On the List
All too often we approach faithfulness from a selfish perspective. Our desire in wanting to increase our faith is usually wrapped up in some desire for life to be better for us. “If I had more faith, I wouldn’t worry as much.” “If I trusted God more, things would turn out better.” All too often we think of faith as part of our skill-set that we should hone so life will be easier. Rarely do we look at faithfulness as our worship of God, as our love of God invited as a response to God’s love for us, our recognition of just who God is.
What’s on your list of the five most important things to you? You’re reading this so I’ll bet that God is on that list. Maybe family is on the list. Health. Work. Financial security. Community involvement. Your good name. All of those are pretty important. Now if you’re real honest, where exactly is God on that list? You’re like me so I’m guessing it depends on the day. Some days God is number one. Some days God slips to four or five. But he’ll be back to number one in a few days. God kind of moves around depending on what we need or how the other things on the list are going.
What I’ve just described is probably the opposite of faithfulness. Years ago I read a list of the 20 biggest party schools in the country. The list had one prominent school at number one with an asterisk beside it. Then it listed the other nineteen schools. Then at the bottom the asterisk appeared again and noted that the school listed as number one really deserved its own list altogether. None of the other nineteen schools should even be on the same list as that school, the note explained.
God shouldn’t just be on our top-five list. God should be a list unto himself. God should be at the center of our lives. We should worship God because that is meet and right, not just because it helps us feel better. God should be at the center of our lives and we should deal with our list of important things to tend to from that centering. Faithfulness isn’t moving God up a notch or two. Faithfulness is putting God in the center of all my efforts. Faithfulness is trusting that God is tending to things in the best possible way. Faithfulness is appreciating all that is being accomplished by God’s grace and knowing that the things that aren’t going the way I think they should will ultimately be resolved by God. Faithfulness is taking all my concerns to God in trust instead of taking God to all my concerns as a fix-it man. God is not there for me to use when I need him. God is there to be worshipped, loved, and trusted.
We enter that time of the year when our various offerings for Christian Formation resume. It’s one of the times in the year when we reexamine our priorities and commitments and renew our efforts to be faithful. This year St. John’s also commits itself to a process of self-examination as we begin the search for the next rector. If you’ve been standing on the sidelines, this is the perfect time to find your way back into the warm center of the parish. That will feed you and renew your faithfulness. It will also be a form of service and help renew the faithfulness of the group.
Sometimes our church involvement is just one more item on our long list of things to squeeze in. We weigh church offerings against school, family, work, and leisure, and we get to the church things when we can fit them in. Surely God wants more from us than to just be one more item on our list of things to juggle.
Take advantage of this time which asks us to examine ourselves, our priorities, our choices, our faithfulness. Remember that God is the center of the universe, not we ourselves. Often we act like we are the center. We bring God in when we can fit him in. We move him up and down on our list of priorities. We are invited not to move God up higher, but to put him on a list all his own. The Old Testament speaks of God as a jealous God. That doesn’t mean God is petty and pouts when we ignore him. It means that God wants more with each of us.
Our great model for faithfulness is Christ Jesus, the one who becomes like us so that we may become like God. That’s the promise of faithfulness, not that we would improve but that we would we would be transformed. Be faithful. Be faithful, not for yourself, but for God.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.