Sunday Evening Bible Study
July 28, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which have been infected with a doctrine of legalism.
But after having taught them why it's important not to be living under the Law, trying to please God on their own, they are now faced with another situation, the danger that happens when you take the Law away from people:
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
And so Paul has begun teaching on the issue of how to handle the the flesh, with the main key being:
Ga 5:16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
We've looked at the "works of the flesh", and now we're looking at the "fruit of the Spirit, the natural results that God produces in our lives as we let the Holy Spirit take more control of our lives.
Now we are looking at the singular "fruit of the Spirit".
It's a single fruit that has nine different characteristics.
The more we grow in the Lord, the more we learn to "walk in the Spirit" (vs.16), the more these qualities will appear.
:22 the fruit of the Spirit is ...
NAS, NIV - faithfulness
This is a difficult word to determine, since it's actually the word we usually translate "faith" (out of 244 times, it's translated "faith" 239 times)
pistiV - faith, belief; also - fidelity, faithfulness; the character of one who can be relied on.
It's closely related to a word that's usually the word translated "faithfulness" (pistoV).
The main ideas:
1. Trust in God
As in, faith in God.
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (AV)
The idea may be here that our ability to trust God grows as we walk in the Spirit.
This goes along with the fact that 239/244 times, this word is translated "faith", and the King James only translates it "fidelity" once.
That is, a person who can be trusted, who can be counted on.
This is the idea that most of the translations and commentaries favor.
We find pistis carrying the idea of faithfulness in:
Titus 2:6-10 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. 9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. (NAS)
NIV - but to show that they can be fully trusted,
A servant is supposed to be faithful in that you can count on him to do what you ask him to do.
Faithfulness is also known as "integrity".
Ted Engstrom gives a succinct definition of integrity: Simply put, integrity is doing what you said you would do. It means you keep your promises.
When you promised to be faithful to your mate, integrity says you'll stay with that person no matter what -- for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.
The wedding ring is that small piece of jewelry placed on the finger that cuts off your circulation.
If you promised the Lord that you would give Him the glory, integrity means you keep on doing that whether you're reduced to nothing or exalted to the highest pinnacle on earth.
If you promised a friend that you would return a call, integrity means you return it.
If you promised your child that you would spend Saturday together, integrity means you keep that appointment.
A promise is a holy thing, whether made to a chairman of the board -- or to a child.
Lessons about Faithfulness ...
1. God is faithful
Aren't you glad that we can count on God in these situations?
1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (AV)
You can count on Him coming through to forgive you when you ask.
1Co 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]. (AV)
You can count on God providing a way of escape when you're faced with a temptation.
Re 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. (AV)
You can count on Jesus coming back, just like He promised.
Aren't you glad that God doesn't take "personal days" at every little whim?
What if God decided to "call in sick" on the day you were facing the biggest temptation of your life?
Instead, we find that we can always count on Him to be there when we need Him.
2. Faithfulness is God's main reason for promotion.
Jesus told a parable about getting rewards:
Matthew 25:14-21 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
There is a legend of a wealthy woman who, when she reached heaven, was shown a very plain mansion. She objected. "Well," she was told, "that is the house prepared for you." "Whose is that fine mansion across the way?" she asked. "It belongs to your gardener." "How is it that he has one so much better than mine?" The houses here are prepared from the materials that are sent up. We do not choose them, you do that by your earthly faithfulness." (This may be a legend, but it bears a profound truth.)
Why give rewards or promotions based on faithfulness?
Luke 16:10-12 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
This was my main challenge for the last 18 years, the time between when I sensed God's call to be a pastor, and when my time finally came as a senior pastor.
For years, God kept speaking to me, "Just be faithful in Mark's vineyard"
Ps 101:6 Mine eyes [shall be] upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. (AV)
Look at the people Paul chose to serve with him:
1Co 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. (AV)
Col 1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; (AV)
Col 4:7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, [who is] a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: (AV)
Col 4:9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is [one] of you. They shall make known unto you all things which [are done] here. (AV)
Paul told Timothy what to look for in discipling others in the Lord:
2Ti 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (AV)
This is one of the traits I look for in leadership within the church.
Being a leader in the church is something that can draw a lot of applicants.
But people who don't have a track record of being there regularly, most likely aren't going to have a future track record of being there when you need them.
If somebody comes up to me and wants to head up some existing, important ministry, I want to know how faithful they are.
Can we count on them?
How big of an attack will it take to sidetrack them?
For some people, a little bad weather keeps them from church.
For others, there's nothing that keeps them away.
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
- Oprah Winfrey
If someone wants to start a new ministry, I'll usually say, "Go ahead and give it a try".
I know that one of the things God will be doing right away is testing their faithfulness.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
-- Will Rogers
3. How do we become faithful?
a. Let God be faithful through you.
Faithfulness is developed like all the other qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, as we learn to walk consistently in the Holy Spirit.
It's not just a little bit on Sunday, then forget about it for a week or two.
But it's every day, consistently walking with God.
As we walk with God, then we become more and more people that others can trust as well.
It's learning to let God's faithfulness become a part of our lives.
Dr. F. B. Meyer learned the secret of appropriation when he was addressing a large group of children who became very unruly. On the verge of losing his temper, he prayed in his heart, "Thy patience, Lord!" Immediately all anger and annoyance died. From then on he used the same formula for every difficult situation. When he felt lonely, he said, "Thy companionship, Lord!" When he was afraid, "Thy serenity, Lord!" When he felt critical of others, "Thy love, Lord!" He found the Savior sufficient for his every need when he appropriated by faith the promises of God!
Ga 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (AV)
b. Start with the little things before you.
(Luke 16:10 KJV) He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
While touring Italy, a man visited a cathedral that had been completed on the outside only. Once inside, the traveler found an artist kneeling before an enormous wall upon which he had just begun to create a mosaic. On some tables nearby were thousands of pieces of colored ceramic. Curious, the visitor asked the artist how he would ever finish such a large project. The artist answered that he knew how much he could accomplish in one day. Each morning, he marked off an area to be completed that day and didn't worry about what remained outside that space. That was the best he could, and if he did his best, one day the mosaic would be finished.
NAS, NIV - gentleness
NAS, NIV - self-control