Since 1948, Gallup Poll has published a list of “the most admired man and woman.” Evangelist Billy Graham has been on that list 61 times, more than anyone else. For comparison, the second closest, President Ronald Reagan, has been on the list 30 times. The most recent list, 2017, still lists Billy Graham as one of the top 10 most respected men in America through he retired in 2005.
This November 2018, Billy Graham will celebrate his 100th birthday. There has been much said and written about Billy Graham over the years. The thing that endears Billy Graham to people has been his faithfulness. He has been a man of steady character, faithfulness and integrity. In an interview several years ago Billy Graham said “we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful.”
I cannot emphasize enough the power and priority of faithfulness. So let me explain a section of Scripture and point out three principles of being faithful.
Exposition of 1 Corinthians 4:1-6…
“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
Paul wanted others to consider Christian leaders – Paul, Appollos, Peter (“us”) as a minister and steward. The Greek word for minister was the word for an ‘under-rower’ on a galley ship. The servant was a slave who also managed of household. Instead of seeing them as rival leaders, the Corinthians should recognize them as simply slaves with a job to do.
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
The key requirement of a servant is faithfulness to his master rather than yielding to the demands of those in his responsibility. Only the master of the house can make the determination of how well he is carrying out his duties.
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Paul was little concerned what others thought of his service. He even thought little of his own opinion of his performance. Though Paul’s conscience was clear, he was not justified on that basis. A clear conscience is not a good determination. Only Jesus is a good judge.
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
God alone knows the things ‘hidden in darkness’ and ‘motives of the heart’. God alone knows our deepest secrets and our private motives. So only He is a good judge. Only before Jesus will their be a complete evaluation of our service.
“Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” (1 Corinthians 4:6)
Apollos and Paul were simply servants. So rather than lift up one above the other, hold off on judgment and leave the determination of service to God. When you feel you can rightly judge the service of another you become way too proud of your own opinion. Paul’s encouragement is “Don’t condemn us; Don’t eulogize us.” Paul encourages them not to go above/beyond what is written. This refers to judgments about which the Bible gives no clear command or principle. Rather than Biblical principles, the Corinthians were using their own prejudices and opinions to commend and criticize others.
Some lessons about faithfulness….
1 – Exercise Faithfulness.
God is not concerned with fruitfulness as much as He is with faithfulness. Talent looks good. But God rewards faithfulness. The Lord’s criteria of our service is not success or popularity, but faithfulness.
2 – Treat lightly people’s opinions of you.
Two temptations we face when we try to serve the Lord. First, we rely too much on the approval or disapproval of others. Second, we relay too much on our own evaluation of our efforts.Don’t believe everything people say about you, even the good things. Reputation is important. But character is your most important quality. Reputation is what others think of you. Character is what God knows about you.
3 – Leave judgment and criticism with the Lord.
Why is it wrong to judge others? (1) Wrong time and place– only in will everything be known. (2) Wrong standard – we often judge from our own preferences rather than Biblical standards. (3) Wrong motive – our motive should be love rather than pride. If a person does deserve to be commended or condemned for service, then the Lord will do it when He returns. Remember this, even if you can escape all other judgments or shut your eyes to them, you cannot escape the judgment of God. Judgment belongs to God. We do well not to judge any one else.
A final illustration of faithfulness….
On October 22, 2017 Cleveland Browns fans gave offensive tackle Joe Thomas a standing ovation in the 3rd quarter as he left the field after an injury. Prior to that injury, Thomas had played every snap for his team since he was drafted in 2007 – a streak of 10,363 plays in a row. Thomas wasn’t a flashy superstar, but when asked about the streak, he humbly said, “Something I’ve found comfort in is, just do your job…. I’m a regular guy who gets up every morning and goes to work, and plays as hard as he can, and is a good teammate.”
I hope when we get to Heaven we will hear the Lord’s summation of our service for Him. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”