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Leadership

Characteristics of Faithfulness (Part 1)

One day, every one of us will have a final exam. Jesus tells us about our final exam in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). 

You probably know the story. A master gives several workers talents (aka money) when he goes away. Two workers invest their shares and generate a surplus for their master, but a third worker buries his. 

The master commends the first two workers, saying to each, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 NLT). But he calls the third “lazy” and levels severe consequences against him.

The parable is a picture of our final exam as followers of Jesus. Someday, Jesus will ask us how we used what we were given. Our faithfulness will determine whether he tells us, “Well done.”

The good news is you can prepare now for that final exam. Jesus will look at eight different aspects of your life to judge your faithfulness. Here are the first four.

1. You have the right values.

Faithful people know what’s important—and what isn’t. They order their lives around what matters most. Proverbs 28:20 introduces us to two people with very different values: “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished” (NIV). The Bible says Christians are like fish swimming upstream in a very materialistic world. We prove our faithfulness by refusing to conform to a system that values money above everything else.

2. You care for the interests of others, not just your own.

The Bible tells us God will judge our faithfulness by looking at our relationship with others. A great example of this is Paul and Timothy’s relationship. The apostle Paul says, “I don’t have anyone else like Timothy” (Philippians 2:20 GW). That’s a strong statement of support! Then he goes on with more details: “He takes a genuine interest in your welfare. Everyone else looks after his own interests, not after those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:20-21 GW). 

Our commitment to putting others first shows our faithfulness.

3. You live a life of integrity before unbelievers. 

As pastors, we often focus on our reputation among believers. But the Bible tells us that a mark of faithfulness is what unbelievers think of us. When Paul lists church leadership qualifications, he includes “a good reputation with outsiders” (1 Timothy 3:7 NIV).

When God determines your faithfulness, he doesn’t look at your testimony among church members; he looks at your testimony among non-believers. Do your neighbors and co-workers trust you? Are you faithful in life’s little things?

4. Faithful people keep their promises. 

When God evaluates your faithfulness, he will look at whether you’ve fulfilled the promises you’ve made. And you probably make an immense number of promises every day, like, “I’ll get back to you,” “The check is in the mail,” or “I’ll pray for you.” 

But according to Proverbs 20:25, “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows” (NIV). Your commitments matter. Faithful leaders do what they say they will do. When they say they’ll make a hospital visit, they do it. When they make a commitment to their spouse and children, they fulfill that commitment.

Next week, I’ll share four more parts of your life and ministry that will be on that final exam.

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