“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ – Matthew 25:21 (TNIV)
Thanks for reading the previous posts on the Fruit of the Spirit (Fruit of the Spirit #1: An Introduction, Fruit of the Spirit #2: It all begins with Love, Part 1, Fruit of the Spirit #3: It all begins with Love, Part 2, Fruit of the Spirit #4: Joy, Fruit of the Spirit #5: Peace, Fruit of the Spirit #6: Patience, Fruit of the Spirit #7: Kindness and Fruit of the Spirit #8: Goodness).
In this post, I’d like to take a brief look at the next Fruit of the Spirit that follows Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness and Goodness, which is Faithfulness.
The definition of the spiritual fruit of Faithfulness (Pistis) means (and infers) that we have a “firm persuasion, conviction or belief in the truth or reality of something.” For me, God’s faithfulness is not a question for me; I am firmly convinced He is real, He loves you and me, He is constant, consistent, faithful and reliable, so to me, God’s faithfulness is not what this post is about. Among other things, every time I wake up and I’m able to see the Sun (His consistency), step out of bed without floating into space (gravity still works) and breathe in some oxygen (the Divine design continues to function perfectly) I know that God is faithful.
In addition to that, when I consider the multitude of macro and micro expressions of how He faithfully loves me (and us), my confidence or faith in Him grows due to His consistent, practical, realistic and daily demonstration of the wonderful gifts that He freely provides to me. So as I said earlier, God’s faithfulness to me or to us is not what this post is about. What I’d like to explore with you is our faithful response to a faithful God, who in light of His love to us, has also created a process for us to become all that we can “fruitfully” become. That’s the faithful response that I’d like to explore with you in this post.
Because God loves me beyond measure, I’m able to enjoy a conscious connection with Jesus, who wants nothing more from me than for me to be a very fruitful human being (John 15:5, 8). In light of this reality, the spiritual Fruit of Faithfulness inspires and challenges me to “put my money where my mouth is,” by striving to walk, act and live as Jesus did. On the surface, this seems like a daunting and an incredibly tall order for any human being to personify. However, upon closer observation, I think its easier than I initially imagined. Here’s why.
For me, the fruit of Faithfulness is demonstrated when I choose to live out my convictions one day at a time in simple or profound, but most certainly by engaging in and by demonstrating practical behaviors that are beneficial to others, simply because of the God who loves me and because of the Spirit who lives inside me. Because God loves me so much to want to put His Spirit inside of me to help transform me into someone who thinks, acts and does thoughtful and kind behaviors like He did, then in gratitude I want to live purposefully and intentionally, as is the nature of a Christian, or one who demonstrates the characteristics of Christ.
This is what this fruit of the Sprit is about…my faithful or consistent behavioral response to try to help people as Jesus helped them. Remember, Faithfulness is sandwiched between the spiritual fruits of Goodness and Gentleness. What this tells me is that a Faithful response as a lover of God compels me to consistently grow, mature and to deliver sweet and edifying behaviors that are a physical manifestation of the previous and next spiritual fruit, which resemble the calling, character and mission of Jesus when we walked the Earth.
So when we engage in behaviors like the Good Samaritan did (Luke 10:30-37), we’re living out our faithfulness to Christ. When we’re compassionate to children (Luke 18:16) and those who need safety from shame (and literal) attacks upon their person (John 8:2 – 11), we’re living out our faithfulness to Christ. When we’re committed to helping the destitute and those in need of tangible assistance (James 1:27; James 2:14-17), in essence we’re engaging in behavior that expresses our gratitude to God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and empowers (John 15:5; John 15:16-17) us to do the same (Luke 10:25-28).
From the above mentioned scriptures, I see that God is consistently and faithfully into lifting up others by demonstrating actions that are practical and compassionate. In light of this scriptures, my faithful response to Him would be to go and do the same…consistently. As you read them, could you see yourself delivering warm, thoughtful, compassionate and considerate behaviors to others for their well-being? If so, then you’re well on your way to delivering behaviors that are a reflection of the fruit of Faithfulness. It can happen in and through all of us. Because of Him, we do have the capacity within us to be faithful to deliver good deeds to others.
