|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|CAN GOD DEPEND ON ME?: Faithfulness
Charles H. Dyer
I AM REVEALED
Jan 20 2013
Dependability sells! Four decades ago Timex sold watches on live national television by focusing on dependability. The
announcer would do something outrageous like strap the watch to the propeller of an outboard motor and run
the engine in a tank of water. He would then stop the engine, remove the watch, and hold it up for the camera. As the
audience looked at the second hand sweep around the dial, the announcer delivered the punch line. “Timex! Takes a
lickin’ and keeps on tickin’!” In those unpredictable days of early television, this stunt spoke volumes about the faith the
company had in the watch’s dependability. “Buy me,” the advertisement screamed. “I won’t let you down.”
Dependability still sells. The lonely Maytag repairman, with his clean uniform and sad expression reinforces
the message that Maytag is produced by “the dependability people.” Your Maytag appliance won’t let you down!
But the darling of dependability in advertising today has to be the ubiquitous Energizer bunny. It keeps going,
and going, and going…outpacing marathoners and outlasting everyone from Darth Vader to Santa Claus. With every
beat of the drum this fuzzy pink rabbit reminds viewers that his batteries last longer. Your Energizer batteries won’t let
If only life matched the ads!
THE CAR FROM SPUTTER CITY
I can recall in vivid detail the first “new” car my wife, Kathy, and I bought. Actually, it wasn’t really new. It was a dealer
demonstrator, but the odometer read less than 12,000 miles when we bought it. It looked great! Before buying the car
we watched television ads that stressed its innovative features and solid construction. I’ll not share the name of the
manufacturer…but I will tell you about “the car from sputter city”!
I began having my doubts about the car when the hood, trunk, and roof started turning a lighter shade of red than the
doors and fenders. The car developed the automotive equivalent of “male pattern baldness.” But the real crisis began
during rush hour in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the middle of a blizzard.
I had driven to Pennsylvania to attend a funeral. On my way home the car just stopped in the middle of downtown
Harrisburg. Died! Quit! Conked out! Sleet mixed with snow pelted my face as I pulled off the road and looked
under the hood. Everything looked okay, so I climbed back in the car and left the hood up, waiting for a policeman to
come by to rescue me. Out of frustration I turned the key one last time. The motor sprang to life as if nothing was
wrong! And so the problems began.
Over the next year the car took on a mind of its own. Day or night. Wet or dry. Summer or winter. Cold or hot. Super-
highway or country road. In no predictable pattern and for no detectable reason the car would just stop running.
I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you take the car to a dealership to have it fixed?” We did. Many times. They
changed the computer module…twice! We discovered a recall for a part in the engine and had it replaced. No
difference. One problem was that the car would never act up at the dealership.
Once we were driving to a store when the car began to sputter. We were only a few miles from the dealership so I did a
quick U-turn and headed that direction. Now they would have to find the problem. But the closer I got to the dealership
the less the car shook. With the garage in sight the last bit of hesitation disappeared and the car purred smoothly. Rats!
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not a skilled mechanic (Today’s politically correct society would classify me as
mechanically challenged), but even I could tell the problem was electrical. The solution? Replace every electrical part
possible. So, armed with boxes of replacement parts, I attacked the problem. In two of the boxes I found a small notice
saying the new part may not look like the original because it had been modified to correct a potential problem. Aha!
After many trips to the dealership, hundreds of dollars in “expert” repairs, and countless hours sitting beside the road
waiting for the car to restart, I finally solved the problem. Two defective parts allowed moisture to collect and, temporarily
disrupt, the electrical system. We sold that car a few months later, and we have never owned another car made by that
Dependability is important.
HOW IMPORTANT IS FAITHFULNESS?
We value faithfulness and dependability as ideals, but sadly we don’t really expect to find them. Fact is, we are often
surprised when we do. In the past, manufacturers sought to develop “brand loyalty” among their customers…loyalty that
passed from generation to generation. “My father drove a Plymouth. I drive a Plymouth. And my son will drive a
Plymouth.” But brand loyalty has gone the way of the Nash, Hudson, Henry J. Studebaker, Oldsmobile…and now
Pontiac. Today we change brands almost as often as we change clothes.
