“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NLT
This quote is from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, because it tells us so much with so little words. In short: With this sentence, Jesus promises us the unfailing faithfulness of the God of all creation! It got stuck in my mind after I read it for the first time and throughout my walk with God, I have learned the truth of every single word in it.
What Does This Scripture Tell Us?
To give you a better understanding of why I love this scripture, I want to dive a little bit into it’s original writing in Greek (source of the translations: biblehub.com). That way, you will also see what “unfailing faithfulness” really means.
“And be sure of this”
Other modern translations read, “And surely” (NIV), “And behold” (ESV) or “And remember” (CSB). The orignal Greek word ἰδοὺ (idou) is an imperative form and means “See!”, “Look!” or “Behold!”. Hence, the ESV is the closest to what Jesus actually said. Nevertheless, I want to take a look at the other translations, too.
Open Your Eyes, to What is In Front of You
Normally, when I hear someone shouting “Look!”, I’m in a situation where he or she is trying to gain my attention. They usually want me to focus on a something that’s going on around me without me noticing it yet. Examples are the first glimpse of the ocean after a long car ride or the attraction in a theme park because of which we came. Whenever that happened in the past, the person shouting was super excited about whatever he or she wanted me to see. As a result, I’ve had my elbow jogged or was shaken until I had no other option but to pay attention (whether I wanted to or not).
In the context of this verse, I like to imagine Jesus pointing at himself saying, “See, I am right here!” He is trying to draw our attention to something that is apparent, yet for some reason out of our sight: His nearness. And the way in which He does this is very similar to what I have described above. The only difference is that we might not feel jugged and shaken every time we read those words.
If you are seeking God but can’t really get a hold of him, you might find some help in my How Do I Find God? post.
Remember His Words
I included the other translation, because it is not enough to see God’s nearness once. The problem is that we often forget things, no matter how important they are. And when we forget something, it is as if we had never known it. That happened to me several times already, even though I love this verse. Surrounded by troubles and fears, we can easily get lost in our despair. And as a result, we forget to look to the One right next to us who could set us free. That happened to me, too. Even though I once was lying on the floor and weeping, I didn’t look to God for relief. It took me a very long time until I finally lifted my eyes to the One who proclaims,
“See, all your angry enemies lie there,
confused and humiliated.
Anyone who opposes you will die
and come to nothing.
You will look in vain
for those who tried to conquer you.
Those who attack you
will come to nothing.
For I hold you by your right hand—
I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. ‘” Isaiah 41:11-13 NLT
In his promise, Jesus emphasizes “Behold!” for a reason: Only when we look at him, will we be able to get out of our misery. And only when we look at him, will we understand the next part of his promise. Thus, we should remind ourselves to focus on God over and over again — until we are as sure of the following truth as we are of our own name:
“I am with you always”
When we look to Jesus, we will find that God is right next to us. That by itself is an amazing truth, but it is not everything. There is one little word which vaults this sentence to a whole nother level: “I am with you always“. The Greek word for “always” is πάσας (pasas), meaning “all”, “the whole” or “every kind of”. It indicates that there is no exception of this statement; there is no time when God is not with us. By implication, that means that God is by our side all the times, throughout our whole life and in every kind of situation!
Our Weakness: A Door to God’s Power
However, sometimes we feel like we’re far away from just anyone, including God. That mostly happens when we are going through hard times. In such situations, it seems as if God doesn’t care or punishes us for no reason. Well, sometimes the troubles we are going through are just punishments because we did sin. Their purpose is to show us what we have done wrong and to help us in becoming more holy. Prayer is a good starting point to find relief then. Other options are reading the Bible, fasting or consulting with fellow Christians.
If you find yourself in series of trouble and can’t figure out what you’ve done wrong through, don’t lose heart! Sometimes hard times are there to reveal to us the glory of God. He will help us through and strenghen us as we keep our eyes on him. He himself says,
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT
The NIV and ESV translations read, “My power is made perfect in weakness”. Both versions indicate that we need to be weak to see the wonders of God’s endless power. There is a beautiful story in the Bible, showing just that:
Jesus Calms the Storm
One day, Jesus told his disciples to cross the lake with a boat. As they were on the water, he fell asleep on a cushion. Soon, a great strom rose and seriously endangered all who were on the water. The disciples were frightened and turned to Jesus for help, but he was still sound asleep. Since they feared for their lives, the disciples woke him up with a great shout of despair: “We’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the waves and suddenly there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:23-25, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
I don’t know about you, but I can find myself in those disciples. Just imagine great waves crashing down on you, threatening to kill you. You feel like you’re going to drown and don’t see a way out (stay with me when this is your current situation!). In all of this, you find your Lord sleeping, as if nothing was wrong. It seems as if He doesn’t care at all! Where is all the unfailing faithfulness he promised? As your last resort, you shout. It is a cry of deep despair. Finally, He awakens and then leaves you startled because of the way He handles the situation. You did not see this great display of his power coming! Personally, I have experienced a similar situation.
How God Turned My Failure Into Victory
God had told me to testify about him on my way to university. That by itself seems like an easy task, just like crossing the lake with a boat. However, as I was in the bus, I felt a crippling fear growing in my heart. It was so strong that I couldn’t move. Seriously, I stood there unable to do just anything! In that moment, it seemed to me as if God had left me (or was asleep). Instead of calling out for him though, I started doubting his call. Just like the disciples, I doubted that I could make it, even though God had been clear on that.
