The United States Marine Corps has an interesting motto, Semper Fidelis, the short is Semper Fi. Perhaps you have seen that on windows or bumpers of cars. Semper Fidelis are two Latin words that mean, “Always Faithful”. It is really the code of conduct and character of the gallant soldiers of the Corps. It is a description of their loyalty, and a definition of their lives as Marines. It is supposed to be their driven purpose as honorable and dedicated soldiers to this branch of service – Always Faithful.
I believe that the language of scriptures says the same thing in an infinitely greater way about God. When one chronicles and catalogs the actions and attitude of God from scripture, you would say our God is a God of unfailing faithfulness. I do not doubt that one could identify God’s faithfulness in other passages, but Lamentations is a biblical megaphone that proclaims God’s faithfulness in a voluminous echo of truth and testimony. Lamentations is not a popular book when it comes to studying or even preaching. It is almost like traveling in uncharted waters in both the pew and pulpit.
But after being with various members of our church family over the last few this weeks, hearing the hurts and fears, the pain and frustrations, and seeing the tears and testings, I felt a strong leading to remind us today of God’s faithfulness. Even though there may exist within our community of faith crisis that are critical, challenges that are choking our faith, and trials that might make us sometimes even question or doubt, our God is unfailing in faithfulness. He is forever faithful.
Now, we use this word, “FAITHFULNESS” to describe God all the time, and unfortunately, whenever we use a word over and over again, well, often tend to forget what it means, so here’s a quick reminder of the true meaning of the word, “FAITHFULNESS,” when it is used to describe our Heavenly Father. When we say that God is faithful we are saying that everything He says and does is certain. We’re saying He is 100% reliable, 100% of the time….that He SAYS what He means and MEANS what He says, and therefore DOES everything He says He will do. We are saying that God does not fail, forget, falter, or disappoint, EVER.
And, I want you to understand, bound up in the inherent meaning of this word is the fact that all this NEVER CHANGES. I mean, God never ceases to be faithful. He is not just faithful, He is forever faithful. I don’t know about you, but to me this is indeed a comforting fact because in this world of ours it seems as if everything else DOES change.
Think about it. The ECONOMY changes! These days that change seems to be always in the downward direction, which is a scary thing for people my age who begin to worry about their retirement accounts. GOVERNMENTS change especially in democracies like ours. Is it just me or do you feel as if Virginia is always electing someone to some office?! COUNTRIES change, borders are reconfigured; nations are re-named, world atlases and globes are out-dated almost before we get them home. CITIES and NEIGHBORHOODS change, especially if you live in one like ours where people move in and out all of the time and the demographics are always in a state of flux. CHURCHES change, we’re very familiar with that here at SUMC, I mean we are not the same church we were 9 years ago. PARENTING changes, just as soon as you figure out how to change diapers your babies turn into toddlers, and as soon as you figure out the best way to discipline toddlers…they turn into pre-adolescents… then when you get good at pre-adolescents these strange creatures called teenagers suddenly show up. And one of the things that make parenting so hard is the fact that our BODIES change such that we don’t have the energy to keep up with our kids. Over the years our muscles turn to flab. Our hair turns gray or it turns loose. Our faces sag and wrinkle. Aches and pains become common place. Before you know it your once healthy body becomes plagued with the ailments that come with aging and you begin to see more and more doctor’s appointments popping up on your calendar.
Well, all this goes to show that what I said a moment ago is true: the only thing that is CONSTANT in our world is CHANGE. And as I said, in the midst all this turmoil, the fact that God’s FAITHFULNESS is constant…the fact that He does NOT change is an anchor. His faithfulness is something to hold on to. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean, isn’t it good to know that God does not change?! Isn’t it re-assuring to know that, as Spurgeon once wrote, “There are no furrows on God’s eternal brow. No age has palsied Him; no years have marked Him with mementos of their flight…”
God is the same! He is changeless. In fact, since He is perfect, any change would have to be for the worse! God’s perfection is like standing on the North Pole. The only direction you can walk is south! I mean, any change would make God less than faithful, less than perfect. So it is INDEED a wonderful comforting truth that…yesterday, today, and forever He is the same. He is always absolutely consistent to His character and personhood.
Think of it. This means God’s STRENGTH never wanes. I mean God never says, “I’m feeling strong today? Because He is faithful to ALWAYS have UNLIMITED power. I love this fact because it tells me that if I ever need a strong hand to hold I can know that I’ll ALWAYS find one in God. Max Lucado writes. “Think of it. God never pauses to EAT or asks the angels to cover for Him while He NAPS. He never signals a time-out or puts the prayer requests from Russia on hold while He handles those from South Africa. Catch God in a bad mood? Won’t happen. Fear exhausting His amazing grace? A sardine will swallow the Atlantic first. Think He’s given up on you? Never. Ever worry that if you go to Him you’ll find Him in a non-receptive mood? Not God. Lovers call you one today and scorn you tomorrow. Companies follow pay raises with pink slips. Friends applaud you when you drive a classic and dismiss you when you drive a dud. Not God. He is always the same. As James 1:17 says, “There is not even a shadow of a change in God.”
Even the NAME for Himself that He gave to Moses proclaims this fact. God is “I AM” not “I will be” or “I was” but “I AM”, a declaration to both God’s self-existence and eternal CHANGELESSNESS. But you know, as I inferred a moment ago this fact that God’s great faithfulness never changes is something that we tend to take for granted. In his book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan writes,
“Faithfulness is by definition, the predictable, the habitual, the sturdy, the routine. It is the evidence of things SEEN, but seen so often we’ve grown BLIND to them. It’s the substance of things EXPECTED, expected so unthinkingly that we now TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED. [Frankly] faithfulness BORES us. [Think of it] Who among us leapt up this morning as the sun rose, exclaiming, “Look! Look, everybody, look! The sun! Here it comes! Wow!” Or who ran through the house shouting, “Ha! AIR! Behold! AIR! Clean air, fresh air, air to fill my lungs, air to shape my words, air to move the clouds, air to lift the birds! [Who does this?] Not me?[This morning] I woke up [like I usually do,] groaning.”