Why? Some of the reason has to do with dependability – if it’s no longer dependable, why should we bother?
Brand loyalty is a two-way street. Many manufacturers cut corners and cheapen products to save money. At the same
time they inflate claims in their advertising and pitch products that can never meet the expectations they create. After
spending tens of thousands of dollars to purchase “precision driving machines,” customers fume countless hours in
dealership waiting rooms while their cars have parts replaced in a recall. It’s hard to remain loyal to a particular brand or
company when you feel ripped off.
A lack of brand loyalty in the marketplace might be a sign of healthy competition and free market economics, but the
same attitude has crept into our homes and families. And there it produces misery, anger, and pain. We have replaced
“Till death do us part” with prenuptial agreements, and we hardly raise an eyebrow when we hear about someone having
an affair. Today divorce is no big deal. Incompatibility. Irreconcilable differences. No-fault divorce. For
some, marriage is no larger a commitment than going on a date or picking out a puppy. You hope it will work out, but if it
The church fares little better than the home. God ordained the local church to be a gathering of the faithful.
Members of a local congregation are to be the visible representation of God’s light to their community. Yet today, many
Christians shop for churches like they shop for cars. Which is the most stylish? The biggest? The one with the most
features? The most powerful? People “test drive” the worship service and see what other ”options” the church has to
offer. People look for a church where their needs can be met – though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – more than
where they can worship and be of service to others. Churches must “market” themselves to attract and hold potential
“customers.” But churches that always cater to what the “customers” want to hear, seldom can afford to share
with those people the message they desperately need to hear.
Faithfulness. Dependability. Trustworthiness. Everyone values it, but few practice it consistently. Yet models of
faithfulness do exist. Many live lives of faithful obscurity…their reliability taken for granted. Others have demonstrated
faithfulness while in the public eye. Billy Graham, for example, has always been one of my personal heroes. He’s
given a lifetime of service without a hint of financial or sexual impropriety.
Another hero of mine is Chuck Swindoll. Gifted speaker. Talented writer. Fun-loving, Harley-riding leader. But more
than all that, he is a man of faithfulness. Faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to Cynthia and his children. Faithfulness to
the ministries he leads. Faithfulness to those who work beside him in ministry. And I had that privilege at Dallas
During the years I served with Chuck I once had to fly back to Pennsylvania for a family emergency. My dad was
scheduled to undergo heart bypass surgery. I know bypass surgery is quite common. It’s almost considered routine. All
those things are true unless it’s your father being wheeled to surgery on the gurney.
I went to be with Mom during the operation. The hours dragged by as we waited for the doctor to tell us how the
operation had gone. Even after Dad came out of surgery we spent several more days waiting for those precious few
moments each hour when we could enter the cardiac care unit to be with him.
During one visitation period in the cardiac care unit the nurse called me aside and said my physician from Dallas had
called to check on Dad’s progress. My physician from Dallas? “Yes,” she said, “Dr. Swindoll!” What a guy!
Dad recovered, and I flew back to Dallas. On my desk was a handwritten note from Chuck that read, in part, “You have
been through a long and lonely journey these past several days. I understand. I’ve been there with my dad. So many,
many times you have come to my mind. Each time I’ve sent a word upward…What a great feeling is relief! With a smile
that says ‘Welcome back.’” I treasure that note, and I deeply appreciated Chuck’s faithfulness in writing it.
So how can we become more faithful? What can the Bible offer to help us develop lives characterized by faithfulness?
Two hardened military veterans, Joshua and Caleb, can supply us with some answers.
Hangin’ with Moses
Faithfulness begins in small areas. Joshua stepped onto the pages of Bible history to lead a party of warriors against a
group of nomadic raiders. These nomads, the Amalekites, attacked the Israelites in the wilderness. They needed to be
stopped, and Moses put Joshua in charge of the commandos.
