The Faithfulness of a Disciple
I = 10 + 30D
Know what this old formula was once used for? A hint is to think of the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “faithful.” Another hint is given with the picture. Now read on for the explanation.
This simple formula was once used to predict the next eruption of Old Faithful, the famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Contrary to most perceptions, Old Faithful does not give out its blasts in precise time intervals such as 60 or 90 minutes. Rather, its faithfulness comes from the generally predictive way it behaves, with the length of the last eruption being one of the best indicators of how long it will be before the next. The “I” in the formula stands for “Interval,” which was the predicted time between the last blast and the next coming one. The “D” stands for “Duration” and was the length of how long the last spouting of the geyser lasted. For instance, if an eruption lasted two minutes, then substituting 2 in for the D in the formula gave I = 10 + 30(2) = 70, meaning the next time Old Faithful would erupt would be 70 minutes. With an earthquake in the Yellowstone area in the 1980’s changing things and further correlation observations made, newer formulas have been derived that are much more complicated. (Side note: If you have the time, you can even watch Old Faithful live here.)
Generally when we think on the idea of faithfulness, as we have this week with a group of young people doing a service project here at the church, words such as “reliable,” “dependable,” and “predictable” come to mind. In one of Jesus’ most famous sayings from the gospels, we hear His “formula” for faithfulness:
He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;
and he who is unrighteous in a very little things is unrighteous also in much.
Based on this verse, I gave the young people the following as a Biblical way to think about faithfulness:
Whereas your faithfulness as a disciple is ultimately grounded on your faith in the trustworthiness of the Lord, your faithfulness also ultimately indicates the trustworthiness the Lord has in you.
Faithfulness follows faith. Just as in a geyser the unseen magma and pressure below ground heat the water so that it shoots forth with an observable spray, so the unseen heart of faith in Christ will lead the disciple to display faithfulness in his daily living. Jesus also tells us here that the opposite of faithfulness is unrighteousness, which is the condition of those without faith in Him.
The test for faithfulness can be seen in what one might call “the very little principle” of this verse. How one does with a small stewardship or responsibility entrusted to him shows how he will handle a larger one. Note the present tense in the verse: the one being faithful in a very little thing is faithful in much and, conversely, if one is unrighteous in little he is already showing he is unrighteous in much. In the immediate context of Luke 16:10, the Lord had just told the parable of the unrighteous steward who, after being found out for embezzlement by the owner, quickly went to the owner’s indebted trade partners and gave them cut-rate deals. Knowing that the owner would not be able to renege on a deal done by one others would still be associating as his representative, the steward did this to give him ready-made places to go after being canned. Even the owner thought him extremely shrewd! Jesus then used the story to help us see that we should be equally as clever in using “the very little thing” of our earthly goods to influence people for His kingdom and to invest in eternity.
This “very little principle” can be used all the time, in such places as parenting, coaching, teaching or ministry. Personally, I give a child I’m raising, a player I’m coaching, or someone I am counseling a small assignment, and then watch and see what he does. For instance, a child who gets to the age to want to drive one of my vehicles by himself has to demonstrate more than adequate driving skills. He also has had to show faithfulness to follow through with lesser, related responsibilities where independence is called for and trust is needed before the privilege of solo driving is extended to him. This works in the negative direction as well. In counseling, I recall meeting with a couple where a husband had been unfaithful to his wife. She was willing to forgive but not sure she could trust him. Wanting him to regain trust and exercise spiritual service, I gave him an assignment to read the Scriptures for 5-10 minutes with his wife each day then pray together. They both agreed to do this. Yet in several subsequent meetings he reported failure and gave excuses. This lead to his wife’s increasing distrust and to an ultimatum from me to either follow through or forego more counseling. When the next meeting showed yet once again he had not done the assignment, I told him we would no longer meet. Sadly, years later I met him and found that he was divorced from his wife, estranged from his children, and very confused.
Given this test, we can see that one grows in faithfulness by practice. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shows that one of the secrets behind high achievers is the “10,000 Hours” rule. Be it concert pianists or successful business men like Steve Jobs, behind their success, which many of us might attribute to mere natural ability, was the fact that they had put in over 10,000 hours of practice or training. 10,000 hours is about 416 days of time, more than a year’s worth! To grow in faithfulness and to be entrusted with more responsibility, people need to practice and practice with small, unseen tasks. The Lord had men like Moses and David tending sheep for years before He called them to be shepherds of His people. He chose men with a lifetime of training as fishermen to be fishers of men.
One of the most dramatic events in last week’s Olympics came when U.S. diver David Boudia had a bad night in the qualifying round. With only the top 18 divers moving on to the finals, Boudia, three times the NCAA Diver of the Year, barely made it by just getting the last spot. Yet in the medal round, he shone and in his final dive received the highest score given by the judges throughout the Olympics. His accumulated points gave him the gold. In speaking about the bronze and silver medal finishers, Boudia said, “Tom Daily dove the lights out. Qiu Bo dove the lights out.” Then speaking of himself, Boudia, who puts in 30 hours a week in training, said, “I only did what I do in practice.”
Right now you are practicing your faith. What would an evaluation of the little tasks and small stewardship given to you reveal about your faithfulness? Do not neglect and certainly do not despise small tasks and tiny responsibilities given to you. They are already revealing how well you would handle greater responsibility and, indeed, how heaven-ready you are. For in another parable about servants being given money and responsibility, the commendation found there summarizes it well: “Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).