#126 Live Life At Its Best—Part VIII (25/04/04)

Message by: Robert A. Schuller

My father and I are continuing our series of messages on Living Life at Its Best. And the way you and I can do that is to allow the Holy Spirit of God to come and fill us with Christ's spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Today I'm going to concentrate on the spirit of faithfulness. How we all need this gift which is so incredibly displayed by God. Through the ages God has been and is so faithful to the world He created. What an incredible gift that God has given to us. Great is God's faithfulness year after year. And yet we have a big challenge understanding the faithfulness of God ... perhaps because society isn’t often faithful to us. Faithfulness seems to be a lost virtue.

I suggest that we have a hard time with this word "faithfulness" partly because of our consumerism mentality today. It is hard to be a consumer without just discarding things, isn't it?
I was raised with cloth diapers ... but I raised my children with disposable diapers (it's much easier!). I was raised with a Brownie camera ... my kids were raised with Kodak disposable cameras. We can go down the list. I was raised with writing pens that were replaced with cartridges ... but today pens are all disposable when the ink runs out ... in the trash it goes ... discarded!

What Has Happened to Faithfulness?

Yes, it seems that our consumer mentality has affected all society today... you get what you want out of a product and then you just throw it away. What has happened to faithfulness? Sociologists look at our society today and say that the trend is toward serial polygamy. They say, "We’re not married to more than one spouse at a time, just one and then another ... and then another ... serial polygamy. We get what we want out of other people and then we simply discard them. They're gone ... out of our life.

But the good news about faithfulness is that God is faithful to us. I can't tell you how grateful I am that God continues to fill me with His Holy Spirit. He continues to give to me and bless me in spite of my shortcomings and my problems. Because of God’s faithfulness to me, I can live life at its best!

I spent many of my summers on my Uncle Henry's farm when I was a growing teen. Uncle Henry is my father’s oldest brother by about ten years. And the two of them are exact opposites in just about every way you can imagine. My uncle still has dark hair... I don’t remember my father not having gray hair. My uncle is tall and skinny and he can eat a horse and doesn’t gain a pound. My father is constantly worried about gaining a pound. My uncle is shy and bashful. He talks very little. He is as quiet as can be ... but my father is the exact opposite. You can’t get him to quiet down! You can’t get a word in edgewise. His mind is racing ahead and he has so much to say and he is wonderful and entertaining. Meanwhile, my uncle is very thoughtful and meticulous. The two are like the tortoise and the hare. They don’t look alike ... they don’t think alike. You would never say they are brothers.

So when I spent my summers with my uncle, I saw two completely different kinds of masculinity and they both had an incredible affect on me as a human being. I am grateful to have spent so much time with my uncle. He actually purchased the farm my father was raised on. There was a large gorge that ran through this farm. The river had changed course and taken all the dirt away and then when it changed course, it created a huge island and there were several acres of soil that could be planted and harvested, but there was this incredible crevasse which kept them from doing that.

So my grandfather began filling this large gorge by dumping all of his trash in that big hole, hoping someday it would be full enough where they could cross it and start growing crops. Then neighbors started coming over and asked to use the dump to discard their trash. Whenever they did, we would run out to the dump and see what treasures were thrown away. One summer I pulled enough copper out and I cleaned it and sold it for scrap metal for about fifty cents a pound ... I made about $300 just pulling out copper. And I did the same thing with aluminum and other metals. I cleaned and sold it. Uncle Henry would pick out the electrical appliances, like toasters, and old lawn mowers taking them all apart, and saving the electrical motors.

His philosophy was this ... he said to me, "Robert, 99 percent of the time, if I save something someone has thrown away I can take it apart, clean it, put back together again, and it works! Just like new! They just need a little glue, a little tape, or wire that was disconnected. I clean it, put it back together and it works." So we would spend hours tearing apart these treasures and putting them back together, plugging them in, and have the joy to see we could make them work again! Now, that’s the way God treats us.

God does not discard us

God does not discard us when we don’t work anymore. God is faithful. He picks us up ... He cleans us ... and He puts us back together again, and then God plugs us into His Holy Spirit and we become the people that He intended us to be. God is faithful and He does not reject us just because we are broken. He will create something new and beautiful with our brokenness. He has made a commitment to all humanity of His love to us, His people, whom He has created.

