Jesus taught—and teaches still—many countercultural principles. He said that if a person wants to be first, his aim should be to keep going to the back of the line; that if a person wants to be a leader, she should aspire to be a humble servant to everyone she meets; and that to enter the Kingdom of God, one must “grow down” until his hearts resembles a child’s heart.
He also taught, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:10, 12)?
In the Kingdom, God will not trust a person with a $100 bill until that person has first carefully managed a $5 bill well. God will not bless an entrepreneurial person’s startup business until that person has first served as a faithful, diligent employee under another person (see verse 12).
Around the world, and especially here in America, many people dream of being overnight sensations. Of being “discovered.” They long for their own rags to riches story. And I love hearing about the underdog winning out! God does that sort of thing all the time! He will suddenly bless people with favor, promotions, connections, and riches—but hear me closely, it may seem like a surprise, overnight dream-come-true to everyone, but what we haven’t seen is the long years of that person’s quiet faithfulness in the background.
We’ve all seen stories of an ordinary person being thrust onto a celebrity platform of influence and glamour before they were ready, only to result in that person’s mental and emotional breakdown. That just demonstrates this biblical principle: a person ought not be trusted with “much” until he has been trained, discipled, and prepared, that is, found to be faithful with a “little.”
Look at the life of King David. He defeated Goliath only after he spent years and years training privately in the wilderness against bears and lions. There was no recognition in the fields, no praise, no connections. Actually he was the runt of the litter and endured scorn from his brothers and was overlooked by his father. But had he not been a faithful sheepherder in lonely fields, God would not have exalted him to the fame and glamour of conquering his nation’s enemy and ultimately becoming a predecessor for the Messiah.
Let’s explore the principle of faithfulness.
Faithfulness vs. Promotion
Maybe you’ve been campaigning for a special promotion or a certain opportunity, and it just keeps passing you by. Can I remind you of a difficult truth? You won’t receive that promotion until God labels you “faithful” with what He’s given you now. When David was anointed king, he marched right up to the existing king Saul and aggressively took control of the kingdom—oh, wait. Nope. What did he do? He went right back out to the lonely fields with his sheep and trusted God with the timing.
I’m not suggesting to you, friend, that you don’t throw your hat in the ring to be considered for a dream position. What I’m reminding you, though, is that Jesus teaches us to fulfill our current responsibilities faithfully. Faithfully. Yes! Show up on time, submit to your leader, and be a diligent worker. You won’t get promoted when you think you’ve been faithful; you’ll get promoted when God thinks you’ve been faithful.
Faithfulness vs. Calling
Have you ever sensed God’s call on your life? By that, I mean you feel undeniably that you are to accomplish a certain task or life experience. A person may feel called to have a career in vocational ministry, or to live in Puerto Rico, or to adopt a child, or… you name it. God has a plan, and He moves pieces around to accomplish that plan. And thank You, God, that people respond to Your call!
As a worship pastor, I’ve had many people audition to be a part of the worship ministry at the churches I’ve pastored, and they’ll tell me, “God has called me to be the next [Chris Tomlin, or Mandisa, or whoever. I’ve heard a lot].” And by the basis of that information, not only do they expect to make it onto the worship team, but they expect to receive all sorts of solos and spotlights. Can I let you in on a little secret? That attitude makes me gag! I’m so sorry to admit that! It probably has the exact opposite effect that the person intends it to have. I care about a person’s calling, but both God and I care far, far, far more about a person’s faithfulness.
I understand that church leaders have an awful lot to do with releasing people into their calling (when it comes to a ‘ministry’ calling)—it falls to us to give people opportunities, give the recommendations, or sign off on the papers. It’s a weighty responsibility that most church leaders always carry soberly. But you can bet your bottom dollar, the person I will recommend for an open worship leader position is the person who is on time for every rehearsal, who has a selfless and flexible attitude, who is spiritually mature, and who always puts in effort—regardless of that person’s calling. It’s true. I look at faithfulness. Some feel called to be worship leaders but their local church worship ministry is simply not a priority, and they get pouty when opportunities pass them by. Sorry! It doesn’t work that way.
I know I’m especially looking at those who feel called to worship ministry, but hopefully you can draw the parallel to your situation. The calling you feel from God is actually a revelation of what could be and what He wants to come to pass, but it’s contingent on your faithfulness with the “little.” At the end of a person’s life, he may wonder why he has a couple unfulfilled dreams, and it usually has everything to do with a lack of diligent faithfulness.
Faithfulness vs. Self-Importance
Jesus said, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:8-11).
In our Western culture, it is the full-time, paid job of some people to be an “influencer.” So many people want the ability to have profound influence, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. But be careful that you don’t exalt yourself because that’s a recipe for disaster, as you know. Being a self-proclaimed expert is a bad look for anybody. I’ve been in important meetings when an uninvited person waltzes in, hoping so badly to be a part of the discussion. Don’t be that guy, no matter what the world encourages. It comes across as self-important, or having no self-awareness, or worse.
On the other hand, let your years of hard work speak for you. Let your years of quiet submission and loyalty speak for you. When God is able to label you “faithful,” then others will surprise you by inviting you to positions of honor and influence. Others will recommend you, speak highly of you, and welcome your influence, simply ringing the truth of God’s principles.
Be faithful where you are. God will exalt you.
Faithfulness vs. Busyness
Here’s a little different perspective on faithfulness, but it’s an incredibly important one. Being faithful right now with what God has trusted to you requires the discipline to say “no” to what He hasn’t trusted to you. For example, if God has trusted you with running a youth ministry at your church, then you must resist the temptation to be involved in things that will drain you of energy and time to run that youth ministry effectively. I’m sure that most of those extra activities that compete for your attention and energy are actually good things, but soon you will be too burnt out to be legitimately faithful with what God said should be your main thing.
Keeping busy is not the same as being faithful. Let me say it again, just for emphasis. Keeping busy is not the same as being faithful. Be faithful with what God has trusted you, and learn to say “no” to what He’s not trusting to you.
A Note to Leaders
The last thing I’d like to say is a brief word to leaders. Jesus warned us that if a person is not faithful in small matters, they can’t be trusted with big matters (Luke 16:10). Listen, if someone on your team is not “passing the test” with little tasks, she won’t “pass the test” when it really counts. If he won’t scrub toilets because it’s beneath him, then he is not fit for platform ministry. That can be a difficult lesson for us (and for me, too) because we all want to give people chances. But we must allow the Holy Spirit to both begin and finish His beautiful vetting process, which in turn allows people to learn faithfulness. And then we reward people with new responsibilities, or remove responsibilities, in correspondence with their faithfulness. At the end of the day, none of us want a gaggle of entitled divas but instead a united team of proven, faithful people.
My friends, God has a plan for your life. Often His timing and processes run directly opposite to the standards of the world, and there are times when being faithful in small matters can feel like we are losing time. But God’s principles are best, and His ways are immeasurably good! And when we are faithful, He is faithful. C’mon! That’s good news! Your continued obedience and faithfulness swing wide the door for God’s customized blessings to cascade into your life!
Stay the course. Stay faithful in what He’s trusted to you now.