Though the whole account of the battle takes only nine verses (Exodus 17:8-16), the Bible makes two crucial
observations about Joshua. First, he faithfully executed Moses’s orders. “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses
had ordered [italics added].” Why add this phrase? Perhaps to set Joshua apart from the rest of the people. Just a few
verses earlier the people “quarreled with Moses” and “grumbled against Moses” (Exodus 17:2-3). Second, Joshua
completed the assignment. “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword” (17:13). The children of Israel
were whiners, Joshua was a winner.
Moses found in Joshua someone he could trust to obey orders and to follow the job through to completion. The battle
was over in just one day – the entire encounter nothing more than a brief footnote in the amazing events that took place
during those forty years in the wilderness. Yet Joshua’s faithfulness this one day changed his life forever. The next time
Joshua appears in the Bible he has received a promotion. “Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide” (Exodus 24:13).
Moses made Joshua his assistant. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet with God, Joshua walked beside. What a
What responsibilities do you have today? How faithful have you been? No job should be too small or insignificant.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone
for whatever good he does” (Ephesians 6:7-8).
The Mossad’s First Mission
The Mossad is modern Israel’s crack intelligence organization – Israel’s version of America’s CIA. This group of
supersleuths has tracked down escaped Nazis and political terrorists. They have also pulled off some of the most
dangerous and daring undercover operations in history…and we only know a fraction of the things they have done!
Even today’s Mossad would be proud of their nation’s first spy mission – undertaken over 3,400 years before
the modern state of Israel came into existence. The children of Israel stood on the edge of the land promised them by
God. But this new nation knew little about the land they were about to invade. Moses chose twelve spies to explore the
new land, and he issued specific instructions (Numbers 13):
And whom did Moses select for this elite group of spies? “From the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun” (Numbers 13:
8). What? Who’s “Hoshea”? I thought you were talking about Joshua? Be patient! Moses explains who this is a few
verses later. “Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua” (Numbers 13:16). Evidently, Joshua’s original name
was Hoshea (“salvation”). Moses changed it (possibly after the victory over the Amalekites) to Joshua (“the
Lord saves”). The Bible provides the names of all twelve spies, but only one is singled out in this fashion. Joshua is the
spy with the new name…a name that focuses attention on the Lord.
The spies returned with their report. All agreed the land was fertile and productive. “It does flow with milk and honey!
Here is its fruit” (Numbers 13:27). But the spies could not agree on their evaluation of the people of the land. Ten of the
spies issued a majority report…and it wasn’t good news.
To slave wandering through the desert, walls of stone and brick must have appeared almost insurmountable. The army
of Egypt had experience attacking fortified cities, but to these simple peasants the task looked hopeless. And to most of
the ragtag band of spies the locals looked physically larger and more powerful.
Two spies – Joshua and Caleb – stood and challenged the majority report. They didn’t see obstacles, they saw
opportunities. Caleb spoke first, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers
13:30). When the people refused to listen, both Joshua and Caleb stressed the wonderful opportunity being rejected.
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good” (Numbers 14:7). How could these two see the land and
people so differently than the other ten spies?
Joshua’s and Caleb’s method was their ability to view all possible problems from God’s perspective.
Answer: “And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up” (Numbers 14:9). I like
the poetic nature of the King James translation here. “They are bread for us.” We’ll eat ‘em up!
Answer: “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us” (Numbers 14:9).
Joshua and Caleb did not walk through Canaan wearing rose-colored glasses. They saw the same problems, but they
saw them through God’s eyes. Physical giants are no threat when God is on our side. High walls and thick gates are no
barrier when God removes their protection. The real threat to Israel was not the people of Canaan or their defenses.
The most serious threat was the temptation to abandon God. Joshua and Caleb started and ended their speech in
Numbers 14:9 with a warning. “Only do not rebel against the Lord…Do not be afraid of them [the Canaanites].”
The final vote wasn’t even close. When the 603,550 men of fighting age made their decision on which report to accept,
Joshua and Caleb lost in a landslide – 603,548 voted for the majority report! In fact, the “whole assembly talked about
stoning them” (Numbers 14:10). Joshua and Caleb had no support from anyone else. Peer pressure is something all of
us have faced at some point. We all know how difficult it is to appear to “stand out” in a crowd. Imagine the pressure on
Joshua and Caleb! No one from their tribes…or clans…or families stood with them. How were they able to do it?
