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O Come, and be Faithful

Acts 20:18-38



[opening PowerPoint clip from Old Faithful]


Faithfulness is a most important quality that you and I can cultivate in our hearts.  We have such faithful people here…thank you! 


There are some things you cannot do.  You may not be able to get up here and sing, or teach a s.s. lesson like your teacher did this morning, or preach a sermon…but there’s one thing you CAN do…we ALL can do it…we can be faithful!  And as we talk about faithfulness, please allow me to shock you as I say that faithfulness to attend church is the least of what we’re talking about.  True faithfulness happens every day, in a multitude of ways.


The Apostle Paul took 3 missionary journeys.  In chapter 20 he’s about to begin the last lap…his 3rd trip.  And in these verses he’s about to head out for Jerusalem, and he has to say goodbye to these saints at Ephesus he’s spent so much time with.  It’s a very tender and touching scene…one of the most moving and heartwarming farewell speeches that’s ever been recorded in literature.  He literally opens up his heart and let’s us look inside.  Let’s peer inside Paul’s heart, and see what’s in there.


3 attributes we find in Paul’s heart:


1.     Faithfulness

v. 18        This verse speaks of Paul’s faithfulness over those 3 years.  “From the first day” he hit the ground running, and thru many hardships in this very difficult city, he was dependable and never quit, and never slacked off.  “At all seasons” – no matter what happened.


Faithfulness is a quality which I admirebut it’s a quality which God requires! 

I Cor. 4:2

    Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.


Areas where we need to be faithful:

  • To our family—faithfulness begins at home.  Remember the ’96 presidential election?  It was Clinton vs. Dole, and the cry of the day was that a candidate’s private life was his own business, and has nothing to do w/ how he runs the country.  How many remember that?  That’s nonsense, because it has everything to do w/ it.  Public office is a matter of public trust, and if a man is not faithful at home, he’s not faithful anywhere.  This is at the very core of our lives. 


Let me add that we don’t have to be physically unfaithful to be classified as “unfaithful.”  You can be unfaithful simply with your eyes, in tv viewing, on your phone, or out in public.  Some are married to their jobs, some have a love affair w/ shopping or sports.  Being faithful involves establishing and maintaining proper priorities, and realizes that true faithfulness is before God, who sees everything we do. 


Eph. 5:25

    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;


Jesus is the epitome of faithfulness, demonstrated to us, His church, through His great sacrifice. 


There’s nothing so precious that we should not be willing to give it up for our spouse.  No bass boat, no job, no golf outing. [Paul was a golfer for at the end of his life he said, “I have finished my course!”]  This goes for ladies too:  no friend should come before your spouse…no coworker should know secrets you won’t tell your spouse!  Our children should not hold higher loyalty than our spouse.


Faithfulness begins at home or it doesn’t begin at all!


Faithful to our family…


  • In our finances—Question:  what would you do w/ a million dollars?  One guy said, “I’d put it toward my debts, as far as it’d go!”  I know what you’d do with it… exactly what you’re doing with that $100 you have right now.  In other words, if you don’t put God 1st and tithe now you wouldn’t tithe if you had a million dollars.  If you’re not generous now you wouldn’t be generous if you were rich.  If you’re not faithful in your finances now you wouldn’t be then!  Don’t believe that?  Here’s a verse:


Luke 16:10

    He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.


God says, “If I can’t trust you with a little then I can’t trust you with a lot


Ill.—guy said to his wife, “I think our kids got my brains”…she replied, “I’m sure they did, because it’s the little things that count!”


Next verse…

Luke 16:11

    If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  [things like wisdom, power, and understanding]


God says, “The test of your faithfulness in the spiritual realm is what you do with your finances in the physical realm.” 


Many today are deprived of great spiritual blessings, frankly, because they are not faithful w/ money…not just the tithe that God requires, but also the other 90% which He entrusts us to keep and use wisely!  Some don’t get their prayers answered because they aren’t faithful w/ their finances.  Some don’t understand their Bible and lack wisdom because they are unfaithful financially.  Some are powerless in their witness and never win even one soul to Christ because they aren’t faithful financially…they haven’t passed a simple physical test, and God says, “You go nowhere spiritually until you pass this simple test of ownership!”


The money isn’t the real issue…the money is only the test.  Make sure and pass that test, so God can start sticking gold stars and smiley faces all over your life!


As a Pastor, and as a Christian, I need wisdom, power, and understanding, and so I cannot afford to be foolish in my finances…I must be obedient—letting go and letting God show what He can do…if only I’ll pass that simple test!


Be faithful to family, in your finances…


  • To the fellowship—this is about church attendance, which I said is the least of what true faithfulness truly is.  I can say this because if we are truly faithful to God, then it’s a no-brainer that we will be faithful to the church…the body He loved so much that He died for it. 


The Bible has so much to say about faithfulness to church.  It’s a blessing to see you here today…will we be seeing you faithfully?


Romans 12:5

    So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.


That means you’re as much a part of me and I of you, as this arm is a part of my body.  And when the body meets and you’re not here, then part of the body is missing, and we cannot fully function…we need each other! 


Hebrews 10:25

    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.


Ever heard someone say you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian?  Technically, that’s true…but I doubt the sincerity of the salvation of anyone who knowingly and willingly forsakes the assembly when it’s in their power to be there.


Some say, “I get just as much out of nature, on the lake, with my family, at the park.”  And as they say it, they reveal the heart of their problem…you don’t come to church just for what you can get, but for what you can give.


Matthew 20:28

    Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


How many boys and girls can you teach about Jesus at the lake?  What missionaries can you support and write to in the woods?  Whose babies can you watch at the park, so others can hear the preaching?  How much will your marriage be helped and your family enhanced while you’re doing other things w/ friends or family?


