FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 19, FAITHFULNESS part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 19

FAITHFULNESS – BELIEVING GOD AND TRUSTING GOD AND HIS WORD

PART ONE

 

Faith is a fundamental part of our human existence.  It is not a stretch to say that our life, as we know it, would not exist without it.  We breathe air that we cannot see (unless you live in LA or Atlanta and the smog is bad); we eat food that comes from hundreds of miles away and is touched and handled by multiple people we don’t know; we get on airplanes and, unless we have relatives in the airline industry, we don’t even know the names of the people to whom we entrust our lives!

 

We have seen, however, times in recent history where people who were supposed to be dealing faithfully over our matters were less than honest.  The Ponzi schemes of a few years ago are but one example.  Consider the hundreds of people who were hurt when they took a pain reliever and got cyanide instead.  Perhaps closer to home, think of the woman who trusts her husband and learns of infidelity, emotional abandonment and unfaithfulness.

 

In short, we expect the people in whom we place our trust to be faithful.   Faith without faithfulness equals disaster.

What does Scripture say?

 

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.    We now turn our eyes toward faith and faithfulness.

 

According to Dr. R. C. Sproul, the basic meaning of the biblical word “faith” is trust.  We can believe that God exists, we can even believe that God created the universe, but that is not the same as having faith.

 

Faith is not just believing in God, it is believing God – it is trusting God and His Word.

 

This is difficult for us to do because of our sin that reflects an unwillingness to believe or trust God.  Sin has an appeal to us because we think that if we commit the sin we will be happier than if we don’t commit the sin. So, what we are really saying is that we don’t believe what God says about sin or about our source of true happiness.

 

John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.  “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.  This is the great insult.”

 

God knows that sin may be pleasurable, but He also knows it cannot bring happiness.  The apple in the Garden of Eden may have been good, but it soon soured when the weeds came and hard labor was upon both Adam and Eve, circumstances that were unimaginable to them prior to their fall.  Sin can only bring destruction to the human race, collectively and personally.  Sin is a curse on humanity … and that cannot be good by any definition!

 

In contrast, according to Dr. Sproul, when faith becomes fruitful, we have an increased capacity to believe God and that has a direct impact on our struggle with sin.  We can stand when Satan throws his arrows at us, when he tempts us to sin, because we believe our God and His Word.  We have faith in God and that faith is sufficient to carry us through.

 

So, what about faithfulness as an attribute of God and as something which the Holy Spirit wants to instill in us as God’s children?

 

J. I. Packer says in his book Concise Theology,

 

God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness.  Humans lie and break their words; God does neither.  Indeed, we know God is Truth.  God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.”

 

See Hebrews 6:17-18 where we read:

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

 

In Numbers 23:19 we have a combination of truth and faithfulness – he will not lie and he will not deviate from his stated plan:

 

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

 

In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

After reading Lamentations 3:22-23, Thomas Obediah Chisholm was inspired to write a poem entitled “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  The providence of God was at work in the distribution of this hymn when Chisholm sent the words of his poem to his friend William Runyan, who wrote the music.  Runyan was a friend of Dr. Will Houghton who happened to be the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

 

The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” became a favorite of Dr. Houghton who invited George Beverly Shea to sing hymns on the Moody Bible Institute’s radio station.  Shea was an unknown vocalist but he took the opportunity to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in his musical lineup, especially because Dr. Houghton liked it so much.

 

Billy Graham was a student at Wheaton College, also in the Chicagoland area, and he heard George Beverly Shea (and this hymn) on the radio program.  Graham invited Shea to become part of the Crusade ministry and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was included in the Crusade’s repertoire.  [See Lextionary.org, Hymn Story, copyright 2007 as written by Richard Niell Donovan].

 

How does the fruit of the Spirit of faithfulness apply to your life?  Read Lamentations 3 and let the wonder of these verses fill your heart and mind as you contemplate how great God’s faithfulness to us is, moment by moment, day by day.  For your encouragement, here is “Great is Thy Faithfulness” from the album of the same name as sung by Robert Kochis.

 

Now, may each of us reflect God’s faithfulness to us as we interact with those around us.  

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

 

 

THE CHALLENGE OF ROADSIDE SIGNS!

Driving down the highway can, at times, provide thought-provoking images.   Going along the interstate, we passed a one‐story building, concrete block, with doors and a few windows. It apparently was the “backside” of the building that was along the interstate because there was no identification of the business or type of activity that went on in the building other than two signs, one on each side of one window.

The sign on the left of the window read “JESUS LOVES YOU” and the sign on the right read “WE BUY GUNS”. At first it tickled me and I laughed out loud  … then I began thinking about the signs and what they were saying.

We live in the so‐called “Bible Belt” of our country, and sometimes the expression of Christianity is more cultural than faithful. Of course the use of the phrase “Jesus Loves You” could well be an attempt to witness to those driving down the highway and to perhaps cause the observer to think about his/her response to Jesus’ love.

Burma Shave sign of yesteryear
Burma Shave sign of yesteryear

After all, God is sovereign and He can use even the static, silent sign along the highway for His purposes. Remember the Burma Shave signs along the highway  and their jingles and thoughts spread across a mile or more?  (I found this picture of the Burma Shave sign on eBay, June 15, 2015)  Certainly, if advertisers could use the power of roadway signs, the Sovereign God certainly could also!

But, there are many other possible reasons that the signs were in such place. Was the business in the building using the camouflage of Christianity to bring in customers for their firearm business? Or, conversely, was the use of Jesus’ name in connection with the purchase of guns a laudable attempt to rid firearms from the community and thereby secure peace?   Or were two businesses sharing the same building with the single entrance at the back along the interstate?

While we cannot, and must not, judge the motive of the owner of those signs, we can use them to consider our own behavior. How do WE use the name of Jesus?

The free, almost flippant and mindless, use of Jesus’ name in conversation in our society has trivialized it so that it seldom actually refers to the God/Man who is the Son of the Sovereign Living God. When it is said in our modern world, it is almost never in homage to the name of the King of Kings.

In contrast, consider how the Scripture refers to Jesus’ name.   The Apostle John says:

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31 (ESV)

Paul, when writing to the Philippians said:

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Clearly, the Biblical writers did not think Jesus’ name was something to be treated casually or in angry outbursts or cursing.

It is the name at which every knee will ultimately bow.  Indeed, Jesus is the Name of our Savior! As one who claims His name as our own, as a Christian, we should be cut to the core when others misuse His name. This is the Person who died for us, who took our place on the cross, who redeemed us from our own sin. This is the Person who voluntarily came from Heaven to live in this sinful world and bear the hatred of those He had created, all for the sole purpose of saving His people from their sins.

Perhaps the signs we saw along the highway:

  • Are a reminder that we should be careful when we use Jesus’ name.
  • Are a reminder that we should use His Name in such a way that our speech would bring honor and glory to Him.
  • Are a reminder that we should use the Name of our Lord in a manner that shows our love for our Savior.
  • Are a reminder that we should use His Name in a way that identifies us as Christians to those who who hear our conversation.

If someone were to follow me down life’s highway, would my conversation and life signs point them to Jesus?

May it be so, my Lord!