The desolation of the city was so complete that witnesses found it hard to blame human destructiveness. Large buildings and massive walls were toppled and scattered like toy blocks. Mangled bodies lie about under the sun. Amid the ruins, a broken man staggers, his face bearing the empty expression of utter devastation. Now and then, the pain inside him wells up and breaks forth in uncontrollable sobs. Everything he has known is gone.
Of those who once made this city the place where their marriages and children and work would be lived out, only a handful managed to escape. This man would write a letter to those survivors, a letter that is mostly about God. And at one point, the writer's words turn personal in his description of grief. A copy of that letter was preserved by some of those who received it. The words tell the inner story of someone trying to make sense of tragedy.
(Read Lamentations 3:1-20.)
If you listened carefully to the words of this crushed soul, you will detect that he is a believer who had made his confidence in God known to others, and been ridiculed for it. He is something of a poet, who is skilled with word pictures. He is brutally honest. And he clearly and deeply disillusioned with God. What has befallen his hometown has ultimately come from God's hand.
But it goes further. This man also believes God has it in for him, that God is against him, and that there is no good evidence left on which to hang his hopes for a different future.
Ever felt that low before? When shock and loss conspire to carry off your hope that things will get better? Maybe as you heard the words, you were thinking, "I can relate. I've been depressed like that before. I've felt like my face was rubbed in it. I know the taste of ashes, the feelings of emptiness, and wondered if God was angry with me."
You may be surprised to know that what I was reading comes from one of God's prophets, Jeremiah, in his letter called Lamentations. When it came to talking to and about God, Jeremiah didn't hold anything back.
But through it all, he never lost sight of one thing about God that kept him going. He raised a weapon of truth against the despair and the sadness that feel so much like the final reality sometimes. After pouring out all his anger, sorrow, and shock, Jeremiah adds this in his letter to the survivors: "Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: [Because of] the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!" (Lamentations 3:21-23)
This morning I hold before you a truth that will sustain you when all other props are gone. No matter what's going on in your life right now - stress, health problems, finances that have you in a vice, desperately wishing you had never married, desperately wanting to get married, children who have set an ache in your soul, the death of someone you love - whatever pain you are in, God's steadfast love for you will never, ever end. Every day, He has brand new supplies of mercy. There is a dawn that is coming after the night. And it is all captured in the sentence, "God is faithful."
I. Faithfulness defined
What does it mean to be faithful? When I think of someone who is faithful, I think of Bill Martin. Bill and I grew up in the same neighborhood, were saved in the same church, and graduated from the same school, and along the way talked about God and girls and the future.
And here's the thing about Bill - I could always depend on him. If I was in a pinch, if I needed something, I could pick up the phone and know that if there was a way, Bill would find it. Sometimes I would voice concern that maybe he was too pressed for time to handle a task for me. Bill would answer back and with some force, "Hey, this is Bill you're talking too. Have I ever let you down?" And to this day, the answer is no. Bill is faithful.
It strikes me that everybody needs somebody like that in their lives - someone who will support you, come through for you, and stand his ground defending you . . . Someone who is loyal and trustworthy, constant and reliable. That's a tall order in our "trust no one," "do whatever it takes to get ahead" self-seeking culture.
But hear me this morning: If you are a Christian, you are adopted by a Father who will never ever change His mind in regard to you, never write you off, never leave you or forsake you. If you are a part of God's family by faith alone in Christ alone, then you have a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. You cannot talk about the one true God without coming to this truth: How great is the faithfulness of our God!
When an intimidated Moses needed assurance about the massive assignment he was given, He asked for God's credentials. He wanted to know God's name. So God answered with His covenant name, "Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM" (Ex. 3:14). Think about the meaning of that name. God took the present tense verb form of "to be" and used it for His name. It is a name that expresses God's eternality, but it also announces that in His nature and perfections, in His knowledge, will, purpose and happiness, He always remains the same. God never changes.
Deuteronomy 7:9 says, "Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands."In Malachi 3:6, God Himself testifies, "I, Yahweh, have not changed . . . Job gave this witness about God: He is unchangeable; who can oppose Him? He does what He desires." (Job 23:13) James 1:17 calls God "the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning." And Hebrews reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (13:8)
II. What God's faithfulness brings
Allow me to exult over this truth. There are so many things we hold as solid and precious that are built on the truth that God is faithful to Himself and to His children.
Because He is faithful in character and action,
A. God has the last word on all things
Listen to Isaiah 55: "For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth, and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it [to do]." (Isaiah 55:10-11)
In other words, whatever God speaks, happens. Because He is the never-changing God, what He says goes. One day, the Bible tells us, the very foundations of this earth will perish. Hebrews 1 says that the universe in which we live will "wear out like clothing. You will roll them up like a cloak, and they will be changed like a robe. But You are the same, and Your years will never end." (Heb. 1:10-12). Jesus Himself put it straight: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." (Matt. 24:35)
That means the Word of God is His bond. It means He will keep all His promises. It means that God will fulfill every prophecy He has made. A.W. Pink wrote, "He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening He will make good, for 'God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?' (Num. 23:19)" (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 67.)
Because God is perfect, He never changes. So what He says will be just as true a million years from now as it is today. Count on His promises to you. Rest in His prophecies. They are as good as accomplished! Here's a second truth we love: Because He is faithful . . .
B. God will keep me
Remember the words of Jeremiah: "Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off." When Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians, he says that " . . . our Lord Jesus Christ . . . will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1:8-9)Let me give you some insight in these words. "Jesus Christ will confirm you to the end" (lit., "establish you, make certain about you;" this is a guarantee that you will be saved). Look at the next phrase: "blameless" (lit., "nothing can be called up against you, without guilt") "in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The assurance of your salvation is not that God will save you even if you stop believing, but that God will personally see to it that you keep believing - He will sustain you to the end; He will make your hope firm and stable to the end. He will cause you to persevere. That's His promise. And what is the basis of that promise?
Verse 9: "God is faithful; by Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1:9) God took the initiative in your salvation. He called you "into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." He's not going to abandon what He started. He will bring it across the finish line because God is faithful.
Jesus makes this plain in John 6: "Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day." (John 6:37-39)
No wonder Paul was so forceful in 2 Tim. 1:12 when he declared, "But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day." God will keep me because God has committed Himself to completing my salvation. He is faithful, friends! That's our God. PTL!
I could go on mentioning the rich benefits that flow from being related to God. Because He is faithful I can conquer every temptation - 1 Cor. 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it. "
Because He is faithful, He keeps up His side of the relationship even when I don't. 2 Tim. 2:13: If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself.
Because He is faithful, I can depend on Him, count on Him, and look for Him to come through for me in every circumstance. Sometimes, truths of the heart like this one are best captured in song. Listen to this song about the unfailing faithfulness of our God. ("How Many Times," originally recorded by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.)