When my bus station came, I quickly left the bus and was finally able to breathe freely again. The fear was gone and so were the doubts about me being able to testify about God. This left me upset with myself and determined to not doubt again. The next day, after fervent prayers, I called out to God for help. After just a few minutes, I felt the fear coming back. However, this time I kept my eyes on God and witnessed how He enabled me to speak up.
From Weakness to Focus to Strength
Without my failure on the first day, I would not have seen the astonishing power of God. At least, I wouldn’t have attributed my victory to him. In fact, it is through such displays of his power that we learn to trust him. They increase our reverence and on top of that, make us seek him more. In this way, the enemy will lose his grip on us and be put to shame. Therefore, keep your eyes on God whenever you feel beaten down or afraid, because your Savior is right beside you! He will rescue you when you just reach out your hand for his help. And when the waves of the enemy come crashing down on you, remember the following verse:
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV
No matter how he is trying to break and defeat you, your enemy will not succeed when you remember your God!
As you can see from my testimony, the word “always“ even covers all the times we fail. It includes every instance of us disobeying or running away from God. Nevertheless, when we don’t seek him, He won’t free us from the evil one. Thus, when we turn our backs on God, the enemy will quickly have his grip on us. Without our focus on the Lord, we will fall for the world’s temptations and be led into sin. Even then, Jesus promises to be with us and rescue us as soon as we earnestly seek him again. This truth can be seen throughout all of the Old Testament.
Unfailing Faithfulness, Even If We Sin?
Even if you haven’t read it yet, you probably know how God has annihilated whole nations because of their sins. That doesn’t sound like unfailing faithfulness, right? Well, that is the worldly view of the Old Testament stories. I would like to show you the godly one which doesn’t just show but highlight how faithful God really is.
After all, what most people don’t understand is that God ist good. This misunderstanding (or ignorance) leads them to quickly judge the Lord for his justice. It is mostly seen when they read or speak about a verse in which He is punishing someone. The problem is that not many take the time to read the whole story. This is essential to see the bigger picture and how everything was done with a good purpose though! In order to understand the seemingly harsh punishments in the Old Testament, let me give you a quick overview of what was going on:
After David, who defeated Goliath, his son Solomon became king of Israel (1 Kings 1). At first, he obeyed God wholeheartedly but in his old age, his many wives led him into sin. This displeased God greatly and as a result, He tore most of the kingdom from Solomon. Nevertheless, He allowed the descendants of David to rule over Judah (1 Kings 11). After Solomon, all Israel turned away from God. In fact, only 9 out of the 19 kings of Judah and only 1 out of the 18 kings of Israel were said to have at least partly obeyed God (1 Kings – 2 Chonicles, both inclusive).
Yes, Unfailing Faithfulness!
Now, picture God as an earthly father and the kings and tribes of Israel as his children.
Just like any earthly father, God wants to help and guide his children. However, he is also jealous and wants them to remain faithful to him. Be honest, how would you react if you found your children denying your relation or even your very existence? Would you still spoil them and give them everything they want? Or would you draw back and wait until they fall into troubles and earnestly seek for your help? I would do the latter and God did the same.
However, in his goodness He didn’t leave Israel all alone. Instead, He remained nearby and whenever they called out to him for help, He faithfully rescued them from their oppressors. He even held back his anger many times, because of his love for his people. This is what most people don’t see: God might punish us for our sins, but He also forgives. With this He proves his unfailing faithfulness which is part of his very character. This is beautifully described by Paul who wrote,
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is. 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT
“even to the end of the age”
The Greek word that was translated to “end” or “very end” is συντελείας (synteleias) and it also means “entire completion”. This indicates that God won’t leave us until every single thing has come to an end. It further shows that Jesus is really speaking of true faithfulness. According to dictionary.com, the word “faithful” is associated with
- being loyal,
- steady in affection,
- trusted and reliable and
- being true to one’s word or promise.
These describe exactly what God promises us through Matthew 28:20. He remains loyal to us no matter what happens. When troubles come, he will not leave us and when we fall, his love and affection will still surround us. We can trust him to speak the truth and rely on him when we can’t find the way out. His word is the truth and his promises will never be broken because his faithfulness never ends!
If you don’t know how someone can be so good and gracious, allow me to tell and show you that We Are Forgiven Through the Blood of Christ!
Unfailing Faithfulness — What Should We Do With This Now?
Alright, I have talked a lot about what Matthew 28:20 tells us, but what exactly should do with this now? Well, from my own experience, I can say: Seek and trust God! If you feel like you’re drowning and look to God, He will pull you out of your despair. He is the light in the darkness; the lamp for our feet. If you feel worthless and lift your eyes to your heavenly Father, He will show you how precious you are. He has a purpose for each one of us; we are all part of his glorious plan. And if you sin and turn back to him, He will take you into his arms and console you. He is the one who makes us holy; who frees us from the chains of this world.
In case you’re still hesitant about this, you may want to read Why It Is Important To Trust God.
That is what unfailing faithfulness means: A love that is truly unconditional and relentlessly pursues. God will never stop chasing after us, no matter how often we turn away! He will never let us down, because he loves us just the way we are — with all our fears and failures! Knowing this, we can boldy proclaim,
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me! Psalm 40:11 ESV