I don’t know about you but those insights convict me of the sin of ignoring God’s faithfulness; a faithfulness that I depend on being all around me every day. I mean, I’m not near as thankful as I should be. I should be in AWE of God’s faithfulness but most of the time I’m not. Are you?
I bring up this aspect of God’s character because whenever we celebrate communion as we do this morning we are celebrating this aspect of God’s character. You see, the coming of Jesus was not some last minute plan of God to save the human race. No. This was the plan all along. In the Garden of Eden immediately after sin entered the world, God promised that Satan’s power would be broken by Someone Who would be virgin born, the “seed” of a woman. Then over and over the Bible records the fact that down through the millennia God repeated His promise to send a Redeemer/Messiah. Through His prophets, He told where the Child would be born…what He would do…how He would die for our sins…and even that He would rise, conquering death on our behalf. So, one of the main truths communion was intended to convey is that God is completely faithful. It shows us that as I said earlier, “God SAYS what He means and MEANS what He says, and therefore DOES everything He says He will do.? Communion proclaims the fact that, as Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians 1:20: “Jesus is the “YES” to every promise of God.” These elements remind us that from the beginning of time God has been faithfully working out His plan to RESCUE us from sin.
You see the scriptures tell us that God has made a covenant with us. And that covenant is an everlasting covenant.
Now what is a covenant? A covenant is a rock-solid guarantee. It is a promise that is unilateral. It is a promise that God makes and is sure to keep.
You know it’s different than a contract. A contract is when we agree upon something, when two mutual parties agree to perform in a certain way. “If you do this then I will do that.” “If you pay that then you will receive this.” That is a contract. And if someone breaks the contract then the contract is null and void.
But a covenant is not a contract. If God was a contract God then when we live in disobedience, when we live selfishly and sinfully away from Him then the contract would be null and void. But God has not made a contract with us. He has given us a covenant. And this covenant is written in the blood of the cross, of the Lord Jesus Christ. “A new covenant, a new testament I give to you,” He has told us. And this covenant gives assurance everyday and certainty throughout all eternity that our God is faithful to keep His promise to us. And He says, “If I have assured you and promised to deliver you from your sin, to give you a hope and a future, you can count on it 100% of the time and for all time! God is forever faithful.
If you doubt it just think of David. David the king, he’s sort of the poster boy in the Old Testament for the faithfulness of God. Read his words in the psalms when he speaks so often of God’s faithfulness and how God preserved him and protected him and pardoned him just when he needed it the most.
When he was a young boy first came the lion and God was faithful and helped him to defeat and kill the lion. And then came the bear and God gave him strength as a young shepherd boy and he killed the bear. And then when his father forgot him and left him out in the field when the parade of sons, the son’s of Jesse came by and Samuel was looking for the next king of Israel and David was left out there alone. But God saw him and God knew him and God did bring him in. God was faithful to him even when he was left alone by his own family.
Then there was that whole giant killing thing when David came up against this great champion of the Philistines. And God was faithful and enabled him with a few stones and a slingshot to kill the mighty giant.
And then there was that episode in his life when the crazy king Saul began to chase him down trying to kill him; turn David into a fugitive. So many of the passages we read in the psalms have to do with this period in David’s life when he was running for his life, when he was wondering, “God, what are you doing? God are you going to take care of me?” And God was always faithful to David. He always experienced it.
And then God raised him up and put him on the throne just as he promised He would. And God was faithful in giving David the kingdom. Then everything was wonderful until the scandal with Bathsheba. And you wonder, will God’s faithfulness end for David? Will David fall out of the faithfulness of God? Will David fall out of the grace of God because of his great sin? And yet we discover God pardoned him. When David came and repented in faith God delivered him from his sin. There were consequences as in all disobedience and yet God was faithful. Even when he fell, and he fell hard. But when he fell he did not fall out of grace, he fell IN to grace. He fell IN to the faithfulness of God. Because as the scriptures said, “When we fail He doesn’t fail. When we fall He never fails to perform. When we are faithless He is faithful still.” David discovered that every step of the way.
Well you may be thinking, “Well I wish I was David. I wish God would be faithful to me like that.” Well you need to look no further than right here at these elements to know that He is. The covenant with David is your covenant and my covenant. And greater still is the covenant with the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ and the sure mercies of our God which are available to us. WE can know when we fall, when we fail, when we’re frustrated when life seems futile, we can know even when we can’t see it and we have trouble believing it that God is faithful. Every time we come to this table and receive these elements we are remind once again that our God is forever faithful.
Perhaps you are here today and secretly wonder if God is really faithful:
You feel like God is mad at you.
You feel like you’re in the dark.
You feel like God is against you.
You have mental and physical pain.
You can’t find release.
Your prayers are not being answered.
People don’t understand you.
You are ready to give up.
Your hope is gone
Yet This I Call to Mind. Friends, while it’s OK to be honest with God and express your real feelings like the prophet Jeremiah did in our scripture today, it’s not OK to stay there. Jeremiah had every reason to sing the blues and just pitch his faith, but he didn’t. He forced himself to think about God’s character in particular he grabbed onto His faithfulness.
Listen once again to what he said from our scripture:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24)
So the clear word today is never give up. Never give up on God. Never give up on God because He never gives up on you. He is faithful, always faithful, and forever faithful. Thanks be to God. Amen.