Back to Heb. 10:25

“exhorting” = “encouraging  How many of you enjoy church more when there’s a good crowd than when it’s half empty and you’re wondering where the rest of your body is?


I can point to about 10 sermons that have absolutely changed my life.  And I was present for each of those life changing sermons.  What if I wasn’t present?  Several of you have said the same thing about a message you have heard here, and some of you could say the same thing except for the fact that it was on a Wednesday or a Sunday night and you weren’t there, and didn’t take advantage of technology to catch up either, and only eternity will tell what God intended to do in your life!

        We ought to be faithful to our church, trusting that God has our number and His messenger will “ring our bell” if only we follow the basic command to be faithful!

        Every time you come to church you’re saying to God, “you’re important to me.”  But you’re saying more than that…you’re also saying, “Pastor, you’re important to me”, and you’re saying to the people you sit near, “you’re important to me!”  It’s selfish to skip church and say, “it won’t hurt ME.”  Truth is, yes it will, and it hurts others too!


To family, in finances, to the fellowship…


  • To the faith—now I’m talking about the Word of God.  Many today are doubting some parts of God’s Word, and approaching the Bible “cafeteria style”, taking only what you like and leaving the rest behind…putting question marks after some commands of the Scriptures.  Well, today is no time to be putting question marks down, but exclamation points!


Some who doubt the Word today even call themselves “theologians”, which I have a problem with.  For that term comes from 2 Greek words:

Theos = God

Logos = Word

They don’t believe the logos so they must not know the Theos!  It’s like Grape Nuts…they’re neither grapes nor nuts!


Folks, we’re not to judge the Word of God, we’re supposed to let the Word of God judge us!


The first thing we see when we peer into the heart of Paul is faithfulness.  Are you faithful?  To your family?  With your finances?  To the fellowship?  To the faith?

Also, quickly…


2.     Humility

v. 19a      In spite of all his greatness, Paul was a humble man.  He is perhaps the greatest Christian in all of the Bible, but didn’t strut around saying, “Yes, I’m Paul, writer of half the New Testament…from Romans and Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and maybe Hebrews! J”  No, here’s what he said…


I Cor. 15:9

    For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle...


Eph. 3:8

    Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints…


I Tim. 1:15

    …Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.


Humility means you are aware that you are unworthyYou understand that apart from Christ you are nothing and can do nothing.


It’s not in talents…but in the touch of God.  It’s so easy [when God blesses us] to develop an over-inflated opinion of ourselves.  We “glory” in it…but God is the One Who deserves the glory!


Joke—flea on the back of an elephant…they crossed a wooden bridge.  On the other side, the flea whispered in the elephant’s ear, “Did you feel her move when we walked across?!”


Humility is tough to cultivate in your life, esp. if God does something great thru you!

Ill.—woodpecker working on a tree, then it got struck by lightning, obliterating it into a smoking, splinterery mess.  He flew away in shock, came back after a few minutes w/ 5 other woodpeckers and said, “There it is boys, right over there!”

        And isn’t that the way we are when God does something great and we’re nearby?  We get to thinkin’ we’ve done something!  No, “He that is mighty hath done great things…glory to His name!”


Without Him, we can do nothing.  Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine, and ye are the branches.”


Paul says, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work.  I understand that we should work hard, and try to use every tool at our disposal, and we should work like it all depends on us…but thru it all we must pray like it all depends on God, for it does!


3.     Compassion

v. 19        “with many tears”


Some men think it’s not manly to cry.  This man Paul was no weak minded man/basket case/crybaby…he was one of the greatest men of all time.  He was a man’s man, brave and bold as a lion, enduring incredible things for the cause of Christ.  Beaten on several occasions and tortured, imprisoned, maligned and stoned.  He never backed up and never backed down.  Never gave up and never gave in…he was a tough cookie!


Yet, in spite of all of his toughness and tenacity, he had a heart of compassion.


v. 31        “with tears”

v. 37-38   3 things made Paul cry, and the same 3 things ought to bring us to tears


  • Paul wept at the very thought of backslidden Christians—living in sin.


II Cor. 2:4

    For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.


This is a reference to I Cor…his 1st letter to them.  Have you read I Cor. Lately?  It’s a scathing rebuke!  He rebukes their schisms and cliques, for taking one another to court, for sexual immorality, for abusing spiritual gifts and not following the rules of tongues…but he did not write it mad, but in love.  And his tears stained every page.

        When is the last time you wept over an erring believer/backslidden Christian, rather than gossiping about them or feeling superior to them?  When is the last time you went to someone away from God and w/ tears begged them to get right w/ God?  When is the last time you apologized for something out of sincerity and brokenness?


  • Paul wept at the very thought of the threat of false teachers


v. 31       

v. 29-30           This is what he was crying about! 


It breaks my heart each time someone leaves church and ends up somewhere not so founded on the Bible, or out of church altogether.  Sometimes they’re led astray by false doctrine…some of them don’t look at doctrine, just programs, buildings, etc.  “Blown about by every wind…”


  • Paul wept at the very thought of people going to hell


Romans 9:2-3

    That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. [3] For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:


That’s a powerful statement.  He wanted people to be saved so badly that he would be willing to go to hell.


Listen…we’re not asked to go to hell for them, be baptized for them, etc…but rather to pray for them and weep for them.  How could we not weep at the thought of them burning in a Christless hell for all eternity?!


Compassion can do what nothing else can do.

Jude 22

    And of some have compassion, making a difference:


Psalm 126:5-6

    They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. [6] He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.


When we look into Paul’s heart and we see faithfulness…and anyone can be faithful.  Then we see humility and compassion…also choices we can make.  No special talents necessary, the only qualification is willingness to let God do spiritual surgery on us and mold our hearts in His image.


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