The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness
August 4, 2020
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
These words from the apostle Paul describe the characteristics that God has covenanted to grow in the Jesus follower as that person abides in Christ and lets the Holy Spirit do His work. They are not characteristics that we are to sweat and agonize over to develop—they are the natural outgrowth of living in step with the Holy Spirit, abiding in Jesus. We have been looking at one a week for six weeks now. Today we study faithfulness, one of the characteristics listed most often as desired in a friend or partner.
Tim Keller has spent a great deal of time studying the fruit of the Spirit. His summaries are helpful in getting a grip on how these characteristics matter in our lives. He says the definition of faithfulness is loyalty and courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.
The opposite of faithfulness is being opportunistic, a fair-weather friend. Counterfeit faithfulness is love without truth. It is prizing loyalty and avoiding conflict when you should be willing to confront or challenge.
Faithfulness is generally taken for granted until it is fractured. Someone you trusted deeply breaks a deeply personal confidence. A contractor cuts out on details he agreed upon. A coworker fails to come through on a vital agreement. Our spouse breaks the marriage covenant. Suddenly we are bleeding and broken. How could they hurt us in this way? They are being fair-weather friends—walking away when it’s easy. How did we get here? Was it counterfeit faithfulness? Did we hide from the issues we could have worked out?
Bit by bit the breakdown in faithfulness leads to disintegrated trust. So, we guard our inner thoughts from others, and we protect our hurting heart, wary of the very people God gave in covenant to us. When we don’t trust those around us, our trust in God’s goodness also fades. The security we have in a faithful God disappears. We see Him in the images of the people who were unfaithful. Then our mistrust in the faithfulness of others and God leads us to excusing ourselves for being unfaithful.
But the truth is, God is for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Jesus will be with you always (Matthew 18:20), and nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). The deep-down truth is that God is ALWAYS faithful. Unlike human beings can be, God is never a promise breaker.
Our world is desperately in need of faithful people who will represent God with humble faithfulness. These people are loyal, courageous, principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable, and true to their word. We can never develop this through our own effort, no matter how hard we try. Honest, non-resentful faithfulness from the inside out only comes from abiding in Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit do His work in us.
We can become faithful in the image of Jesus. We grow in faith as we use the power God gives us through His Spirit to obey Him and build a relationship with Him. Our relationship with Him develops perseverance, an aspect of faithfulness, which keeps us loyal through hard times. We are not fair-weather friends, on and off again with God and others. Our relationship through the Holy Spirit also develops courage in us. We are faithful to tell the truth and live the truth instead of simply avoiding conflict. We love God and people enough to faithfully, lovingly confront and challenge untruth.
Faithfulness gives structure to all the other fruits. We are told that if our relationship with God is as it should be, on the day when we meet God face to face, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We need the Holy Spirit to get us there.