"God so loved the word that he sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Jesus Christ, in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection, was faithful to God, the Father. And as a result of Christ’s faithfulness, we have the privilege and honor of receiving the gifts of His Holy Spirit.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22)

A friend of mine is an attorney, named Bill Bennett. I first met Bill about ten years ago when he invited my wife and me to go to dinner with him and his wife and attend a Christmas show at the Performing Arts Center. When my wife and I were driving home, I said to her, "Did Mrs. Bennett seem a little strange to you?" She replied, "Yes, there is something that isn’t quite right." Sometime later I talked with Bill and I asked, "How is your wife doing? Is everything OK with her?" And he confided in me that she had a neurological disease, similar to an early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s. The next year, we went to the Christmas show together again, and we noticed that she was much more disconnected than the year before. My wife had to help her to the restroom. The following year Bill’s wife didn’t come to the show. Throughout this entire period of many years, Bill cared for his wife. He loved his wife. He took her on cruises. He did special things and helped her all the time. He was faithful to his wife until the day she died. He is a good man.

I am thinking of another gentleman, whose name is Jack Brown. Jack Brown served his two terms as a board member of our Crystal Cathedral Ministries. He is the owner of a local food chain, Stater Bros. As many of you know, we had a horrible strike in many of our food stores here in Southern California which lasted for many months. When that strike was taking place, the employees at Stater Bros. got together and had a vote whether or not to support that strike. The result was an unanimous decision not to support the strike. Do you know why? Because Jack Brown is a man who cares for his employees. He is faithful to them. He started as a bag boy. He knows what they are doing. He knows their hard work. Now he owns the company.

Then the employees voted whether or not to keep the stores open during the strike. Again, the one hundred percent decision was to keep the stores open. Well, the stores did exceptionally well and Jack Brown did something that was unprecedented. He gave all the union worker employees a bonus. It is unheard of in corporate America today to give union workers bonuses. He is faithful to his employees, and as a result, his employees are faithful to him ... and that resulted in a banner year. Everybody wins!

Today, corporate America needs to realize this lesson of faithfulness. It is not "us" and "them". It is "we." It is teamwork. It is corporate executives embracing the employees and saying, "I have faith in you" ... and trusting their employees to do the same. When this happens, I believe we will see a major change in corporate America.

Now, consider the faithfulness of God for us ... when we fail ... when we sin ... He simply takes us apart, washes us to clean us all up, puts us back together and says, "OK, there, my faithful servant, go and sin no more." God puts us back together again, for a purpose and for a reason, and that purpose and that reason is to be faithful. Faithful to the calling that God has given to us. If it is to be a minister ... to minister. If it is to be a doctor ... to doctor. If it is to be a bricklayer, to be the best bricklayer God has called you to be. If it is to be a housewife, to care lovingly you’re your husband and your children ... and the list goes on and on and on. Jesus Christ is the example of faithfulness for us. Then the Holy Spirit fills our heart with the faithfulness we need to be the persons that God has called us to be.

Philip D. Kenneson is a professor of theology and philosophy at Mulligan College in Tennessee. In his book entitled "Life on the Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in Christian Community" [1] he suggests that we each have a faithfulness quotient. Here is how it works. Make a lit of people to whom you are committed, the people and the societies to which you have made a commitment. If you are a member of the church, put that down. If you are a member of Rotary, list that. If you’re a member of the Soroptimist Club, put that down. If you have friendships that you are committed to, your spouse, your children, you put those all down. Then next to your commitment list, make a list of all of the individuals, persons, and places that you can count ... you can depend on when you need help, when you need someone to support you, when you go through a tough time. And then you compare those two lists, side by side. More times than not, you’re going to discover that the two lists are about the same length and if you don’t feel like that list of people you can count on is long enough, you have to look at the list of people to whom you are committed. Maybe it is time for you to consider joining the church. Maybe it is time for you to make a commitment to God and, in faith, trusting Him and think about tithing. Maybe it is time for you to start thinking about your commitment and your faithfulness to your spouse and to your family and to your friends. Maybe it is time for you to call upon the Holy Spirit of God to empower you, to cleanse you, to make you whole. Faithfulness is one of the beautiful gifts of God that gives us the power to live life at its best!

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are a gracious, loving, good God, that You have empowered and strengthened me. You have washed and cleansed me. You have repaired me. You have made me whole. And so I thank You for Your faithfulness, for Your Son, Jesus Christ, who simplifies this incredible faithfulness and for Your Holy Spirit who empowers me. So give me, O Lord, the thankful heart to respond to You and say "yes" to You. I love You Lord. Amen


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