as her father, while trying to train her and teach her and help her make wise choices, I don’t act consistently all of the time with my character.

I do not always act consistently with my identity as a child of God created in His image, forgiven by Christ, and being slowly conformed to the image of Christ. I don’t always act in line with that. But faithfulness means that we are acting in line with that character more and more often. We learn about that character, we learn about those attitudes, those deep down traits of that new identity through Scripture.

Faithfulness to God’s Word

2 Timothy, 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God “and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, “for correction, for training in righteousness, “that the man of God may be complete “and equipped for every good work.”

Faithfulness to God’s word means several things:

  1. We treasure all of Scripture, not just the parts that we like.
  2. We teach from all of Scripture, not just the parts that we agree with.
  3. We rebuke and reprimand sinful behavior from all of Scripture, not just the pet behaviors that we particularly don’t like. And when we do that, (this is not in the verse that I was just looking at, but this is a part of the whole series), we do so after we have cultivated in ourselves character of being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled.
  4. To be faithful to God’s word we correct false doctrine, false teaching, from all of God’s word, not just the pet doctrines and the pet scriptures and the pet proof texts that we like to use. And again, that’s after cultivating that character that reflects the Fruit of the Spirit.
  5. We train for righteousness from all of Scripture, not just in the simple things that we like that are easy.

Some of the benefits of being faithful to God’s word include these:

  1. We will be complete or whole and content, we will be finished works, we will become finished works.
  2. We will be equipped. That means having the tools and the resources that we need.
  3. And specifically, we will be equipped for every good work. Not just the good works in easy times, in easy places, with easy people, in easy circumstances, but also for those good works that are in difficult times, in difficult places, with difficult people.

This is what it means to be faithful to God’s word, to God’s character, and to God’s name. It starts with being faithful to His word, it starts with a high value of Scripture.

 

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Personal Growth

How to Cultivate Kindness in Your Life and Relationships

Kindness is a little bit like patience. It’s something that God gives to us that we then pay forward to others. But it’s also more than patience because patience is holding back on something negative, like holding back your anger. But kindness goes further than just holding back on negative, it goes towards freely giving of something positive.

For example, Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Kindness is paying forward what we’ve received from God, what we have received from Christ.2

In that comparison between patience and kindness, they are two sides of a coin. One big part of patience is restraint, holding back anger, even anger that is deserved. And kindness is giving something, it’s doing something nice, but it’s more than that, it’s also doing something nice that is not deserved. It’s like mercy or grace. It’s giving something that there is no reason that you should give it.

That being said, to call something a random act of kindness is kind of repetitive because kindness is, by practical definition, random. It’s not earned, it’s not deserved, it’s just freely given.

If you want to be known as a person of kindness:

You will probably already be friendly, you will probably already be doing nice things to those people who are close to you and for those people who are close to you, just because.

You’re probably already known as generous. You give freely of your time, your energy, your money, and your resources even to total strangers.  You might be the kind of person who would give the proverbial shirt off your back to help a stranger.

You’re probably also more considerate of people’s backgrounds. You’re more understanding of the hurts, the hangups, the habits that predisposed them to acting without kindness, to being unkind and themselves being inconsiderate.

Hopefully, you are also more merciful. Now, this is going beyond just being considerate. This is saying not only do I understand why you’re acting in this particular way, I’m choosing not to hold it against you, I’m choosing not to hold it over your head.

That raises the idea of forgiveness and yes, forgiveness is something that is very difficult, especially if the offense is great. It may not be safe in some situations to say, “well, I don’t hold this against you,” because that could put you in a dangerous situation. So there is a difference between forgiving in a broken relationship and restoring a relationship because restoration depends on it being safe to do that. But you can be merciful, you can be forgiving without expecting the relationship to be restored.