Faithfulness. It's a word that has been on my mind often lately. First, because the faithfulness of God has been such a major theme of all God has been teaching me and working in my life in recent years especially. But in the last few weeks, the faithfulness of God's people has been a recurring theme as well.
Our church celebrated its 50th anniversary this year...this past weekend, in fact. It was a wonderful weekend of looking back at God's work over the past 50 years and looking forward to where God is going to take us from here...and I'm planning a post (or perhaps posts :)) on the anniversary itself soon.
In the meantime, this post has been "percolating" for a few weeks. I had the blessing of serving on the anniversary committee, and as part of that, collecting photographs from the church's 50 year history and re-doing our church scrapbook. It was a lot of work, but it was *mostly* fun work...despite some major frustrations along the way. :)
One of the best parts of the whole process was learning so many things about our church history that I didn't know and hearing so many stories I'd never heard. We've been at Oak Cliff almost 15 years, and I learned a lot when I served on the 40th anniversary committee ten years ago, but there were many things about its history that I didn't piece together until this go-round.
As I went through photos with various people trying to put names with faces and identify dates and events, there were many people who always evoked similar reactions: "Oh, look there is ________________. He/she served so faithfully for so many years"....and then would come the explanation of the fact that this lady worked in the nursery for 30+ years, or this man was so faithful in this ministry up until the day he died, or this person was the beloved teacher in this department for so long. This one was such a prayer warrior. This person gave so generously anytime there was a need. This person was always such an encouragement to everyone around them. This person shared the gospel with everyone they met.
|Four of the seven faithful pastors of Oak Cliff|
It was such a blessing and encouragement to hear those stories. It was a blessing to see pictures of people from 30, 40, 50 years ago who are still serving the Lord today, although their bodies may move more slowly and their area of service may have changed due to physical limitations.
Occasionally, though, the stories weren't so encouraging. There were the pictures that no one really wanted to display...photos that were reminders of people who had in one way or another fallen away...those who chose a lifestyle of sin over faithful service, those who let bitterness overtake them...those who aren't now serving the Lord at Oak Cliff or anywhere else.
As I was sorting through photos one day, I was struck by the contrasts. And overwhelmed with the desire to be in that first group, rather than the second. To be faithful to the finish. And immediately the old Steve Green song came to mind (and has stayed there now for weeks!)...
We are so blessed to have such a heritage of faithfulness at Oak Cliff. But as with any church, I suppose, there are those whose stories grieve our hearts...and most of all grieve the heart of God. The kids and I have spent time this week talking about these things, and discussing the subject of faithfulness. I reminded them that one of the names that comes up often in relation to faithfulness is a name very near and dear to us...their Papaw, my dad. Bro. Phil used him as an example of faithfulness in his sermon Saturday night, in fact.
I've reflected a lot lately on the heritage of faithfulness not only from our church, but also from my parents. From the time I was a little girl, my parents taught me...by word and by example...the importance of faithfulness. They continued to live that even when it became difficult to the point that most people would have said that they had a "reason"...multiple ones, in fact, for letting the younger, more active people take over. Daddy sang in choir even after he was declared legally blind and could no longer read the music, and when getting in and out of the choir loft every week became not just difficult, but painful. He taught 3rd grade Sunday School right up until his health got so bad that he couldn't get to church at all. My mom has continued to teach in the kindergarten Sunday School class even though her mobility has gotten so poor she is having a hip replacement next week. They have believed and lived that we are to serve God until we literally *can't* anymore...not until it is just inconvenient or difficult.
|My dad as Noah...a role he reprised often :)|
The children and I talked about the fact that faithfulness isn't just what we *do*...it is who we *are*. Faithfulness may be seen through our activities, but it begins in our hearts. It starts with our totally giving our hearts and lives to Christ, and then seeking the Holy Spirit's help to live for Him every day. Faithfulness isn't just about doing the right things...it is about making right choices, even in the little things, day by day. And faithfulness isn't about never making a mistake...never sinning...because we all will. It's about repenting, in brokenness, when we do make a wrong choice, and turning from that, rather than "wallowing" in it.
Our conversation yesterday stemmed from study we were doing on the life of Solomon. Solomon started out well...at the beginning of his reign as king of Israel, he made a good choice, for which God rewarded him, and he became not only the wisest man who ever lived, but also one of the wealthiest. God allowed him to build His temple, and to have a very prosperous reign as king. And yet, by the end of his life, Solomon had made wrong choices and turned away from God, ending his reign and his life in disobedience, sin, and idolatry.
Solomon's father, David, also made some very wrong choices, and committed some truly heinous sins. The difference between David and his predecessor, Saul, and his successor, Solomon, was that David always acknowledged his sin, repented in brokenness, and turned back to God. Perfection is not the key to faithfulness...repentance and commitment are.
I'd been pondering this blog post for several days, and finally determined yesterday to get it posted. Then last night, my friend Michelle posted this verse on Facebook. She had heard it in the testimony of an elderly man who was receiving a volunteer award...he cited it as his motivation to volunteer. I thought it went so perfectly with what the children and I have been discussing, and with this post...I originally read it in the New Living Translation, which I don't normally use, but I love the wording, and I think it stays pretty true to the translations I trust most...the ESV and NASB:
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
Here it is in the ESV...
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
And in NASB...
They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,
I want to be vital and full of sap, producing fruit into my old age! I want my children to have that heritage not only from their church and from their grandparents, but from their parents. I want that to be a desire of my children's hearts even at their young ages now. I am so thankful for my parents, and for so many others through the years who have modeled that faithfulness for me. I am thankful for our church, celebrating 50 years of faithfulness this year and looking forward to many more. Mostly, I am thankful for God's faithfulness that never wavers.