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The Fruit of the Spirit - Faith and Faithfulness

Fundamental to Relationships and Responsibilities

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“Old Faithful” is a famous geyser in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park. It was so named in 1870 because it reliably erupts at somewhat consistent and predictable intervals.

A famous Latin motto, Semper fidelis, means “Always faithful.” God is always faithful, and we should learn to take Him at His word. Do we? And how much can you and I be counted on to be faithful?

“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6 Proverbs 20:6Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
American King James Version×
, New International Version). It is increasingly difficult to find someone whose love or loyalty can be counted on. So many people are fickle and faithless.

It's sad to read the apostle Paul's prophecy of wretched attitudes and habits “in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1 2 Timothy 3:1This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
American King James Version×
): “For men will be lovers of themselves…blasphemers… unloving…slanderers…traitors…” (verses 2-4). The consequences to society are disastrous.

Marriages and families are a major casualty. Fewer and fewer people are willing to make lifelong commitments. And a great many who do make wedding vows (even “before God”) later on break those vows in one way or another. When someone cheats on or deserts his or her mate, God says “you have dealt treacherously [with]…your companionvby covenant” (Malachi 2:14-16 Malachi 2:14-16 14 Yet you say, Why? Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet is she your companion, and the wife of your covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, said that he hates putting away: for one covers violence with his garment, said the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
American King James Version×
). God hates these forms of unfaithfulness.

All good relationships are built on the foundation of faith and faithfulness—of mutual trust born out of trustworthiness. A good marriage is largely defined as a faithful wife and faithful husband. A good friend is a true friend or a faithful friend—not a “fair-weather friend,” but one who “loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17 Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout). A good employee is a trusted and dependable employee.

Although all people sometimes fail at faithfulness, we can always count on God. That is what enables us to have complete faith and trust in Him. It's vital that we respond to the faithfulness of God the Father and Jesus Christ with deep and abiding faith, so that we will then give Them our very best—our utmost allegiance, fidelity, obedience and devotion.

Produced through the Holy Spirit

God's standard of faith and faithfulness is far greater than what we can achieve with our own human effort. To reach the level of faith to truly become faithful like God we must wholeheartedly seek His help! Pray for faith and faithfulness. Read the Bible to learn about and come to trust in God's faithfulness (Romans 10:17 Romans 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
American King James Version×
)—and to be inspired to follow His example just as others of His servants have in times past. Seek the fellowship of “the church of God” where others are trying to faithfully follow God still today (Acts 2:42 Acts 2:42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
American King James Version×
; 20:28).

And to truly “hold fast” spiritually, we must have God's Spirit dwelling within us (2 Timothy 1:13-14 2 Timothy 1:13-14 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you keep by the Holy Ghost which dwells in us.
American King James Version×
).

How do we obtain God's Spirit? Right after the apostle Peter preached a powerful sermon, he told the listeners, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
).

God's Spirit then imparts the nature of God, which develops in us gradually, like fruit ripening on a tree.

The “fruit” that God's Spirit produces is composed of many wonderful virtues. The apostle Paul listed some of the main ones. The New King James Version of the Bible presents his words this way: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
).

Rather than “faithfulness,” the earlier King James Version has the word “faith” here. This is consistent with the way the Greek word pistis in this passage is usually translated elsewhere in the New Testament—including numerous occurrences in the book of Galatians. Yet most modern Bible translations have “faithfulness” or a like term here.

One reason for this is that faith, our belief and trust in God, is normally seen to come from ourselves—and not as a product of God's Spirit within us. And it's true that faith toward God comes with repentance—before receiving the Holy Spirit. Yet faith is elsewhere referred to as a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9 1 Corinthians 12:9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
American King James Version×
).

The book of Galatians itself says that we must have and live by “the faith of Christ” (Galatians 2:16 Galatians 2:16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
American King James Version×
, 20, KJV). Revelation 14:12 Revelation 14:12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
American King James Version×
says that God's true servants “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12 Revelation 14:12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
American King James Version×
).

How do we reconcile this? The answer involves different degrees of faith. Our initial faith toward God does come prior to receiving His Holy Spirit, though even this is in response to what God shows us in life and the help He gives us to believe. But upon receiving the Holy Spirit, God the Father and Jesus Christ come to dwell within a believer, changing one's character from the inside. This includes greatly increasing the person's faith.

