The ‘What’, ‘How’, & ‘Why’ of Christian Faithfulness

From Genesis to Revelation, God’s people are exhorted to faithfulness. There are places where we are exhorted generally (i.e. ‘Love the Lord your God’) and other places where we find detailed prescriptions for our behaviour (see the Book of Leviticus). While no single passage of Scripture provides an exhaustive description of Christian faithfulness, there is a passage which provides a brief, yet thorough, summary of how the Christian ought to live. That passage is 1Peter 4:7-11.

Here, Peter describes ‘What’ we ought to be doing, and he does so in a particular, and helpful, order. Peter then explains ‘How’ we ought to follow/serve Christ.  And finally, Peter explains ‘Why’ (to what end) we should engage in such activities in such a manner. 

On Jan. 18 at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, and again on Jan. 25 at St. Andrew’s-Bermuda, I spoke from this passage under the heading, ‘Faithfulness Explained’.

First, to the ‘What’:

  1. FOCUS – before we can render service, before we can effectively pray, we need our minds to be under control—we need to focus. Accordingly, Peter implores us, “Be clear-minded and self-controlled” (v.7).
  2. PRAY – this is our vital connection with the One whom we desire to honour with our service. In order to please Him with our actions, we must first seek and discern His will. The reason Peter gives for bringing our minds under control is “so that (we) can pray” (v.7).
  3. LOVE – this is a note often sounded by Jesus Himself. It is a theme picked up by Paul, John, and here, Peter. The NIV rendering is “Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (v.8). The rendering “deeply” is a bit misleading. The Greek implies strain, effort, and toil. It is a word used to describe the exertion of an athlete. Peter is exhorting us to stretch our love beyond normal boundaries and to widen the circle of those we seek to love. 
  4. SERVE – genuine love is always marked by action and so we are not surprised to hear Peter’s call “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (v.9). I love the two qualifiers here. First, hospitality is multi-directional. That is, we give hospitality and we receive hospitality–it is offered to “one another”. Secondly, it appears that the temptation to begrudge serving another is a timeless temptation. I hear Peter saying that grumbling ruins service. Service, as the overflow of Christian love, should always be marked by joy.
  5. SPEAK – we’re likely familiar with the saying, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it.’ Peter ups the ante on that when he says, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (v.11). In other words, if you don’t have something to say that would please God, or be said by God, don’t say it.

If you’re slightly intimidated by the list of ‘What’ we ought to be doing, you are not alone. By our own efforts we will fail to be faithful. Thankfully, my faithfulness does not come from my power, but from God’s power. Peter explains ‘How’ to be faithful when he exhorts us, “If anyone serves, he should do with with the strength God supplies” (v.11). Yes, God offers Divine power as we seek to conform to His will. This matches the experience of the apostle Paul who wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). 

And lest anyone think that the call to FOCUS, PRAY, LOVE, SERVE, and SPEAK has its aim at making us spiritual superheroes, Peter also clarifies the ‘Why’ in this passage. We are reminded by Peter that this isn’t about us. Our pursuit of faithfulness is for Christ’s sake, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God supplies so that in all things God is glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (v.11). 

While the primary aim of Christian faithfulness is God’s glory, I wouldn’t want anyone to think this aim is at odds with our joy. But the order is important. We aim first at God’s glory; we serve God and one another by God’s power and the overflow of that service will be our deep, abiding, joy.   

John Piper says it well, ‘God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.’ 

Have a listen to the message below, and be encouraged in your pursuit of faithfulness. 

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