Fruit of the Spirit: FAITHFULNESS.

Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, FAITHFULNESS, gentleness, and self-control." Against such things that is no law."

There is a quiet power to faithfulness.  The longer I'm alive the more I value someone who lasts over the long haul, the one who keeps showing up day after day to fulfil their particular lot in life...staying power.  Eugene Peterson call edit "a long obedience in the right direction".  Endurance, persistence, perseverance, determination, stamina.

It's no wonder that when this kind of life stands before God in the last day, the words he or she will hear is: "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matt. 25:21)  I just wrote about the fruit of goodness yesterday and it is followed in this Galatians 5 with faithfulness of all things...the two very virtues that God speaks over the heart of the one who lives with faith even when their senses scream otherwise and the resources at their disposal are paltry.  He goes on to say that those who are "faithful in little can be trusted to be faithful in much".  Your earn trust with faith, become trustworthy when you're faithful.

There are so few who stay faithful to the finish.

Most of the time when people in our society talk about faithfulness they are referring to someone who "doesn't cheat" on their spouse.  Fidelity.  I like that antonym of cheating actually.  It speaks of the seduction that tugs us away from fealty, sworn allegiance regardless of circumtance.  Rich or poor, sickness or health.  You've heard the formal spiel at a wedding, I'm sure.  Well, actually, I'm not sure anymore since many are writing their own vows which are more like adolescent texts to a new crush. Boy band lyrics. Faithfulness isn't assumed in personalized vows's alot warm fuzzies which unfortunately don't carry you through the fury of hell that is unleashed on most marriages after the wedding is over.

So what do so many people do when things get hard?  They cheat.  They quit.  They deceive.  They pretend.  They cut corners.  They two-time.  If life doesn't seem to be leading to the pleasure they desired or the praise they expected, they bail.  Because, well, "life's too short to not enjoy life".  I'm not just talking about marriage either.  I'm referring to jobs, friendships, commitments of all kinds.  In fact, the divorce rate has actually declined since 1996 and you want to now why?  Because people aren't even making vows and getting married anymore, they just live together.  Who wants all the pressure of faithfulness and fulfilling lifelong vows when you can just be "friends with benefits"?  Clever.

This easy way out works with anything.  Don't commit to anything and you won't ever be counted on.  You won't ever quit because you won't ever commit.  You won't ever fail because you won't even try.  Don't volunteer to serve, don't say you'll help out, don't give the slightest impression that you'll "show up for that" or "be there for them" and there's no 'love lost'.  No one will expect anything of you and, thus, you'll never disappoint anyone.  Come to think of it, it makes you wonder why anyone would commit to anything?

But this is the coward's life.  A person of faith is a person of high risk/high reward.  They know they might fail while daring greatly, but they at least give it their best shot.  They don't 'bury their talent' under the porch for fear of disappointing anyone.  That's a story Christ told in the Bible to speak of faithfulness.  Of the three guys expected to invest what God had entrusted to them, this 'guy who played it safe' is the only person Jesus condemns in the parable of the talents.  He labels this dude the "wicked and slothful servant" and casts him "into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth".  Whoa.  Talk about a crime not fitting the punishment!  Unless, of course, we underestimate the sin of cowardice.  That's right, sin.  That's right, cowardice.  And not just any old transgression, but one atop the list in Revelation 21:9 when the Scripture lists the the culprits who will be thrown in the lake of fire (wow, I can feel the Baptist coming out in me right now! Buckle up.)...

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice the magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death." 

I don't know about you, but seeing that word cowardly lumped in with all the others in this passage seems woefully out of place.  It should cause us to shudder a bit, honestly.  It at least should cause us to increase our estimation of faithfulness to God.  He made us to "fight the good fight of faith".  The writer of Hebrews even says that "without faith it is impossible to please God".  Faith and Faithfulness are not just niceties; they are necessities.

And God wants to "find us faithful". (I Cor. 4:2)  Just like anyone who is entrusting us and trusting us with their heart, they want to know they can count on us no matter what.  I love what Paul says to the church in Ephesus as he greets's actually high praise a compliment as he chose a particular adjective to describe them...

"To the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus..."  Awesome.

I want to be faithful to the very end, the bitter end if it comes to it.  I want to "fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race".  Could anything better be said of you at your funeral?  I think not.

In fact, I think in the end we will be rewarded more for our faithfulness than our fruitfulness, but that's a discussion for another day.

Here's to all the faithful in Christ Jesus who have been shining examples to me down through the years.  You are heroes to me.


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