CALEB’S DOGGED DETERMINATION
“Caleb” in Hebrew means “dog,” and Caleb certainly had the tenacity of a bulldog. He shared his secret for faithfulness
when he appeared before Joshua after the forty-year period of wandering in the wilderness to ask for his inheritance in
the land. What kept Caleb faithful? Conviction, commitment, and confidence.
Caleb could stand alone with Joshua because Moses had asked for a truthful appraisal, “And I brought him back a report
according to my convictions” (Joshua 14:7). He could stand alone because he knew what he was standing for. He had a
deep, abiding belief in what he knew to be true, and he was willing to take a stand for what was right.
Knowing the truth of what you believe is one thing. Being willing to stand by those beliefs is another. Caleb saw the tide
turn against his convictions. The crowd didn’t buy his arguments. Wasn’t this the time for
compromise…acquiescence…reconsideration? Not for Caleb! “I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly”
(Joshua 14:8). If God was bigger than the giants in the land, He was also bigger than the disbelieving Israelites in the
wilderness. Caleb cast his lot with God.
Faithfulness is a by-product of faith. (See the previous chapter.) I can be faithful to God if I’m absolutely sure He will do
what He has promised. Caleb was faithful because He had complete confidence in God…and that confidence came
from experience. God promised Joshua and Caleb he would keep them alive in the wilderness and allow them to enter
the Promised Land. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness was followed by five years of active warfare as Israel
fought to take the land. So what became of God’s promise? “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive
for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses…So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong
today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then” (Joshua 14:10-11).
Caleb’s confidence came from watching God work. The God who had helped him in the past could be trusted for the
future. He was so confident he went to Joshua with a bold request. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised
me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites [the giants!] were there and their cities were large and fortified,
but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said” (Joshua 14:12). At the age of eighty-five Caleb wasn’t
ready to retire. He wanted a piece of the action. And he didn’t want anything too easy. He wanted the hills with the
largest giants and the strongest cities! God hadn’t changed, and Caleb was as confident of the outcome now as he had
been forty-five years earlier!
COMMANDER AND CHIEF
Turning back to Joshua for a moment, we find him facing the greatest challenge of his life. For forty years
Joshua served as second-in-command to Moses. Great guy – wonderful commander – fabulous assistant! But could he
replace Moses? I’m sure some in Israel had their doubts. It’s hard following a legend like Moses who led so powerfully
for so long. The book of Deuteronomy ends with a suitable epitaph that captures the essence of Moses’s leadership.
“For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel”
(Deuteronomy 34:12). Joshua was prepared to conquer the physical giants in the land, but how could he hope to
replace a spiritual giant like Moses?
God appeared to Joshua with the answer. Three times He urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7,
9). Joshua, like Caleb, had to develop conviction, commitment, and confidence. Each element was as essential for
Joshua’s faithfulness as it was for Caleb’s.
Joshua had to be convinced he was God’s choice to lead Israel. Though he did not possess the unique personality of
Moses, he had to realize God would supply the needed ability to lead. “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the
spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deuteronomy 34:9). Spiritual leadership is dependent on
God’s spiritual enablement, not on natural ability. Israel needed Moses in the wilderness, but they needed Joshua for
the conquest. God wanted to convince Joshua of this, so He said, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead
these people to inherit the land.” Joshua was God’s choice.
Conviction alone wasn’t enough to guarantee faithfulness. Conviction had to be followed by personal commitment. God
reminded Joshua of his need to know and obey the Word of God. God would measure Joshua’s success as a leader by
his commitment to His Word. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave
you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book
of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in
it. Then you will be prosperous and successful [italics added]” (Joshua 1:7-8).
Joshua may personally have felt inadequate as a leader, but he had to develop the conviction that God called him to
replace Moses. God would give him the ability to be an effective leader, but those convictions called for
commitment. To be an effective leader Joshua needed to master the ability to submit to the heavenly King and
wholeheartedly obey Him.
