The Bible throughout speaks of the importance of faithfulness. While the faithfulness of God is of course key here, with his unwavering commitment to, and concern for, his people and his purposes, it is our faithfulness that I want to address here.
Scripture often reminds us of the need to be faithful – first and foremost to God of course, but to others, to our ministry, to the truth, to that which is right, to our family, etc. We are to emulate God, and just as he is faithful in all things, we too should be in all areas.
Consider just one passage: in 1 Corinthians 4 Paul speaks about the ministry of apostles and he says this: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (4:1-2).
And being faithful also involves enduring, persisting and not giving up. For example, in Revelation 2:10 we read, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
But here I want to narrow down this discussion even further, and talk about the vital need to be faithful in little things. I actually think that in some ways it is harder to be faithful in the small things than in the bigger things. Think especially in terms of ministry.
In some ways it may be easier for the mega-ministry folks than for the small fries in the church. The humble, ordinary believer may not appear on stage, be under the spotlight, present himself before mass audiences, but he must daily be faithful in the little things in life.
Being a “mere” housewife is an example: someone who daily does what needs to be done, but often without a word of thanks, even from other family members. Certainly the larger world knows nothing of what she does day in and day out.
Planning and making meals every day, doing all the clean-up, laundry, dirty dishes, clothes mending, doing the grocery shopping, getting the clothes out for the kids each morning, making their lunches, running them around, etc, etc. On and on the list goes.
A million daily tasks are performed and usually without any words of praise, and certainly no public fanfare. They just get up every morning, even when they don’t feel like it, or even when they are sick, and they faithfully do what needs to be done to keep the family going. My wife of course comes to mind here.
Or it could involve the workplace. Perhaps all around you fellow workmates are cheating on their hours or their taxes, pinching office supplies, using the internet for personal matters, short-changing their bosses in various ways, and so on. But you faithfully do what is right, even if no one notices – because it is the right thing to do.
And it is the same in ministry matters. While flashy evangelists or Bible teachers get all the public attention, get seen and heard by millions, and are in the spotlight 24/7, what about all the “ordinary” Christians who make such ministries possible?
What about the bookkeepers, the accountants, the printers, the cooks, the techies, the ushers, the parking lot attendants, the secretaries, the caterers, even the janitors and the cleaners? There are a million unseen and unheralded tasks that must be done to make the very public ministry of the big time Christian leaders possible.
They seldom get any sort of recognition. And what about the “mere” Christian who is not part of any megachurch or mega-ministry, but just faithfully carries on every day for the work of the kingdom? They may even be housebound invalids whose only work is to pray without ceasing.
They may pray and fast and intercede many hours a day, not just for unsaved family members, but for the work of missionaries in faraway countries, or the spread of the gospel through Christians enduring much persecution. They may do spiritual warfare on behalf of Christians in places like Pakistan or Indonesia or Egypt where we so often read of terrible persecution and oppression.
Some will do sewing or knitting, making clothes for foreign missionaries. Some will bake cakes and get involved in a car wash to raise money for Christian ministry. Some will volunteer their time to do construction work overseas, maybe helping to erect a church building or accommodation for missionaries.
In the days before smart phones, the internet, Skype and other means of instant communication, faithful Christians would write lengthy and encouraging letters – and aerograms! – to overseas Christian workers. Some would collect and sell postage stamps to stamp collectors to raise money for missions.
Some would distribute missionary newsletters, again before the day of email and the social media. Some will put together “care packages” of food, clothing and other goodies to send to Christian workers in other countries. Some will organise various fundraisers to help finance Christian endeavours.
And simply being faithful in one’s family is a massive, but unsung, virtue. I already mentioned the hardworking and faithful housewife. What about the hardworking and faithful father who goes to that back-breaking foundry or factory every day so that he can earn enough money to look after his family and make sure the bills are paid and food is always on the table?
They may have been at the same unglamorous, tedious, boring and difficult workplace for decades, but they do it because they love their family and they want to make sure the family is well looked after. They are faithful in little things day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
These are some of the true super-saints. They get no attention from others. Their praises are not sung by the masses. What they do is usually never trumpeted and never known about. But they are faithful in the little things. They are the true champions. They are the real heroes.
And as I say, this may be the harder calling. It would be so easy just to give up. ‘What is the point?’ ‘Why bother?’ It would be so much easier to just walk: quit the job, dump the family, and try to find some greener pastures elsewhere. That is the easy way out.
But the real champions are those who hang in there. And that includes some of the most basic and vital faithfulness of all: keeping one’s marriage vows. Those who have stayed faithful to their spouse for 30, 40, 50 or more years, are some of the great saints out there.
When the entire culture around you says ‘look after Number One’ and tells you to look down on binding commitments such as marriage vows, and just go and ‘be who you really are,’ it takes a whole lot of faithfulness to resist those siren sounds. It takes real courage and commitment to go against the flow on this.
And regrettably it is not just the world pushing all this me-first hedonism and selfishness, but much of the church also is into this big time as well. That makes it even more amazing when a Christian is faithful and true, whether to a spouse, a family, a calling, a ministry, and so on.
The emphasis today is to cut and run. It is to look after only yourself, and live a life of ease and pleasure. Anything that is demanding or involves self-sacrifice is foolish and to be shunned. Talk about a war against faithfulness and commitment.
Jesus of course often spoke about this very thing. In Luke 16:10 for example he said this: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much”. And in Luke 19:17 he said, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.”
Jesus acknowledged, appreciated and applauded those who were faithful in the little things. They were the kind of people he delighted in and heartily commended. And they are the kind of people who one day will hear those marvellous words: “Well done good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
We can be thankful for great saints and evangelists like Whitefield and Wesley, or tireless workers like Wilberforce and Colson. But we also should be very grateful for the single mum who gets up every morning in a cold and dark house, gets a good breakfast ready for the kids, takes them to school, and then does a million chores throughout the day before picking them up from school, feeding them again, reading to them and then putting them to bed.
And then she repeats that day after day after day, without complaining, without bitterness, and without the public spotlight. These people who are faithful in the little things are without doubt the great heroes of our time, and they deserve our recognition and our applause. We salute you.
To keep this from being just theoretical, let me finish by putting a face to all this. I know of one super-saint in Sydney who is the epitome of the faithful servant. She has all sorts of health issues herself, has a special needs child, and has a caring husband, but one who is not yet a Christian. Just yesterday she posted this:
Because of his special needs issues my son struggles a lot more than the average child to regulate his emotions and control his behaviour – it doesn’t make a difference what day it is, what’s going on or how sick I am, so of course today was no different.
After many such incidents today he said, “Mama – I hope I didn’t ruin Mother’s day for you”. And I said “As long as I have you, Mother’s day could never be ruined.” Presents are nice, down time is important, but in the end Mum’s don’t really need much for Mother’s day – just being a Mother is enough. And BTW – today I realised that this is my 10th Mother’s day! Such an honor.
She can go through more hell on a daily basis than most of us will experience in a lifetime. But she cheerfully carries on, being faithful in what God has given her to do. She is a champion in my eyes, and her reward in heaven will one day be hers to joyously claim. Keep it up champ and bless you heaps.