Fruit of the Spirit: Keep the faith

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

-Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

Faithfulness…

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
-Hebrews 11:1

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Faithfulness is defined as the quality of being faithful; fidelity; true and constant support or loyalty; steady in allegiance or affection. Oftentimes we use the word to describe the relationship between husband and wife, the loyalty of a pet to its master, or a commitment we have to friends or family members. We even go so far as to declare our faithful allegiance to sports teams, certain stores or restaurants, or brands of clothing or cars. We pride ourselves in our devout loyalty to the things of this world, to being so faithful in so many ways. Yet in Galatians 5:22, we read that faithfulness is a God-given gift, one of the fruits that evidences the Holy Spirit in our lives.

In Psalm 15, David gives us a Biblical definition of a faithful man…

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart
And has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
Who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
Who lends money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.

 Blameless. Righteous. Speaks truth. Does his neighbor no wrong. Who keeps his oath even when it hurts. These are the virtues of one who is considered faithful in the eyes of God, and it is not by accident that David included the phrase, “even when it hurts.” God does not look for fair-weather faithfulness. He wants faithfulness in ALL circumstances, both good and bad. It’s all a part of His grand plan, and He commands that we trust and obey even especially in the difficult times.

The Bible is full of examples of men and women who displayed great faithfulness in victory and in trial. If you’ve never studied Hebrews 11, stop and take a look at it now. Here we find a roll call of the faithful. So much can be learned by reading this chapter, and then going back and reading the accounts of those mentioned. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Rahab… just a handful of the examples of ordinary people that trusted God and exhibited extraordinary faithfulness.  They weren’t some kind of supernatural people that had something we don’t have- they had flaws and mistakes and sinful natures and scars and pasts and baggage, just like you and me… but they surrendered it all to God, the good and the bad, and allowed Him to use them for His glory.

There are other role models for us to examine throughout God’s word, and I’m turning our focus to three in particular- Esther, Job, and Stephen… Three very different people at different times in different circumstances, but all trusting the same God to do big things.

The book of Esther is an incredible account of an ordinary woman of great faith that God used to do amazing things. An orphan girl, raised by her cousin, and placed into a marriage to a man who was known for tossing aside his wives when they were less than submissive to his plans.  Yet Esther was willing to trust God’s plan for His people and allowed herself to be used by Him, even when it meant risking her own life. Her faith in God enabled her to have the courage to be bold and follow His agenda, even when it led her out of her comfort zone. “…When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

The book of Job gives us a look at a man who was faithful to God even when it hurt. Job was a righteous man, a godly man, a faithful man… yet he had to endure extreme hardships, losing everything he had. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health, yet he refused to give up on God because he knew God was so much bigger than the problems he faced on this earth. He faced peer pressure and ridicule when he continued praising God in the storm, but he wasn’t swayed.  He had faith that God was still in control and that God had great things in store for him, even when life seemed hopeless. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15)

Finally, in the New Testament we see Stephen, described as being “a man full of God’s grace and power.” (Acts 6:8) Stephen portrayed ultimate courage and strength in the Lord as he boldly stood before the Sanhedrin (see Acts 7) and professed the truth, knowing it would cost him his life. He had every opportunity to back down or stay silent in order to preserve his life, but his loyalty to God was so fierce and strong that he had to proclaim God’s word. Even in the face of death, Stephen declared God’s sovereignty, and prayed for those persecuting him as they stoned him to death. While that sounds like a grim ending, it was a joyous occasion as Stephen was welcomed into an eternity with God and his faith was made sight.

What can we take from these big examples of godly faithfulness? Stay the course. Don’t give up. Pledge your allegiance solely to Him. The mark of true faith is grateful obedience… grabbing God’s hand and following Him when He tells us to move, praising Him while we wait (and wait, and wait) in the everyday mundane, and trusting Him when the storms blow in and turn our worlds upside down. Friends, I know the struggle.  I’ve been in the pit, I’ve seen hopeless, I’ve been drowning in my own tears… but I’ve seen mercy and grace and love as He lifted me from the sludge.  “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon the rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…” (Psalm 40:2-3).  There is no pit too deep, no valley too low, no sludge too thick that can keep Him away, so keep the faith.  Be bold, be strong, be courageous… in every season and circumstance.

“Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”
-Deuteronomy 10:20-21

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
-Lamentations 3:22-24

“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
-Revelation 2:10

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