But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Gal. 5: 22-23
In our continuing meditations on the fruit of Spirit, we come to faithfulness. In the life of a believer, this, like the other parts of the fruit, is very vital. That we require the work of the indwelling Spirit to produce this virtue in us underscores its importance. We again trust the Spirit to grant us insight as we study.
WHAT IS FAITHFULNESS?
While most translations use the word faithfulness, the King James Version use the word ‘faith’. For many of us today, faith simply means belief in God; the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. We understand faithfulness to be broader in meaning and application.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines faithfulness as steadfast affection or allegiance; firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty. Faithfulness is believing that God is true to what He says and holding on to that belief in the face of life’s challenges. Sometimes we think of faithfulness as simply, full of faith. It is synonymous with words like steadfastness, constancy, loyalty, dependable, trustworthy and staunch.
The faithfulness we are dealing with here is that which is produced in the life of a believer as a consequence of the work of the Spirit of God in their life. It is therefore helpful to also state what this faithfulness is not. Merriam Webster also defines faithfulness as: not having sex with someone who is not your wife, husband, girlfriend, or boyfriend. You can immediately see that this differs from what we are talking about. As far as God is concerned, sex is exclusively reserved for a legally married man and woman. Anything outside of that is sin. A boy and a girl, a man and a woman, who come together in an amorous relationship outside of marriage and engage in sex, are simply committing sin. Whether they stick to only themselves in the act is beside the point. Sex before marriage is fornication; sex outside of marriage is adultery. Both are acts of unfaithfulness to God. Being faithful, to be rightly defined as the fruit of the Spirit, must be in full alliance with the character of the Holy Spirit as seen in the Bible.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD
God is a faithful God. The testament to this is spread all over scripture. When he revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai He declared Himself to be “The LORD, the LORD… abounding in love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6). He actually abounds in faithfulness. It is a virtue that is synonymous with Him. Other than his self-identification with faithfulness, saints all through the ages, who have related with Him have come away with the same conclusion: God is faithful. The Psalmist confirms this in Psalm 86:15 that “you, O Lord, are … abounding in love and faithfulness.” Elsewhere he proclaims: “your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Ps. 36:5; 57:10; 108:4); “his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Ps. 100:5; 119:90). Describing God’s faithfulness as reaching to the skies is not a geographical or mathematical measure of what amount of faithfulness He possesses. It is a man’s way of using his finite vocabulary to attempt to describe an infinite quality of an infinite God. To say His faithfulness continues through all generations means that it super-abounds to every age of human existence. When Isaiah was describing how the Christ, the branch of Jesse, like a well-laid mosaic, will beautifully display His virtues, he said “faithfulness (will) be the sash around His waist” (Isa. 11:5). Paul said in 1 Cor. 1:9 that “God … is faithful.” You cannot describe God correctly and leave out faithfulness. For all the promises he has made in scripture, he has been faithful to bring them all to fulfillment, no matter how long it has taken or how unlikely it has appeared. Whether it is in promising Abraham a huge offspring; promising eventual deliverance of Israel from Egypt; promising humanity a savior in Jesus, or even in private promises like those made to Joseph in his dreams, God has kept His word and fulfilled each of them. It is this kind of life that He calls us to when we become His children. The faithfulness we are dealing with, is therefore, a call for us to partake in the divine nature.
CALLED TO BE FAITHFUL
The call to the Christian life is a call to be faithful. It is a call to be full of faith in God, to continue in that belief despite the challenges of life; it is a call to remain steadfast to our confessions and our duties. Right from the beginning, Adam and Eve were asked to be faithful to God’s commands; believers are called to be faithful to Jesus; husbands and wives are called to be faithful to their marriage vows; citizens are to be faithful to the laws of the land. Jesus referred to faithfulness as being part of “the more important matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23). Can we say we have it in us to be faithful with the God-kind of faithfulness? Does your faithfulness reach to the skies? When you yourself may not live out a whole generation, how can your faithfulness continue through all generations? See what mess these callings have become. God has been disobeyed; families are in turmoil because of marital unfaithfulness; societies are broken because of unfaithful citizens. In fact scripture says “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field” (Isa. 40:6, NIV 2011).
In spite of our inherent propensity to be unfaithful the Lord still requires faithfulness from us. The Bible says “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Every believer has a trust, not least the trust to walk with God. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10). Wherever you are, whatever has been given to you, big or small, faithfulness is required.
Right from Adam, faithfulness has been a challenge for man. Comparing our faithfulness to God’s raises the bar even more. While it is challenging, it is still possible to be found faithful. God Himself testified about Moses: “… My servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house” (Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2, 5). Before him, both Enoch and Noah were also said to have walked faithfully with God (Gen. 5:22-24; 6:9, NIV 2011). So what enabled these saints to be faithful? Self-determination? The Spirit of God did. The Holy Spirit, indwelling and working in the believer, produces faithfulness in them like fruit in an orchard. It is Him who provides the power to stay true to true courses, no matter the challenges. He will also do that by exposing the believer to the necessary experiences for them to prove and grow in their faithfulness. How can you say Joseph was faithful in Potiphar’s house if he hadn’t been entrusted with his master’s possessions and tempted by his master’s wife, yet remained true to his trust? Your experience may be different, but the principle will still be the same. The Spirit will be your ever-present help. He who helped Jesus remain faithful to His Father’s call, is still available to equip you with the same grace Jesus had. His faithfulness will be your faithfulness.
And who will entrust you with big things and true riches if you have not been proven faithful in small things and worldly wealth; who will give you what is yours if you have not been faithful with another man’s possession (Lk. 16:10-12)?
At the end of time when the Master returns, this same word is likely to be used to congratulate those who have kept their trust: “His master replied, ‘Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matt. 25: 21). Eternal reward will actually be reward for faithfulness. Jesus said in Rev. 2:10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” May the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ keep you from falling and present you faithful before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy, on the day of Jesus Christ.