Friday, 3 October 2014

The Only True - Your's Faithfully

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15 

Someone's whistling... It sounds rather eerie, it being all dark and silent. A moment ago only the contented breaths and little snores of my children were audible. I tiptoe over the creaking floorboards, tilting my head toward the sound to try and pinpoint it's origin. A hiss from the hearth gives me a start. I edge slowly toward the door, and as I reach for the handle, the tension slips from my shoulders... My ominous whistling was only the sweet song of chirping frogs, happily singing in the mist and rain. Just as the wonder of snow seems to ease the discomfort of the freezing cold, the gentle sound of frogs chirping in consistent rain, lifts the monotony of being indoors. That is part of what makes life in the mountains such a constant wonder. Just as I think grey clouds of mist swirling around our cabin will surely blot out all colour and seep into the unguarded parts of my heart, a robin calls so near by, that his joy restores mine. Or a fallow deer darts across our path on a walk in wind so icy it makes your ears ache. I could list many more, but what has surpassed all nature's wonders, has been the faithfulness of our Creator, both to me and my family. From the very first day we put our feet on this hillside wilderness...

To be faithful is to be reliable, steadfast and unwavering, and the Bible speaks of this type of faithfulness in four ways: as an attribute of God; as a positive characteristic of some men; as a characteristic that many men lack; and lastly as a gift (fruit) of the Holy Spirit.

Greek: pistós – properly, faithful (loyalty to faith; literally, fullness of faith); typically, of believing the faith God imparts.

"The faith God imparts" - we derive our faith from God. And a person's faithfulness is totally dependent on your faith. The two cannot be separated. Character problems are faith problems. Faithfulness is in fact an act of faith. If we are going to obey the Lord, then we will need our faith. We obey, because we believe and trust the Lord. All the superficial distinctions that keep us separating faith from works disappears. Faith is works; it is faithfulness.

Faith is believing, putting confidence in, being persuaded of. What we believe shapes what we do. Faith is not just something one acknowledges. If I believe something, then it will shape me.

God is truth. God is faithful. God is faith-worthy.

If He were to be unfaithful, even just once, He would not be God. But as it is, “Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave” (1 Kings 8:56).

Faithfulness affects every relationship we have. As with joy, it is a gift from God. When we receive Christ as Lord, he gives us His Holy Spirit, bringing the blessings of love, joy, peace and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). The fullness of these blessings depends on how close we walk with God and yield to His Spirit. Human nature tends toward a desire to be faithful to something, even if it is just it's own selfish ambitions. But when we lay down our "human nature" at the feet of Jesus and accept our salvation - then the wonderful process of being transformed to the nature of Christ begins. As you know a tree by the fruit it produces, the gifts we receive through the Holy Spirit, will tell who we belong to. (By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16). The fruit of faithfulness grows from a heart "blossoming" for Jesus. As the fruit ripens into maturity it "sweetens" every aspect of the life of a child of Christ, its fragrance a balm for the saints, but an offence to those that do not know Him.

The beauty of God's faithfulness is that it does not depend on ours. Our hearts are too often found fickle, despite our best intentions (Proverbs 20:6). This sadly, makes us reluctant to trust Him to remain faithful. My own life has been dotted with trials, times when I had already written the outcome on my page, as being hopeless.

His faithfulness to restore, has allowed me to surface from dark and desperate times, stronger, more certain of His steadfast love. What I treasure and hold dear to my heart each day, are the seemingly small reminders that it is still there, even now that we navigate calmer seas.  That He does not only pull me out of the "miry clay", but fills me with a deep sense of His unfailing presence, each breathing moment. I'm growing in the deep awareness that He simply cannot fail me. Faithfulness is part of our Lord, like His imprint on each of His children. He cannot deny it, as much as we cannot deny that we are part of Him.

A few days ago, as we sat sipping raspberry juice on our deck, I told my friend about the time when I tumbled out of a tree, seven meters far, shattered the eleventh vertebra of my spine, barely missing a large boulder as I crashed to the ground. Two days later a surgeon neatly sawed some bone from my left hip and put the splintered vertebra together again, supported by two tight titanium brackets. As most people that know me would know, the operation was a huge success and I have no more than slight discomfort to remind me of this near-tragedy. I was carried on wings of prayer, and distinctly remember, that I never doubted (lacked faith) that my back would be healed.

But then came the time to go home. I had to wear a cumbersome brace to keep my upper body rigid as a plank. The first morning out of hospital, I felt brave enough to don my boots (with considerable difficulty, since I could not bend...) and go for a walk. Apart from the daily shuffles through the hospital corridors, I had never really walked without watchful eyes nearby, and only on a sheer, smooth hospital floor. After a short distance on the uneven tar road, my feet and knees started to ache and and my legs just seemed to lack strength, but I still had to get around the bend and back up a steep incline before I could rest. There was also no way I could not bend slightly to see the ground at my feet. It came to light later, that many of the small bones in my feet had been broken on impact, and there was also some damage to the knee joints. But since the spinal damage was the major concern, the smaller injuries went unnoticed. The bottom of my feet were blotched with sickly hues of purple, yellow and blue-black. I prayed and panted all the way back and cried tears of defeat as I lay down on the bed. All I could see was my braced self tripping and falling, with all the worst consequences a reality.

My self confidence was shattered. I had lost my ability to believe, to be full of faith. For the first time, I faced my own vulnerability, saw how frail my once strong young body had become. From "somewhere" the refrain of a song started playing in my mind. "I surrender all, I surrender all, all to you my precious Saviour, I surrender all..." This I would sing over and over and over, until I felt I could put my wobbles aside.

The next morning, I reached for the bible next to my bed, a first since I was released from hospital. I found Psalm 91, and my breath caught in my throat when I read: "For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands, so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone." (v11-12). Needless to say, from that day, I walked! Each day and a little further, with a stiff uneven gait, but with head held high.

The miracle of healing to my spine, made me take Jesus' faithfulness for granted. I let it wash over me as if it was something I deserved. I had to be humbled, become vulnerable, repentant and dependent, before I could take the faithful Hand that was held out to steady me, impart new faith and trust to me, one small wobbly step at at a time.

He is the brace that holds all of me together, then and now. There is no shadow of turning with Jesus. My Rock does not change. His compassions do not fail. As He has been, He forever will be. His faithfulness is greater than my doubts. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, His hand has provided - great is the faithfulness of my Lord unto me!

The Lord's faithfulness reaches past our fears and doubts. Into the place where the Holy Spirit has sealed His seat in our hearts. Your name is written on the palm of his nail scarred hand, with an ink that no failure on your part can erase. Trace it and treasure it. 

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest. Sun, moon and stars in their courses above. Join with all nature in manifold witness; 

To His great faithfulness, mercy and love.

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