What picture would you use to describe faithfulness? I came up with so many that I couldn’t choose just one to kick off this article on the fruit of faithfulness. Here’s what I came up with. The United States Marines, Semper Fi, always faithful. The Lone Ranger’s always faithful sidekick Tonto. A dog that is faithful to their owner. Being faithful to wedding vows. In older times a clock or wristwatch was said to be faithful if it kept accurate time. Remember the old Timex commercials with John Cameron Swayze? “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” And lastly, the famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park that can be counted on to show off on a regular basis. In all of these pictures there is an unmistakable quality of “alwaysness”; always there, always ready, always worthy of trust, always faithful.
If you are just joining us, this is the third article in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. And yes, we’re working backward having begun with self-control. For this series we are going to be looking at three things, what does the fruit look and taste like, how can we encourage its growth, and how can we give it away. The fruit of the Spirit that grows in us by walking with Jesus is not only for our benefit but also for those around us. In addition to this article there is a link to a short story I wrote in 2004 which portrays in some way a Fruit of the Spirit that is being given away.
“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, NASB95)
What does the fruit of faithfulness look like? I think that the old Timex slogan perhaps says it best, “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” No matter what challenges or problems try to stop it faithfulness keeps right on plugging away. The hard part is being faithful to the right things for the right reasons. We should faithfully keep our promises and commitments. We should faithfully meet the expectations of our employer. We should faithfully love our family and our spouse. We should faithfully attend church, read our Bibles, and pray. Jesus however sternly warned the Pharisees who were faithful in a religious sense but not in what really mattered to God. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23–24, NASB95) The Pharisees were faithful in observing the tithe even down to the sprigs of herbs they gathered, but were unfaithful in what matters most – caring for people and bringing them into a real living relationship with God. (see Matthew 23:13) Faithfulness is more than being on time to church even when the weather is bad, it is consistently caring for others as Jesus would. In other words, Jesus can trust us to be His hands and feet to the world we live in.
How do we encourage the real fruit of faithfulness? As with all of the spiritual fruit, this fruit is grown by abiding in Jesus. (See John 15:1-11) The fruit of faithfulness is encouraged as we grow roots into God’s faithfulness to us. As we learn to trust God we gain confidence that others can trust Him as well. We also learn how important it is to be reliable because God is reliable to us; He keeps his promises. We can be confident that God will not give up on someone because He didn’t give up on us. Real faithfulness is grown as we see and act on the genuine every day opportunities we encounter to give away the love of Christ. In other words, the more we see God’s faithfulness at work the more abundant the real fruit of faithfulness is in our own lives.
How do we give away the real fruit of faithfulness? I believe that giving away the fruit of faithfulness can be summed up in this simple phrase, always there. “Always” has the sense of repeatability trustworthiness, like a clock that always keeps the right time. “There” in the sense of being close enough to effectively act as the need requires. When someone is “always there” for us we know that we can rely on them when we need a helping hand. We give away the real fruit of faithfulness by always being ready to serve Jesus, to share Jesus no matter where “there” is. “Always there” can take on many forms. It can mean being devotionally consistent in what we give back to God in the form of money and time. But keep in mind, while the action is important, connecting with God and helping others connect with God is paramount. Being ready is also part of giving away the real fruit of faithfulness. Paul encouraged Timothy to be ready at all times (1 Timothy 4:2) Peter encouraged, “ And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15b, NLT) We never know what God will put before us, whose path we will cross today that needs Jesus’ touch. The fruit of faithfulness is always there and always ready.
Forgive me if this seems boringly repetitive but I feel it is important to underscore this one point. Doing the things of faith are important and not to be neglected. We are to grow in our disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, fellowship, giving, and worship. We should strive to attend church and to be there on time. Those are all important, but not the most important. Jesus told the Pharisees to continue their fastidiousness, their obsessive compulsiveness, when it came to law keeping without neglecting mercy, justice, and faithfulness. Mercy to the fallen, the ashamed, the sinner. Mercy to lift them up instead of using their fallenness to feel good about ourselves. Justice for the poor, the outcast, and those taken advantage of. (Proverbs 11:1) Being an advocate for those whose voice is unheard. Faithfulness in being there and being ready. Always prepared to bridge a person’s need with God’s grace. (Consider the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:3–37). Are you ready?
The 2004 short story about faithfulness is called Sally’s Horse. It is one of my personal favorites and still stirs me in ways that I can’t explain. Click this link to read that story – Sally’s Horse – Faithfulness