With this much deeper faith, a person will be led to totally trust God with regard to the blessings for obeying His law and the consequences for disobeying. This will lead to obedience from the heart and always returning in repentance to God upon falling short. This is living faith— saving faith. It comes through the Holy Spirit. (To better understand, read our free booklet You Can Have Living Faith .)

All this being so, it may not matter so much whether the word here is rendered “faith” or “faithfulness.” For if we have living faith, we will respond with faithfulness. Living faith itself is a product of God's Holy Spirit—as is the faithfulness that results.

Indeed, God's Spirit is the only power great enough to help us overcome the evil “works of the flesh”—our selfish human nature (Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
). The results of this selfishness are gross examples of unfaithfulness, including adultery (infidelity to one's spouse), fornication (infidelity to one's future spouse), idolatry and sorcery (infidelity and treason against God), and murders (total betrayal of another). May God help us to be different!

Faithful in all things, big and small

Let's look now at some important lessons on faithfulness from Scripture. These show how God judges our character.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10 Luke 16:10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
American King James Version×
, NIV). God never overlooks or excuses any irresponsibility. We must prove our trustworthiness in even the smallest duties.

“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (verse 11, NIV). God judges our character by how we manage  everything!

“And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?” (verse 12, NIV). We should be just as careful—or even more careful—with the property of others as with our own. That kind of trustworthy stewardship brings certain rewards in this life and will bring much greater rewards in the next life.

The next passage is about slaves or bondservants, but we can and should apply these principles to the role of an employee or helper:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism” (Colossians 3:22-25 Colossians 3:22-25 22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that does wrong shall receive for the wrong which he has done: and there is no respect of persons.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

“Masters” (employers, supervisors, etc.) are just as accountable to God for how they treat those working under them (Colossians 4:1 Colossians 4:1 Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
American King James Version×
; Ephesians 6:9 Ephesians 6:9And, you masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
American King James Version×
).

Faithfulness includes perseverance

Perseverance is a key to success in everything, including running a race. When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was in prison awaiting almost certain execution. But he was at peace because he knew he had been faithful to God.

Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 2 Timothy 4:7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
American King James Version×
). May we have this same confidence at the end of our race!

The ultimatereward for perseverance is eternal life! Jesus said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10 Revelation 2:10Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life.
American King James Version×
). We must never give up or fall away!

In Matthew 24, Christ was giving His disciples startling prophecies of the “end of the age” (verse 3). In verses 9 through 12, He speaks of tribulation and persecution. Then in verse 13 He says, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

In much of this chapter, Jesus is speaking of His second coming—at a time when most people will not be expecting it! It is the “faithful and wise servant” who will be richly rewarded—the one who, motivated by faith, has continued to do God's will and God's work until he dies or Christ returns, whichever comes first! (Matthew 24:44-46 Matthew 24:44-46 44 Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing.
American King James Version×
; see also Revelation 22:12 Revelation 22:12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
American King James Version×
).

Faithfulness to God and Christ

What is God's will and God's work? Part of the answer is in the next chapter. It includes giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, hospitality and clothing to those who need them, and care for those who are sick or in prison (Matthew 25:31-46 Matthew 25:31-46 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38 When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39 Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me. 41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×
).

The returning Christ is portrayed as the King who will say, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (verse 40). We show our love for God and Christ by how we love God's other children (1 John 4:20-21 1 John 4:20-21 20 If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also.
American King James Version×
). Let's do it!

Also in Matthew 25, in verses 14-30, Jesus told the parable of the talents (a “talent” was a measure of money). This story illustrates several vital lessons.

God gives each of us different abilities and opportunities, and He expects us to thoroughly use them in His service. He will generously reward us according to how much we have spiritually grown and served in this life. An “unprofitable servant” who has wasted his time and opportunities instead of obeying God is called “wicked and lazy” and will be punished. And God does not accept excuses—not even fear of failure.

But the main point of the parable is how it beautifully portrays Christ returning someday to reward His faithful followers—those who believe God and live accordingly.

To each of the profitable servants, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 Matthew 25:21His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
American King James Version×
, 23).

May we all live according to the faith God's Spirit develops within us—thereby exhibiting the faithfulness He desires. And in the end, may each of us hear Christ's wonderful approval on the great day He returns to reward His faithful servants! GN

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