I thank Christ Jesus our Lord,
who has strengthened me,
because He considered me
faithful, putting me into service.
I Timothy 1:12
Boy, there is so much in this verse, but let's look at one particular aspect of it, and that is Paul's faithfulness. Reading through Acts and the epistles, the one thing that really stands out about Paul is his faithfulness. If you think about this in relation to what the Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16 about how He would show Paul how much he must suffer for His name's sake, you come away with a deep-breathed wow; because here was a man who was shown up front how much the cost would be, and he counted it (Luke 14:27-35), lived it (II Corinthians 1:2-7; 2:4; 4:7-12; 6:3-10, 7:5-6), and remained faithful to the end (II Timothy 4:5-7).
The question might be asked, "Faithful to who, faithful to what?" Obviously, Paul was faithful to his calling, faithful to his ministry, faithful to his friends, faithful to keep his vows, faithful with the treasure with which he had been entrusted, and faithful to the churches. But his being faithful in all of these areas was the outflow of his faithfulness to the Lord, his Lord; and he never wavered in his faithfulness to the One who had called him to suffer for His name. Even with his great learning, the great revelations he had been given, and his great gifting, his greatest attribute was his faithfulness. Without his faithfulness his calling and all the learning, revelations, and gifting would have been for naught. Paul understood this and you can see this in I Corinthians 4:2.
Faithfulness is manifested in many ways in our lives, and manifested it will be. In thinking about what are the really necessary qualities in a pastor this has to be at the top. It is nice if he is a good communicator, a gifted expositor, good with people, dynamic, personable, a good leader, educated, caring, and charismatic. But, again, without faithfulness all these qualities and gifts will be of no use. Faithfulness grounds the pastor, keeps him steady when tempted, keeps him loyal to his calling, strengthens him when tried, keeps him going when discouraged, keeps him looking to the Lord and not his circumstances, guards him from compromise, gives him a higher perspective on his life and ministry, pushes and pulls him on when weary, keeps his focus on the Lord and not himself, sees him through the storms of life and ministry, empowers him to endure, and keeps him from looking for greener pastoral pastures. Faithfulness keeps him locked in on following the Lord and His will for his life. In thinking about it...wouldn't you want to see this in your pastor if you were a church member, wouldn't you want to see this in your servant if you were the Lord?
The Lord regarded Paul as faithful, and therefore placed him into service; not any service, mind you, but maybe the most important role of any of the apostles, certainly the most demanding role, and obviously a strategic role. And in that strange and mysterious dynamic of God working in and through men, the Lord strengthened Paul to remain faithful as Paul was being faithful.
If we are honest, we would all admit that the struggle with have with faithfulness is whether we are going to be faithful to the Lord and His will, or be faithful to ourselves and our own selfish and egotistical pursuits. Which one will we be faithful to?
Fellow pastors and partakers of the pastoral calling, I want to encourage you to be faithful. Be faithful to the Lord in the living out of your calling, and call on him to keep you faithful; and in your faithfulness you will find Him faithful to you.