STUDY TWENTY-FIVE: A CHALLENGE TO FAITHFULNESS [Matthew 25:14-30; 24:45-51]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus called his disciples to a radical faith. Now he challenges us to express that faith in radical faithfulness.

A. THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS [Matthew 25:14-30]

This parable speaks of the distribution of a different number of ‘talents’ to three people, and records the subsequent use and outcomes. It teaches us that Christ expects faithfulness or trustworthiness in his disciples. He expects us to be faithful to him in the ins and outs of our lives, using whatever he has given us, or entrusted us with, for him, our King.

Reflection and response:

Question

In what way does this parable challenge us to faithfulness to Christ, the King of the kingdom?

 

In what way does the parable challenge us to faithfulness to the character of Christ the King?

 

In what way are we challenged by this parable to faithfulness in the way we use the property that Christ the King has entrusted to us?

 

In what way are we challenged by this parable to faithfulness to the purposes and vision of Christ, the King?

 

 

A.1 What does this imply for the Christian disciple?
The questions above imply that we already have an understanding of and attitude towards Jesus Christ, the King, that we already know who he is, what he is like, what his vision and purpose are, and so on. The following questions are listed to help you identify your understanding and attitude towards Christ. If we do not have the right attitude and understanding we will not meet this challenge to faithfulness.

 

Reflection:

How would you rate …

Okay

Improvement needed

Minimal or non-existent

Your attitude to Christ in terms of ‘faithfulness’ or ‘trustworthiness’

 

 

 

Your understanding of the character of Christ

 

 

 

Your understanding of Christ’s vision and purpose

 

 

 

Your attitude to the ‘property’ of Christ – to what belongs to him that he has entrusted to you

 

 

 

 

Every disciple of Christ is, as we have seen in Study One, one who is in the process of learning from Christ. The more we learn from him, the more we can meet this challenge to faithfulness. The more we know him, the more faithful we can be to him. But even as we press on to learn more, we can be faithful to what we already know about him, and by that faithfulness facilitate further learning and further faithfulness.

A.2 What has Christ entrusted to us?
The following table helps you to identify what God has entrusted to you. All that you identify below, he expects you to ‘use’ in keeping with his character, his vision and his purpose, and with his character, vision and purpose in mind. When you have done that, he counts you ‘faithful’. This challenge covers the whole of our lives – it does not depend on how much or how little we have, but on what we do with what he has entrusted to us.

Reflection and response:

Using the headings below make lists of everything that Christ has entrusted into your hands

Physical life and possessions

People

Your life experiences

Talents, abilities and spiritual gifts

Secular knowledge,

education

Spiritual truth and knowledge

His message and mission

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now list ways in which you can improve your faithfulness to Christ in each of the above areas

 

 

  

 

See Luke 16:10-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. THE CHALLENGE TO FAITHFULNESS IN MATTHEW 24:45-51

Read Matthew 24:45-51
How is ‘faithfulness’ expressed in these verses?
 

What is the reward of faithfulness? 

 

What is the opposite of faithfulness?
 

What is the punishment for unfaithfulness? 

 

C. THE FOUNDATION OF FAITHFULNESS: THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE LORD

Before we move on to look at the difficulty of being faithful in the context of contemporary society, we need to look at the essential underlying foundation for faithfulness. The Old Testament presents God and his Word as faithful and trustworthy. The New Testament presents Jesus Christ and his Word as faithful. It is from this divine faithfulness that human faithfulness takes its strength. It is only because of this divine faithfulness that there is any point or purpose in our being faithful.


C.1 The Old Testament teaching about the faithfulness of God
The Old Testament teaches us that God is faithful:

  • Because God is faithful we can trust him to keep to the promises and conditions of his covenant [Deuteronomy 7:9-10]
  • God’s faithfulness is limitless and endless [Psalm 36:5; 119:90]
  • God’s faithfulness is securely established [Psalm 89:1-2]
  • God’s faithfulness surrounds him – it is a key characteristic [Psalm 89:8]
  • God will never betray his faithfulness [Psalm 89:33]
  • All of Gods’ commands are trustworthy [Psalm 119:86, 138]
  • God’s faithfulness is the basis of prayer [Psalm 143:1]
  • God’s faithfulness is perfect [Isaiah 25:1]
  • God’s faithfulness benefits his servant [Isaiah 49:7]
  • Because of God’s great faithfulness his compassion does not fail [Lamentations 3:23]

In all of the above references God’s faithfulness is the great motivator for both the faith and the faithfulness of his people. It is only because he is faithful that we can remain faithful; and it is only because he is faithful that we can have confidence of his continuing love when our faithfulness fails.