I think Jesus tips His hand about what loving and compassionate behaviors He really cares about and would like for us to be faithfully engaged in when He speaks to us in Matthew 25:35-40 (TNIV):
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
So in bringing this closer to home (no pun intended), the question of who is my neighbor and what’s the compassionate, life giving behavior that I could faithfully pass along to him/her, as the need dictates? Does anyone or anything come to mind? It’s possible that I’ll see my neighbor in a random or chance encounter where the opportunity will present itself for me to demonstrate some random act of kindness, which contextually, is an expression of my faithfulness to God, per the scripture we just read in Matthew 25.
Or, we may apply Matthew 25 “strategically,” that is, when we identify and engage in a ministry endeavor, a civic initiative, or a philanthropic cause that we intentionally put our time, energy, heart and resources into, in an effort to “serve the least of these.” Again, another wonderful, kind and thoughtful expression of your faithful response to a loving God because of who He is and what He has done in your life. By the way, if the love of God is stirring you to engage in intentional or missional acts referenced above, then I’d encourage you to think and pray about what is bubbling up within you, but then to connect with others who could help you to purposefully act upon your convictions. Again, another way for you to faithfully respond to His love and His purpose.
But suppose the person is much more closer to home; let’s say they live in the home and let’s say they may or may not know how broken, destitute or spiritually or psychologically impoverished they are. Let’s say “our neighbor” is a distant relative or they’re a family member, and at best they’re rude to us and at worst they’re abusive in some form or another. What does a faithful response look like to our neighbor then?
As you could imagine, I’ll never encourage you (nor do I think God would want you to) be nor to stay in an abusive relationship that threatens your health, safety or survival. That’s antithetical to the “middle commandment” (Luke 10:27-28) as I like to call it, because you’re not loving yourself by subjecting yourself to, nor by being the recipient of any form of abusive behavior that originates in others. I don’t see how any kind of positive or constructive outcome could occur if you’re the recipient of verbal or physical abuse, neglect, intimidation, bullying or any form of dangerous and/or horrific behavior.
On the other hand, I do encourage you to remain connected to the Spirit, who will help you to discern and determine what “therapeutic behavior” (Therapeuo or Healing – Matthew 10:1, 8) you are to cultivate and deliver to others. The Greek word used in this passage of scripture explains that “Therapeuo or Therapeutic” behavior that Jesus called the disciples to engage is to approximate one providing the appropriate care, attention, help, service, ministry to others (while also ministering to yourself) which will facilitate healing. I don’t know about you, but I can’t raise the dead, nor do I think I could give sight to the blind, however, I do think I can deliver on a consistent basis therapeutic and/or healing (and reasonable) behavior like this to others as the situation dictates.
So I encourage you to listen to the Spirit and let Him guide you regarding how much and what healing behavior you’re to faithfully and reasonably give to others in any life situation of which you’re connected. But also please know that God does not guilt you into doing what is unreasonable and that you cannot do; He values your life and your ability to be fruitful too much than for you to be lost to some form of foolishness or wicked behavior.
Speaking of wicked behavior and then faithfully loving our neighbor…I’m composing this post on Sunday, June 12, 2016, and like many in the world we live in, we’ve awakened to hearing about the horrific and evil behavior connected to 50 people losing their life in Orlando, Fl. As I listened to the news reports and saw images of people helping people, whether they were first responders or patrons or neighbors of the Pulse Orlando night club I am sickened about the violence that occurred against innocent people, yet I’m very thankful and touched beyond words as I witness the love, care and concern demonstrated to those in need; this is the faithful and “Good Samaritan”response that I believe Jesus desires to grow in us…just doing the next right thing as the situation deserves and calls for.
So in closing, I offer a link to a sweet (but dated) music video from Nest Entertainment that I used to show to my children on Saturday mornings when they were little. I’ve had this tune about the Good Samaritan story in my head for a few days now and in light of the loss of life of people in Orlando today, I think it is appropriate as we think about how could we respond to this situation or any situation that needs a loving response. Take what you can use as you see this video; its a simple message for us to respond to bad situations with simple acts of kindness. Also, if you have children or grandchildren, this video series could make a positive impression in their lives as you endeavor to help them to begin to live a life that reflects faithful responses over the course of their lifetime.
May God bless you with your ability to be faithful in producing the fruit of Faithfulness. Your simple but kind expression of love may make all the difference in the world to someone!
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