Great is thy faithfulness
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and come down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17.
In the wonderful and popular old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Chisholm wrote, “O God my Father, / There is no shadow of turning with Thee,/ Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,/ As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be”.
Theologians tell us that God is immutable – His nature never changes. For many of us, our eyes glaze over when someone quotes old hymns and theologians, but the truth is essential to our emotional stability and spiritual growth. People are fickle. We change our minds about every conceivable thing – sometimes several things in a few minutes. If we are indecisive too often, people around us wonder if they can count on us. The same conclusion would be true of God if His decisions and nature changed, but they don’t.
When every thing else in our lives is out of control, God is the rock – solid foundation we can stand on. When the future looks like a thick fog bank, God is the lighthouse. We may fear that a spouse or a parent or best friend or boss will waver, but we never have to wonder if God‘s love, strength, and purpose for us will change. They won’t.
Our faith is based on many things: the evidence of God‘s creative hand in nature; His love and power described in the Bible; the life, death and resurrection of Christ; and the miracle of changed lives around us. In the ultimate sense, though our faith rests on the truth that we can count on God‘s faithfulness. At the bottom of all the muck of struggles and confusion, we find a solid rock.
I have held many things in my hands and have lost them all, but what ever I have placed in God‘s hands, that I still possess “– Martin Luther
We talk a lot about faith- our faith. But quite often our faith wavers and doubt presses it down. And in the midst of all our angst about our faith we forget about the faithfulness of God which never changes or wavers. It’s the constant in the universe. James tells us that God isn’t like shadows that move and change with the movement of the sun. If you’ve spent any time outdoors on a bright summer day you have observed how shadows move and change in shape and size. And life is the same. We all experience how life can change in a moment whether we’re ready for it or not. And when it does we need an anchor, a rock, something stable and steady, unmovable and unchanging. James tells us that God is that rock that remains unchanged. We know that even lofty mountains made of solid rock eventually can be worn down by the elements but nothing can wear down the nature and character of God. Nothing can erode His love and grace toward us. He alone remains the unchanging God. No wonder Scripture defines Christ as the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I don’t know about you but to know that Jesus is the same Jesus that walked on this earth and touched and helped so many and He remains unchanged is enormous encouragement and great comfort in an environment that is constantly shifting.
When our faith hinges on the faithfulness and the steady character of God, it has the power to rise to meet every situation. If our faith is based on cause and effect- that is whether or not we get the expected answer to our prayer or not- it can waver. Like the disciples who fled from the garden and hid out in fear for their lives on the night Christ was arrested, when things don’t go like we think they ought, we, too, find ourselves running away from a situation in fear. Some of us like Peter may even go back to our old lifestyles. But in His faithfulness to His promises and His love for us, He shows up on the seashore and calls out to us to “come and dine.” It may be hard to believe our eyes and perhaps if we answer the call to leave our former life and join Him on the seashore, we’re afraid that His words will be those of scolding us. With fear and trembling we wade ashore and discover that the One who called us before has prepared food as a friend would for an invited guest. As we sit with Him waiting for Him to ask what we would ask a friend who left us in time of need- “How could you?”, instead we hear, “Do you love me more than these?” What these? “Do you love me more than you love fishing, your old life, the old ways that you ran back to when it didn’t turn out like you wished?”
You see in our unfaithfulness, we will still find the faithfulness of God who doesn’t vary in His love and grace and ways. And His faithfulness toward us is sufficient to draw us to a place of faith.
While it is true that each of us must choose how we will respond to God, we must remember that He is faithful to hold out His hand to us. Sometimes when we read the story of Peter trying to walk on water we either focus on the fact that Peter got out of the boat or we focus on when he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. What can be overlooked is the faithfulness of God. Let’s not forget the whole story that tells us that while Jesus was on the mountain praying, He saw the disciples in the storm and went to their rescue. To get where they were He had to walk on the water. When Peter starts toward Jesus and begins to sink, he cries out to Jesus. We read that Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand and together they walk back to the boat. Once Jesus got in the boat He spoke to the storm and it obeyed. God accomplished His mission. What the story tells us more than anything is that we can trust the faithfulness of God even when our faith is failing. Perhaps that’s true faith; learning to trust that God is consistently faithful.
Dr. John Thompson