Faithful Unto Death

God is Faithful signage with leaved background
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”   Revelation 2:10 

That’s a familiar passage, maybe even your confirmation verse.  Does it comfort you, or does it frighten you?  Have you been faithful?  Will you be faithful unto death? 

The DIY (Do It Yourself) response lowers the bar and rationalizes that you haven’t cheated on your husband or your taxes or your golf game.  Well, scratch that last one at least.  But then your conscience reminds you that you’ve been more generous with yourself than people who need your help, that you’ve left a lot of witness opportunities unanswered, that your prayer life makes God more a distant uncle than a loving Father.  The more mature your faith, the more likely that your conscience bothers you about the good things you haven’t done, not just the bad things you have done.  Think about friends who no longer worship and how senior dementia seems to expose some of our worst traits, and being faithful unto death seems less certain. God’s law demands perfect faithfulness, and we aren’t close.  A young Martin Luther understood that, and he was terrified.

Reformation reminds us that Luther found the answer for his conscience in the Gospel.  Not our righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ attributed to our status with God is our comfort.  Not what we’ve failed to do, but what Jesus accomplished perfectly with his life, death and resurrection is our comfort.  Not our faithfulness, but the faithfulness of God to his nature and his promises is our comfort.  2 Timothy 2:13 reads: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.”  Like the father in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, God never stops loving us and forgiving us.  Like the shepherd in Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep, he searches for his wandering children relentlessly.  HE remains faithful.

One more thing.  The Holy Spirit who brought you to faith preserves you in faith unto death, through his Word and Sacrament.  And it is simple faith in Jesus your Savior that defines real FAITHfulness.  The more time you spend in the Gospel, the more comforted you are about your death.  Thank God for his faithfulness while he and you work on your faithfulness.
Make me honest, Lord, with myself and with you, so that in repentance I can quit pretending to be good and can find in your goodness my comfort.  Increase my faith, Lord, so that in your grace I can lose my fears and worries.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the many ways I can express my gratitude to you with a life that faithfully reflects your love – for the sake of my Savior Jesus.  Amen.

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