The Fruit of the Spirit - Faith and Faithfulness: Fundamental to Relationships and Responsibilities

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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, 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): "For men will be lovers of themselves ...blasphemers...unloving...slanderers...traitors..." (2 Timothy 3:2-4). 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 companion by covenant" (Malachi 2:14-16). 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, 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)—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 20:28).

And to truly "hold fast" spiritually, we must have God's Spirit dwelling within us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

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).

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).

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).

The book of Galatians itself says that we must have and live by "the faith of Christ" (Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:20, KJV). Revelation 14:12 says that God's true servants "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

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). 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, 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?" (Luke 16:11, 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?" (Luke 16:12, 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, NIV).

"Masters" (employers, supervisors, etc.) are just as accountable to God for how they treat those working under them (Colossians 4:1; Ephesians 6:9).

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). 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). We must never give up or fall away!

In Matthew 24, Christ was giving His disciples startling prophecies of the "end of the age" (Matthew 24:3). In Matthew 24:9-12, He speaks of tribulation and persecution. Then in Matthew 24:13 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; see also Revelation 22:12).

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).

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" (Matthew 25:40). We show our love for God and Christ by how we love God's other children (1 John 4:20-21). Let's do it!

Also in Matthew 25:14-30, 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 25:21-23).

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!