This is the 7th in the list of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-23. We look first of all at what Faithfulness is not, before seeing what it really is.
1). WHAT FAITHFULNESS IS NOT. Some Examples Of Unfaithfulness
Just a few weeks ago a famous New Zealand Rugby player was waiting with his team to catch a plane at a New Zealand airport. The story goes that he left the team and apparently met up with a young woman in a toilet that was reserved for disabled people. Those who saw him enter the toilet later judged it to have been a sexual encounter. When the news broke, people were shocked and vented their disgust. But the reactions were varied. Some condemned the couple for using a toilet that was set aside for disabled people. “How dare they take up that space!” was the criticism. A majority of others however, knowing that the player had a well-known partner, condemned him for being unfaithful to her. (People do not like unfaithfulness.)
Many years ago I was counselling a woman who was having marital problems. Her husband had been unfaithful on a number of occasions. But I was even more disgusted when she told me he had been unfaithful even on their wedding night. She told me that soon after they had arrived at their hotel for their honeymoon, he had gone down to the bar for a quick drink before retiring. There he met a young woman drinking alone who had invited him back to her room where a sexual encounter took place. I still remember the deep sadness in her voice as she said, “Even on our wedding night!” (People hate unfaithfulness.)
A Senior Clergyman who was well-known and respected in his diocese reached retirement age. A big function was held for him and his wife. After the function he suggested that his wife go home while he finished tidying his office. However he never went home. People were shocked to discover that immediately after the function he had run off with the woman who had been his secretary. (People were disgusted. People hate unfaithfulness.)
If a famous footballer, a top lawyer and a senior clergyman can’t be faithful, who can? Well, all of us should be and can be by the grace of God. But we need to understand what faithfulness looks like. To do so we need to look beyond human individuals to the supreme example of faithfulness. That is God Himself.
2). WHAT IS FAITHFULNESS? The true pattern is found in God Himself.
There are many passages in the Bible that describe the faithfulness of God. We look at two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament.
2 Old Testament Passages.
i). He Is Faithful in His mercy and provision. Lamentations 3:22 “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ” He is faithful to His people every day.
ii). He is Faithful to His eternal promises. Deuteronomy 7:9. He fulfils His promises to provide for His people. Deut 7:9, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” He is always faithful and He will be faithful for ever.
2 New Testament Passages
i). 1Cor 10:13. He promises to help us overcome temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
BUT if we do fall to temptation, God has another promise for us.
ii). He is faithful in forgiving us and cleansing us. 1 John 1:8-9. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins & to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(He is “Faithful” to His Old Testament promises to forgive His people when they repent of sin and ask for His forgiveness. He is “Just” because justice has been done. Jesus died in our place and bore the punishment we deserved for our sin.)
3). HOW CAN WE BECOME FAITHFUL PEOPLE?
What do we have in mind when we say we want to be faithful people? The picture in the minds of many is that we are weak frail people who want to do right things but are too weak to do them without God’s help. So we cry out to God, “Please make me to be a more faithful person.” OR as we sing these words in the hymn, “Just a closer walk with Thee”. [ “I am weak but Thou art strong, Jesus keep me from all wrong, I’ll be satisfied as long, As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.”] It is a prayer in which we recognise our weakness and we cry out to God for His help.
It Is Asking God To Give Us What We Think We Don’t Have.
BUT there Is Another Way Of Looking At How We Can Become More Faithful People. We go back to Gal 5:22-23 and try to work out what it is saying. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.”
What is fruit? It is the outward expression or manifestation of the life within.
The apple is the outward manifestation of the life within the apple tree. The fruit of the Spirit is the outward manifestation or expression of the life of the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer.
”Fruit” is singular. So the fruit is ALL those qualities or characteristics of the Spirit being manifest in and through our lives. Not just one or two, but all the fruit, all the time!
Does that characterise us? It should! But HOW can it happen?
4). BY ALLOWING THE HOLY SPIRIT TO FILL US WITH HIS PRESENCE
Paul wrote, Eph 5:18 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit”. It is a command. It is in the present continuous tense, “keep on being filled”. It is passive in voice. We can’t fill ourselves. We have to be filled. Only God can fill us with His Spirit.
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with the life of Christ. The fruit of His indwelling life is seen through us and we show forth the fruit in our lives, (“love AND joy AND peace AND patience AND kindness AND goodness AND faithfulness AND gentleness AND self-control.”)
As we ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit we are asking Him to fill us with What We Already Have Within Us by His Spirit. God’s resources are made available to us by His indwelling Spirit. It’s as though we are getting out of the way (dying to self) and letting God flood us with His indwelling presence by His Spirit. It is allowing His life, His character, the fruit of the Spirit to be expressed though our lives.
So we could say that “Faithfulness” is not something “out there” to be hankered after. It is something we already have within us by the Holy Spirit. It is allowing God to express His character, His Faithfulness through us as we allow ourselves to be continually filled with His Spirit. BUT HOW?
5). THROUGH PRAYER. PRAYING THAT GOD WOULD FILL US WITH HIS SPIRIT
There’s a wonderful hymn that captures this desire to be filled with the presence of God. It was written by Theodore Monod, a French pastor who spoke at Keswick conventions and Deeper Life meetings. It has the theme that before we become believers we are full of self and have no place for God in our lives. The first verse has these words, “Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow, That a time could ever be, When I let the Saviour’s pity, Plead in vain, and proudly answered, All of self, and none of Thee, All of self and none of Thee.”
Then we become Christians and give Him a little space in our lives. The next verse ends with the words, “Some of self and some of Thee.” Later we give Him a bigger place in our lives. The next verse ends, “Less of self and more of Thee.” Finally we come to that point in our lives where we say something like this in the final verse of the hymn, “Higher than the highest heavens, Deeper than the deepest sea, Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered; Grant me now my heart’s petition, “None Of Self, And All Of Thee.”
I believe there are thousands of people in our churches who are at that point in their lives where they want all that God has for them in Christ. They want a sense of reality. They want more victories and less defeats. They want to be more faithful. Deep down they are crying out in their hearts, “Lord, I want NONE of self and ALL of Thee.” They desire what St Paul prayed for his readers in Ephesus to experience, namely to be filled with God’s fullness, Eph 3:19 “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Are you one of those people? If you are, you might like to join me in a prayer asking that God would fill us with His Spirit. Then and only then can we show forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives day by day and moment by moment. Only then can we become the people God wants us to be, those characterised always by “faithfulness.”.
A PRAYER TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
“Heavenly Father, I ask You to forgive all my sin and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
Fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit so that the fruit of the Spirit might be seen in me for every moment of my life.
Enable me to show forth continually “love + joy + peace + patience + kindness+ goodness + faithfulness + gentleness + self-control,” (the evidence of Your presence in me).
Thank You for hearing me and for the answer You are bringing me, even now as I pray. AMEN.”
Blog No.197. JIm Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 20th October 2016