A few chapters later God reminded Joshua of the necessity of this commitment. Just after crossing the Jordan River,
Joshua prepared to begin his conquest of the land. Jericho loomed as the first major obstacle. Camped just a few miles
from this walled fortress, Joshua felt the full weight of his position as commander-in-chief. What if the city proved too
difficult to conquer? What if the people of the land were better warriors? What if the toll in human life proved to be too
Whatever Joshua was thinking, his thoughts were interrupted by a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword.
Joshua didn’t recognize him so he asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13). The warrior’s answer
startled him. “’Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come’” (Joshua 5:14). God
had not promised unswerving allegiance to Israel, He had called on Israel to promise unswerving allegiance to Him.
God's heavenly forces could fight for Israel – or against Israel.
God’s commander was in Israel’s midst watching for signs of obedience and commitment. Joshua immediately fell face
down and humbly asked this heavenly Commander, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The burdens
and problems of leadership now came into proper focus. The battle belonged to God, not Joshua. God was in charge,
and Joshua was to be the committed servant.
But Joshua still needed one final element to help him develop faithfulness – an absolute sense of confidence that would
take him through the battles ahead.
God often tests commitment in the crucible of conflict. It’s easy to commit to God when manna shows up on the ground
each morning and God is appearing to you in visions. It’s harder to have confidence when the wheels come off and God
seems to be silent. Joshua had to gear himself up for the hard times ahead. God’s solution was to reaffirm His
protection. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with
you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Did Joshua remain confident? At Jericho Joshua ordered the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!”
(Joshua 6:16). The outcome was never in doubt. Joshua led Israel in victorious conquest because he knew God would
give victory. Later Joshua ordered the heavens to halt their movement on Israel’s behalf. “Joshua said to the Lord
in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon’” (Joshua 10:12). That’s
confidence! He knew God would do what He had promised.
AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE
Society idolizes the strength and beauty of youth, but true wisdom belongs to those who have mastered life and its
secrets. The next generation of Israelite leaders were busy developing their new land when they received a summons to
appear at Shechem. Over twenty years had passed since Joshua had led Israel in conquest and divided the
land among the tribes. Joshua, the seasoned sage, was summoning Israel’s new leaders for one final meeting before
his impending death. What final words of wisdom would this battle-hardened veteran give to the next generation?
It’s no surprise that the man whose life epitomized faithful service for God focused on the subject of faithfulness. After
reviewing all God had done for the nation, Joshua called the leaders to action. “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all
faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14). This elder statesman had no illusions about the temptations facing the fledgling nation. He
had lived long enough to see an entire generation reject the Lord and perish in the wilderness. He watched good
soldiers die because of one man’s sin at Jericho. The temptation to turn from the Lord was great, and
the consequences could be catastrophic.
Joshua laid the issue on the line with this gathering of leaders. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then
choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua
24:15). Joshua planned to end his life the way he had always lived it…in faithful service to God. And he challenged the
next generation to tread the same path.
Joshua and Caleb. Two men from different family backgrounds – one from the tribe of Ephraim, the other from the rival
tribe of Judah. Men who assumed different levels of responsibility during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness
and during the conquest of Canaan. Yet two men who shared the same characteristic of unswerving faithfulness to their
God…whose lives ran counter to an entire generation.
In the great celestial arena Joshua and Caleb must surely have box seats to watch today’s race of the faithful.
They must be part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surround us as we “run with perseverance the race marked out
for us” (Hebrews 12:1). They are cheering us on with their own testimonies of faithfulness to God. And they are pointing
to the supreme example of faithfulness…Jesus Christ. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so
that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
Caleb and Joshua faithfully followed God even when it required them to stand against the rest of the nation. And now
God asks you to make the same commitment. Are you ready, and willing, to repeat after Joshua, “Choose for yourselves
this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15)? Why not make
that commitment right now?
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
CHARACTER COUNTS, by Charles H. Dyer, Copyright 2010, Moody Publishers.