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 BODY OF CHRIST AT WORK JUNGLE VEGETATION!

Tribe landing strip
At the landing strip on an island in The Philippians.

There are times when things come into greater focus for us as we walk along our pilgrim way with Christ.  One of those times occurred when our daughter was on a mission trip to Manila and spent one month with a missionary doctor.  One week per month, he took a flight into a remote island area and treated the tribe located in the bush.  Another missionary family lived there full-time, their house being a hut with a wood fire for the stove.  So, she had the opportunity to live for one week with the tribe, assisting the doctor and learning of life and the people of God as well.

Tribal village
The village waiting for the doctor to come and minister to their needs.

The Body of Christ became very real for her as she worked with the doctor and served the people both in Manila and in the island tribe.  The following is an excerpt of one of her emails to us:

I had some good conversations with Dr. N. on the plane.  We talked about mission life and the differences in the various roles of missionaries.  I think that one of the things that I saw most was the image of the body of Christ.   It takes more than the people in the tribes. It takes all those that are behind them – the missionaries like V. who are in supportive roles.  Most of them go unthanked, but their part is vital.  They take care of the missionary’s orders for food, their errands.  In fact, Mr. B. sent a flat tire to the hanger on one trip and the people in Malaybalay had it fixed and sent back.  Without the supportive roles, so much would not be possible.  None of this would be possible either if it weren’t for the support of those at home with “secular” jobs.  They provide financial, administrative and prayer support. I guess what I learned is the importance of listening to the call of God.  Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.  I also realized the process that God takes us through.  I don’t think that I’ll ever be done learning how to rely on God and not my own strength, but I also know that He’ll never be done trying to teach me.

 

Scripture teaches the same thing that our daughter described.  In 3 John 1, the Apostle says:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

3 John 1:4-8.

 

Supporting the efforts of the pastors, teachers, missionaries and other ministries of the church is part of the calling of each and every Christian.  Once a year attendance or an annual financial gift is not sufficient.  We need to participate in the life of the church and to interact with others who are part of the body of Christ, as we need the encouragement, accountability and support that frequent interaction entails.  When it comes to missionaries and pastors, we are to go the extra mile with our support, encouragement and prayer.

 

Paul talks of the various churches supporting outreach to others in Romans:

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.   At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.  For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.  For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.  When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.

Romans 15:24-28.

 

And, of course, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the physical body and how each individual member of it has a specific role to play in keeping the person healthy and able to accomplish that which has been appointed for her to do. He then equates the physical body of the Christian to the Body of Christ:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28.

 

So, quoting our daughter: “Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.”

 

Do you know the part you are to play in the Body of Christ?  Ask Him … the Spirit will lead you into it.  Once you know what you are to do, do it … don’t let the body suffer because you are unwilling to do either your job or your share of the work.

Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.”

Philip Romolo Neri, (21 July 1515 – 25 May 1595)

 

In short, if you are a Christian, you have a part to play in the body of Christ.  So, do it!

 

 

Father, I pray that we each would follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and embrace the part that You have given us in the Body of Christ.  Forgive us when we have ignored the Spirit’s nudging or when we have shirked our duty after we have been made aware of it.  Help us to run toward the work You have set before us and, in the power of your Spirit, enable us to serve your Kingdom all for your glory and honor, through Christ our Lord, we pray.