Faithfulness

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way — with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge — God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Starter Question
What does faithfulness mean for you? 

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

In an article entitled ‘Faith’s Implacable Enemies’, Dyson Heydon, a former justice of the High Court of Australia, observed amongst other things that ‘the public voices of the modern elites are not humble. They conceive themselves to have entitlements and rights, not blessings… They instantly demand an apology for any statement they dislike’ (The Weekend Australian, 4th – 5th November, 2017). He further commented that the elites today, ‘By preventing any public expression of religious thought through ridicule and bullying, … tend to cause religion to wither away even in the private sphere.’ Indeed, ‘Modern elites do not desire tolerance,’ he observed, ‘They demand unconditional surrender.’ Finally, he commented, ‘What can have no public expression will eventually cease to have any private existence.’ 
 
How are God’s people to live in this world of change? It is easy to capitulate to the pressures around us.

The nine facets of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians 5:22-23 challenge us. While all the facets are tightly interconnected as aspects of the one fruit, it is helpful to reflect on each. Today we consider faithfulness, that translates the literal word, faith.

Faith and faithfulness

Faith is a rich word that lies at the heart of the New Testament – and not least in the letters of Paul the Apostle. For Paul, and the rest of the New Testament, we appropriate the fullness of God’s blessing of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Men and women can only stand righteous or justified before God on the basis of their faith in God’s work of grace.

In Romans 3:21f we read: ‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ Earlier in the chapter, Paul has stressed the faithfulness of God in keeping his promises over against the faithlessness of God’s ancient people, Israel (Romans 3:3). 

Furthermore, faith is not simply the belief that God exists. Rather, it involves a personal and vital relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. And it begins when we turn to God (repent) and put our trust (faith) in God’s good news (gospel). This faith is in the God whose nature is one of love and justice, goodness and compassion — as, for example, we read in 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’

That said, faith is not just a matter of intellectual assent. It involves a new way of living, a new heart that directs our thinking, our choices and our actions. It means so walking through life that we long to be faithful to the One who in his extraordinary love for us and commitment to us is absolutely faithful. Jesus says: ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father’ (John 10:14-15).

God’s faithfulness and ours

It is because God is faithful, because he can be trusted, that his people are also called to be faithful and dependable. We need God’s word to teach us what this means and his Spirit to enable us to live it out — keeping our word and honouring our promises, not least in marriage. Another example of faithfulness is found in Luke 16:10 where we read: ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much’. God’s people are to be reliable stewards of the resources God gives us — especially money.

Faithfulness is also called for in talking about God’s good news to those around us and beyond. And we all have a part to play in this. Not many are called to be up-front evangelists, but we can all pray for people we long to see come to Christ. We can all invite a friend to gospel conversations and church.

We are all called to be steadfast, remaining firm in our faith in Christ no matter the pressures of the voices around us. God is faithful. Jesus tells us: ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ (Matthew 16:18).

As I write, drenching rain has broken a long, devastating drought on the Australian east coast. When a media outlet headline said, ‘An Answer to Prayer’, the response from a minority was swift and vitriolic: ‘How dare you…!’ A symptom of our changing world that espouses tolerance but only if we adopt the values of the new morality. In the midst of the challenges we need to pray that we will be found faithful.

Questions for Reflection

1. What do you know of God’s faithfulness in your own life?
2. Take a few minutes to consider what faithfulness in your walk with God looks like.
3. Why is faithfulness often lacking in the life of professing Christians?

Prayer
Merciful God,
by whose gift alone your faithful people offer you true and pleasing service:
grant that we may so faithfully serve you in this life
that we do not fail at the end to obtain your heavenly promises;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

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