God's Multifaceted Faithfulness
I read with great joy the testimony of Dato" Sri Michael Chong as he recounted how God enabled him to turn Saisaki and Shogun into a profitable and God-glorifying business. In his words, "As for me, Saisaki and Shogun are my God-given business. So, I would go all out to glorify Him," (Christianity Malaysia). My heart leaps with joy too when another businessman recounted how God honored his no-bribery stance with 19 years of profit in his construction business. God is faithful and the successes of these businessmen are reasons to celebrate His faithfulness indeed. For the evidence of success affirms the sustainability of Christian business ethics and principles. Moreover, it proves that our God is alive and faithful to His people. Most importantly, it fits perfectly into the expectations and values of the business world: The proof of effectiveness is success. Hence the proof of God's faithfulness is success in the businesses and careers of Christians. To put it more bluntly, the proof of His faithfulness is the record of Him meeting our business expectations and answering out prayers. Is it not?
To equate God's faithfulness with success is to fall into the trap of subconsciously "measuring" God by the values and standards of this world. The problem is obvious: What do we say to Christians in the workplace who have yet to experience any business or work success in their lives? What do we say to Christians who are still struggling to make ends meet? Is our God being unfairly selective? Are we implying that "unsuccessful business people" have no recourse to celebrate His faithfulness? Is it not the Psalmist who says that, "Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame. The poor [emphasis mine] man called, and the LORD heard him…" (Ps 34:5-6a)?
Basic Theological Understanding
We do "measure" God's faithfulness. In this case, we tie it to our personal expectations. Whilst the relationship between our expectations and God's faithfulness is legitimate, stopping at that narrow idea will rob us of the joy of celebrating His faithfulness in a wholesome manner. When the Bible says that God is faithful, it refers to who He is as a Person, as well as His unchanging attribute of stability, loyalty and integrity (Num 23:19). This quality however does not stand alone. In the Old Testament for instance, this quality accompanies His lovingkindness towards His people (Ps 36:5; 89:2). In other words, faithfulness and lovingkindness come hand in hand. That is, He will always demonstrate His loyalty to us and will be steadfast in His love even when we fail to reciprocate accordingly (2 Tim 2:13). It is hence not surprising that we are exhorted to wait upon God even when it doesn't make sense to do so (Isaiah 30:18; Lam 3:22-23).
This means that His faithfulness, along with His lovingkindness, goes beyond "answering" our prayers. He is already faithful even before the promises are fulfilled! For in addition to answering our prayers, His faithfulness is at work in preserving our well-being and faith (1 Cor 1:8; Ps 104), disciplining us to walk in the correct path (Ps 89:32-33; 119:75), protecting us from harm (2 Thess 3:2-3) and training and equipping us for a specific assignment and for righteousness.
Implication: A More Wholesome Celebration
Hence to celebrate His faithfulness in the workplace is to give a proper response to who God is, and to acknowledge that the reliable, trustworthy and stable God is worthy of our complete confidence and trust, no matter what circumstances we may be in. A proper grasp of this theological thrust is important because unless we hold on to a proper understanding of what "God is faithful" means, any seemingly "unsuccessful" or "nothing to be proud of" circumstance in our work and business may lead to a crisis of faith and a crisis of meaning in our life. This is especially the case when we are too caught up with the idea that His faithfulness is always expressed through "success in business" or "a successful career." Actually, "success" is merely one of the visible fruits of His faithfulness in our life.
With this understanding, we have the freedom to celebrate His faithfulness even before His promises are fulfilled (1 Thess 5:24). Accordingly, we can celebrate His faithfulness even in times of testing and waiting (2 Thess 3:2-3; 1 Pet 4:19). This is best demonstrated in the Psalms. Often, an earnest petition would be consummated with a cry of joy expressing confidence that God will deliver yet again. Similarly, we can celebrate His faithfulness even in the midst of waiting or testing in the workplace. The Scriptures say that "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" (Num 23:19).
In addition, we can also celebrate whatever simple provision He enables us to enjoy. God's provision in the form of a limited supply of daily manna is equally a demonstration of His faithfulness as when He supplies in abundance in the land of "milk and honey". Let not our vision be colored and blurred by the deceptive measures and standards of this world. We can also celebrate the times of training and equipping in our lives. The Israelites' hard labor under the grip of Pharaoh prepared them for the wilderness. Their 40 years of wilderness experience prepared them for the Promised Land. In the same manner, God's faithfulness ensures that we are constantly being equipped by means of a formal or informal training in our knowledge, people and product skills in the workplace. These skills are prerequisites for success.
The mistake of narrowly equating God's faithfulness with success is to miss the fact that God is faithful in every aspect of our personal development. For some of us, we are reaping the fruit of years of training and opportunities. For others of us, we may be just starting the journey. For most of us, we are still in the process of being equipped and undergoing training. But the idea that He is already faithful in every stage of our journey means that we can celebrate His faithfulness right now even when the fruit of success is still yet in sight.
It is also timely to consider this: Since one's end is ultimately measured by one's faithfulness rather than one's success, can it be possible that the best way to celebrate His faithfulness is through a demonstration of our faithfulness to Him in return?