Delivered in October 2016 in Montrouis, Haiti
I’ve been looking forward to coming back to Haiti for more than two years. My wife and I visited here back in 2014, right in the middle of August. We met many beautiful people here, and we made some great new friends.
I had a chance to drive up into the mountains and look down on the coast. Your blue waters spread out below the green hillside made an impression I will never forget.
But one of the things I have been most excited about was the chance to see the stars here again. Standing on a beach in Montrouis late one night two years ago, I looked up to see a million stars spread out across the sky.
Where I’m from, the stars compete with the lights of the city. On a dark night, I might be able to see a hundred — I’ve never actually counted, but the difference between the night sky here and at home is stunning.
I’ve been looking forward to spending time with our friends here. I’ve been looking forward to working in Montrouis. I’ve been looking forward to speaking to you here tonight. But I’ve been very excited about the chance to see millions of stars in your night skies.
My mother tells me my first word was “Moon.” It seems I’ve always had my eyes on the heavens. So wherever I go, I look for the stars.
The funny thing is that I’ve never taken the time to try to learn their names. You’d think someone who spent so much time looking up might want to know that kind of thing.
But I have a small brain, and filling it up with the names of stars might cause me to forget more important things — things like my wife’s birthday, or my grandchildren’s names.
The prophet Isaiah talked about the stars, and I think he understood my problem. “Lift up your eyes on high and see,” he wrote. “Who created these? He who brings out the host by their number, calling them by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.”
I don’t know the names of the stars, but the God who created them by the very power of his voice knows every single one, and He has put them all in their places.
A couple of years ago, I found an app for my phone that allows me to point the phone at the sky, and it tells me just what I’m looking at. That’s amazing! Now, I can go outside, take out the phone, turn it toward the sky and know just what I’m seeing.
The same app can tell me exactly when the sun will rise or set, when the moon will be full and even where to look to find Mars or Saturn.
I can’t really explain exactly how this works — remember, I have a small brain — but I do know this: If the stars, the moon and the sun weren’t exactly where they’re expected to be, the app wouldn’t work.
The app expects them all to faithfully follow the natural laws — the laws God also created — that keep them in motion.
Because of their faithfulness, the Earth and the Sun are exactly where we expect them to be. I think that’s a beautiful example of faithfulness.
The stars, the sun and the moon are all faithful to their calling, and their faithfulness creates the beauty that I’ve been so eager to see.
So just what is faithfulness?
The dictionary defines it as “strict or thorough in the performance of duty.” That describes the stars perfectly. They are exactly where God put them. The sun moves across the sky just the way he commanded when he said, “Let there be light” and then divided the day and the night.
Someone who is faithful can be described as being “steady in their affection.”
My wife and I have been married 15 years. In all that time, I can say she has been “steady in her affection,” and that’s surprising, really, since I’m often not an easy person to love.
She has always been faithful to me. Even when I didn’t deserve it.
A few minutes ago, she sang a song about God’s faithfulness, and since she sang in English, I’d like to read for you some of the words of that song:
Morning by morning I wake up to find / The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine. / Season by season I watch Him, amazed / In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways. / All I have need of, His hand will provide / He’s always been faithful to me.
This is my anthem, this is my song / The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long / God has been faithful, He will be again / His loving compassion, it knows no end / All I have need of, His hand will provide / He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful / He’s always been faithful to me.
The Bible has a lot to say about God’s faithfulness.
He was faithful to Adam and Eve, even after they’d sinned against Him in the Garden of Eden. He was faithful to Noah, giving him the plans for the boat that would carry them above the Great Flood.
He was faithful to Abraham and Sarah, giving them the son He had promised, even though Sarah had been barren and was 90 years old when she finally got pregnant.
He was faithful to Lot, saving him from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was faithful to Joseph, whose brothers had sold him as a slave. But God moved in Joseph’s life, making him a great man in Egypt who later saved the lives of those same brothers.
He was faithful to the Hebrew people, bringing them out of captivity in Egypt. He was faithful to David, giving the boy victory over a giant and later making him a great and beloved king — even though David sinned against God.
That’s the thing about God’s faithfulness. It doesn’t depend on us. It is part of His character.
As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “If we are faithless, God remains faithful.” God is steadfast in his love and affection for us. And just as He did back in the time of Abraham, God keeps his promises.
The Bible is full of those promises:
- From the book of Jeremiah: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
- From the book of Isaiah: “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
- From Jesus, as related in the book of Matthew: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
And here’s a promise my wife and I took hold of back in 2005: You’ll find it in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Remember when I said you could describe someone as faithful if they were “steady in their affection”? By that definition, I had been unfaithful to my wife.
We were months away from divorce. We saw no way to forgiveness. Our lives had fallen apart, and the more we tried to fix things, the more broken they got.
So one day we sat down with a friend, who explained that God’s faithfulness extended to the very cross where his son, Jesus Christ, died.
The faithful promises of this incredible God would come into their full power as his sinless Son’s blood flowed and He gave up his life.
After they had sinned against Him, God promised Adam and Eve that a time would come when He would purchase them back from the slavery to sin they had chosen when they disobeyed God.
He had wanted nothing for them but peace, love, happiness and a real relationship with him. But they thought they wanted to do things their way, not God’s way.
My wife and I were in the same place. We had tried to do things our own way, and we were failing terribly. We were desperate for a savior. We were slaves to our own sin and headed down the “broad way that leads to destruction.”
But when our perfect, holy, righteous God poured all the sins of man upon His only son, He gave us all a chance at redemption, a chance to be loosed from the chains of sin.
Believe in – follow – His son, He said, and you will be a new creature. The old will be gone.
As our friend told us about the sacrifice Jesus had made for us — about how He had paid the price of our sins and about His promise to forgive those sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness — we finally understood what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
We confessed our sins and pledged to follow Him. The new people God has created in His faithfulness aren’t yet perfect — that will come in heaven.
But we are now filled with the fruits of His spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — so much so that even our friends who do not follow Jesus recognize the difference.
I see God’s faithfulness in the very stars that light the night sky over Haiti. I see His faithfulness in this church here tonight. I see it in a man from this city who has dedicated himself to honoring God by ministering to the elderly and sick.
I see God’s faithfulness in the new man He made when he saved me and by the marriage he restored.
As my beautiful wife sang a little while ago:
God has been faithful, He will be again / His loving compassion, it knows no end / All I have need of, His hand will provide / He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful / He’s always been faithful to me.