THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23)
SO…WHAT IS “FAITHFULNESS”?
We have seen that the “fruit of the Spirit” is what others see in us that is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us. And just as fruit is taken and eaten and is seen to be good to the one who eats of it, so when people see the “fruit of the Spirit” in us, they will see something that is good to have, something that they want to have, something that they need to have.
In some ways this “fruit” is an inner attitude that has such an impact on others – such is love, joy, peace and patience. In other ways this “fruit” is an outward action that has a profound, “seismic” effect on others – such is kindness and goodness.
Now, we see a “fruit” that is a firm and unshakeable stand by us that will have an amazing impact on people who will be astounded by it:
Christian faithfulness is defined as:
steadfastness, constancy, or allegiance; it is carefulness in keeping what we are entrusted with; it is the conviction that the Scriptures accurately reflect reality. Biblical faithfulness requires belief in what the Bible says about God—His existence, His works, and His character.
Faithfulness is believing that God is Who He says He is and continuing in that belief despite the vagaries of life. Functionally, that means we trust what God says in the Bible, and not necessarily what the world or our own eyes tell us. We trust He will work out everything for good. We trust He will work His will in us. And we trust that our situation on earth is nothing compared to our future reward in heaven. The only way we can have such faith is by the Holy Spirit’s influence. He testifies to the truth and impels us to seek God. The Spirit makes us faithful. (source: “gotquestions.org).
Now, once again we have to accept that this is hard to understand and so let us try to break this down:
We are saved by the grace of God (who gives to us what we don’t deserve) through FAITH in Him. This faith is a belief that all that is in the Bible is true, that God does always love us; that God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us; that through His death our sins are forgiven and that through His resurrection we too will have eternal life.
However, the true “faithfulness” which is a gift of the Holy Spirit to us is this: that we will keep faith in God – trusting in Him and in all His promises – no matter what the circumstances of life, and that we will remain loyal to Him literally to the point of death.
Let us see how the Bible describes this fruit of faithfulness – and let us begin by looking once more at our dear friends Paul and Silas in the prison in Philippi.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF PAUL AND SILAS
In Acts 16: 16-34 Paul and Silas were arrested after delivering a slave girl from an evil spirit who was holding her in bondage. The angry crowd seized them, the authorities stripped them and beat them and shackled them in the innermost cell of the prison. After an earthquake sprung open all the cell doors the jailer fell before Paul and Silas and asked:
‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (v. 30)
Again we ask “why did he do this?” And one of the reasons is that he was overwhelmed by the faithfulness that he saw in Paul and Silas. The ordinary prisoner, after such harsh treatment, would have cursed the god whom they had followed – as a fraud, a failure, one who could not protect his followers. But, here were two men who not only remained true (“steadfast”) to their God, but who continued to pray to Him and sing praises to Him even in the midst of their suffering! Their faithfulness was unnatural – supernatural – and amazed him and transformed him into knowing that he wanted and he needed to have knowledge of this one, true, God.
This is “faithfulness” – the remaining loyal to, and totally dependent on, Father God – no matter what the circumstances of life. A faithfulness based on knowing God, trusting God, serving God and a certainty that:
in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8: 28)
But, it’s not just Paul and Silas who show this faithfulness in action – let us look at two other, Old Testament, examples:
THE FAITHFULNESS OF JOSEPH
We are told in Genesis chapter 37 that Joseph, son of Jacob, was given a dream that the sheaves of his brothers were bowing down to him; and another dream that the sun, moon and 11 stars (his father, mother and brothers) were bowing down to him. He knew, by faith, that God had something special in store for him.
However, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37: 28) and then (Genesis 39) thrown into prison by Potiphar after he refused to break faith with God by sleeping with Potiphar’s wife. Yet he never wavered in his faith – believing that God had an incredible plan for his life and trusting in Him, not moaning, but actually carrying on serving God even when his life was on the line.
This is faithfulness in action – a decision to obey God no matter what the consequences due to a belief that God was ultimately in control.
Now, our final character of faithfulness is the one that I want us to focus on most of all – job.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF JOB
Job was a man of faith, a man who
was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1: 1)
God was very proud of Job, but Satan believed that Job’s faith would collapse if times got hard for him:
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’
9 ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. 10 ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ (Job 1: 8-11)
And so we see it – “faithfulness” is proven only when present during the “tough times”.
And so God allowed Satan to “hit him where it hurts”: firstly, his wealth was taken from him; secondly, his family were taken from him; thirdly, his own health was taken from him. But, the proof that he remained faithful to God came quickly:
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I shall depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’ (Job 1: 20-21)
His wife then manifested the natural reaction to disastrous circumstances, whereas Job manifested the fruit of faithfulness:
9 His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’
10 He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ (Job 2: 9-10)
From chapter 3 onwards we are encouraged by Job. For, in his faithfulness, he was not any different from us. He too was beset with doubts and questions. Job felt sorry for himself – but he did not lose faith in God. He felt angry with God – but he did not lose faith in God. He challenged God to explain Himself – but he did not lose faith in God. He pleads for mercy and for relief – and hears nothing – but he did not lose faith in God. He demanded that God listen to him – but he did not lose faith in God. He cries to God but feels God does not answer – but he did not lose faith in God.