C.2 The faithfulness of God and Christ in the New Testament

  • God, who is faithful, will keep us strong to the end [1Corinthians 1:8-9; 1Thess 5:25]
  • God in his faithfulness will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear [1Corinthians 10:13]
  • God, who is faithful, will strengthen and protect us from the evil one [2Thess 3:3]
  • The Gospel is trustworthy – motivation for confidence and praise [1Timothy 1:15-17] 
  • The Gospel is trustworthy – motivation for faith and commitment [1Timothy 4:9-10]
  •  The Gospel is trustworthy – motivation for confidence [2Timothy 2:11-13]
  • Even if we are faithless, God, who is faithful, will not disown those who belong to him [2Timothy 2:13]
  • The message of the Gospel is trustworthy [motivation for our faithfulness] [Titus 1:9; 3:8] 
  • Jesus is a faithful high priest representing us in the presence of God [Hebrews 2:17]
  • Because Jesus is faithful to God his Father, we should trust him and keep focused on him [Hebrews 3:2,6]
  • Because God, who made the promises, is faithful, we can have confident hope [Hebrews 10:23; 11:11]
  • Because God is a faithful Creator, we can commit ourselves to him and continue faithful [1Peter 4:19]
  • God is faithful to his promise of forgiveness [1John 1:9]
  • Jesus is ‘the faithful witness’ [Revelation 1:5; 3:14]
  • Jesus is called ‘Faithful' [Revelation 19:11]
  • The word of Christ is trustworthy and true[Revelation 21:5; 22:6]

The dominant context of these references to the faithfulness of God and of Christ is the context of the perseverance of the people of God. Because he is faithful, we can press on with hope; because he is faithful, he will sustain us, even when we fail. This faithfulness of our Lord is the only valid and workable basis of our efforts at faithfulness. It is the only thing that gives Christ’s challenge to faithfulness any foundation and any validation.

At this point it would be good to re-read the powerful and perceptive comments quoted from Karl Barth in Study Nine. If we think deeply about these comments we will realise that human faithfulness to God can only exist in the presence and recognition of God’s faithfulness. It is critical therefore that as a first priority, the disciple of Christ draws closer to Christ, and listens more closely and more constantly to his word, his revelation of the Father. Only then will the disciple be strengthened to remain faithful to him.

D. FAITHFULNESS IN THE CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT

The obstacles to human faithfulness to God are great. Our secular, materialistic, pluralistic world simply cannot understand the Christian’s whole-hearted, all-embracing faithfulness. From a worldly perspective Christian faithfulness is a fool’s game. What point is there in being faithful to and, as we will see in later studies, denying ourselves, and committing ourselves and all that we have, for the sake of -  

• A ‘god’ who does not exist, except as a human idea
• A ‘Christ’ who was, if he lived at all, just a man who is now dead
• A salvation from ‘sins’ that have no reality except in the laws of an ancient code
• A promise of ‘blessings’ that can be neither seen nor held in our hands
• A lifestyle hemmed in by rules that have no authority
• A message that is just a myth
• A non-existent, beyond death, future

In addition to this fundamental god-less, faith-less mindset of our age, the disciples of Christ also find that Christ’s challenge to faithfulness is in stark contrast to the lifestyle and values of our contemporary society and even of the contemporary church.

Reflection and response: Discuss the attitudes of contemporary society and contemporary Christianity to the faithfulness described in the left hand column. In the box below each section list the difficulties this poses for our faithfulness to Christ and his message.

Biblical faithfulness

Contemporary society

Contemporary Christianity

Faithfulness means believing in Christ as God to the exclusion of everything else that is called ‘god’

 

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness means being committed to the reliability of the Word of God as the one final and absolute message that all the world needs to hear

 

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness means being committed to obedience to the commands of God revealed in his Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness means being there for the long haul, whether it is easy or hard, exciting or boring

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithfulness means staying with Christ even if the majority calls you to follow them, even if you are the only one left