Then (and this is found in Job 13: 15) he summarises faithfulness: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him”. And what is his hope in Him? That God knows what He is doing and that all will be well in the end – so in Job 19: 25-27 he declares that he knows “that my redeemer lives” and that he will in the end “see God”. He knows that God will bring good out of his suffering: Job 23: 10 “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold”.
In Job 38 God declares that we can never understand His ways – He is God and His understanding is way above ours. Faith is accepting that God does know best and that God is good and God is love and faithfulness is trusting in Him as well as not denying Him.
And so, at last, in Job 42 we see that his faithfulness is rewarded – in his case it was in this life – twice as much as he had before. With others it is going to be with the benefits and blessings of eternal life.
What an example of “faithfulness” Job is!
But…what about today? What about us? Will people see faithfulness growing on us? Even when the going gets tough?
THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
If faithfulness is the ability, the decision, to stand with God, to trust completely in Him, to remain committed to Him, even when life is hard, even when life is “on the line”, then the Persecuted Church is proof that the Holy Spirit fruit of faithfulness is still very much present.
Where can we start?
- Today men and women are going to their deaths at the hands of IS because they will not deny their faith – rather they are certain of where they are going and of the love of God no matter what man does to them. Horrific films of Believers having the heads cut off defile the internet.
- And look at Asia Bibi in the Muslim nation of Pakistan. Verbally and physically attacked for drinking out of a water bowl – she remained faithful; arrested and accused of blasphemy and encouraged to now convert to Islam to keep her alive – she remained faithful; condemned to death – she remained faithful; thrown into a windowless cell in solitary confinement for 10 years – she remained faithful; refused access to her children – she remained faithful; conviction overturned yet still in captivity and with a fatwah on her head – she continues to remain faithful. How? The Holy Spirit is within her and is bearing fruit of faithfulness for all to see.
- Look at the testimony of Matt Redman in 2015: The worship leader describes the extraordinary story of a group of death row prisoners, known as the Bali Nine, who sang his well-known song “10000 reasons” (Bless the Lord)as they were shot. It was sung by a group of prisoners as they faced a 13-man firing squad in Indonesia. Speaking to Premier, worship leader Matt Redman, who wrote the song with Swedish songwriter Jonas Myrin, described the incident as ‘profound’. The prisoners in question included ‘Bali Nine’ ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who had been on death row for almost a decade for drug trafficking. All but one of the eight had turned to Christ since the start of their incarceration.
‘They had become Christians, full on life-transformed, and they were transforming other people’s lives,’ explains Redman. Despite protests from across the globe, the authorities decided to uphold the death penalties. But when the day came for them to face the firing squad, something extraordinary happened. The prisoners declined the offer to wear blindfolds and instead stood and faced their executors. According to witnesses, they recited the Lord’s Prayer, embraced one another, and sang two songs, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘10,000 Reasons’, before their voices were drowned out by gunfire.
- And just this week, “Open Doors” have reported the case of 25 year old believer Eldos Satar Uluu from Kyrgyzstan who was beaten for refusing to deny his faith in Jesus. He was home alone when 3 men broke into his house. “They began hitting him and kicking him until he fell on the floor. They shouted at him that he was a ‘kafir’ (infidel) and that he had betrayed Islam (by converting to Christianity). Then they kicked his head while on the floor, breaking several of his front teeth and his jaw bone” a neighbour has said. Thankfully, Eldos has survived the attack, but is still in hospital following surgery. Shockingly, one of the attachjers came to the hospital to try to persuade Eldos and his family to drop their complain to the authorities about the attack. A relative said Eldos was “threatened with death if he did not do this”.
FAITHFULNESS AND YOU AND ME
Faithfulness is NOT natural! When faced with trouble, disaster and persecution, the natural response is self-defence – which will mean denying or rejecting the one in whom we had put our trust.
Faithfulness is supernatural. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us then we will remain faithful in all, and despite all, things.
And here is the challenge: what is going on in your life today? How confused are you by the circumstances of your life– it makes no sense at all! Are you willing to be like Job and today’s martyrs and to say “I will accept good and trouble from God and will not lose my faith in Him”. Being faithful is very different to other manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit – in that it has two opposite results: for some – like the Philippian jailer – it has the effect of breaking people and making them want to have the faithfulness that they see in you. For others – as with IS and the extremist Muslims in Pakistan over Asia Bibi – it makes them angry and even more hostile
So what is faith?
- It is obeying Him, following Him, whatever the circumstances. The faithful disciple is not a “fair-weather Christian” who only follows Jesus when the going is good.
- It is believing that His promises are true and not doubting this – that whatever happens in this life things are going to get better in eternity.
- But, it goes further. Faith is the certainty (and decision) that He knows best, that out of His great love He has all things under control and that all things will be used by Him for our benefit (Romans 8:28)
Faithfulness is not “blind” – Job shows us that it is natural to question God – even challenge Him – about the things that happen to us. This is not sin. But faithfulness means that we do NOT allow these human questions to overwhelm us – if they are overwhelming you today then seek God to help you.
How do we grow in faithfulness? Same as always – turn to God, follow Him totally, trust in His presence with you completely.