Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 41 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.
The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Faithfulness.” Faithfulness is the seventh of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and then Faithfulness.
I mentioned last month that the nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:
- Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a Spiritual Heart).
- Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of Spiritual Relationships).
- Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a Godly Character).
So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #7, Faithfulness, the first of the three fruits listed in the third triad “Godly Character.”
Of course, I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!
A Doggie’s Tale
In Edinburgh, Scotland there is a statue of a “wee little doggie,” famous for guarding his master’s grave for 14 years—from February 15, 1858 to the day of his own death, January 14, 1872.
“Greyfriars Bobby” as he was known, became a legend in his own lifetime. Bobby was a Skye Terrier, a breed that grows to only about 10 inches tall, yet weighs in at 35-45 lbs. Skye Terriers generally live for 12-14 years, so Bobby’s 14-year watch near his master’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard was, quite literally, his entire life.
As legends often go, a few discrepancies in Bobby’s story crept in as it was told and re-told for over 200 years. He was known to be the constant companion for a man named “Auld John,” a nightwatchman working with the Edinburgh City Police.
Some versions of Bobby’s story, however, say John was a farmer who came into town regularly—with his “wee little doggie” trotting along behind him. Actually, Old John’s occupation is irrelevant to the wonderful example of love and loyalty this story provides. But, since the “nightwatchman” version is the more popular account, I’m going with that in our post today.
It seems there was a requirement that every nightwatchman have a dog with him at all times while on duty. Skye Terriers are known to be courageous, extremely loyal, and “canny”—the Scottish expression for highly intelligent. Night after night, Bobby followed along as Old John made his rounds. He provides us with a wonderful example of “faithfulness.” His 14-year vigil at Old John’s grave is an incredible story of love, loyalty, and undivided purpose—all essential elements of faithfulness. Greyfriars Bobby’s story was eventually published as a children’s book, and even made into a popular movie. Several of these are available on amazon.com. It is a classic for the ages.
Faithfulness of God
When we read or hear a story like Greyfriars Bobby, our hearts are stirred with wonder and amazement.
Something deep within us rises to the surface in recognition of the moral value we see—or perhaps project into the behaviors or relationships of others, even animals. It may be somewhat murky water to suppose that non-human animals might choose to act in moral responses to their circumstances, but regardless, we who are human can certainly make moral applications for our own lives from what we observe in nature.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. From that we can realize that faithfulness itself is an attribute of God. God’s gifts are drawn from the storehouse of spiritual qualities of His own existence.
Let’s note a few Bible references.
“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”1 John 1:9 (NLT)
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”Psalm 36:5 (NIV)
Please note–“faithfulness” is a spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. We cannot effectively or consistently produce these fruits in our own natural strength.
In fact, all the fruits in the list we are studying in Galatians 5:22-23 are spiritual in nature–meaning they are manifested within our spirit and become evident in all our outward relationships and communications. Every one of these fruits are part of the very nature of God, and they are produced naturally within us by the Holy Spirit living within us.
Paul stated this so clearly in his letter to the believers in Rome. He said, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. . . . Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
Faithfulness of Christ
With those thoughts in mind, let’s move now to the quality of faithfulness in our human lives.
Jesus, of course, is the greatest example of faithfulness ever. He was perfect in every way. The book of Hebrews says that he was “tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Certainly, Jesus was “faithful” all through his life—from Bethlehem to Calvary—but perhaps the strongest temptation of all came in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” The mental anguish combined with physical stress and exhaustion—so much so that he sweat great drops of blood! Jesus was able to endure the torture of Gethsemane and the Cross because through all his life here on earth he was filled with the Holy Spirit—and all the fruits of the Spirit were manifested in his life.
Now, although we cannot claim to be sinless, when we are “in Christ” and filled with the same Holy Spirit, our lives will exhibit the same graces in our relationship with other people as did Christ.
Faithfulness to God’s Calling
You see, God has a purpose for our lives! He created us—brought us into existence—so we could use the innate talents and abilities of our being to co-create with him an eternal Kingdom of Love and Grace.
We have all sinned of course (Romans 3:23), but by turning the blessings of God inward to consume them by satisfying our own self-indulgent desires (which is the very definition of sin) we corrupt the beauty of the Kingdom, replacing love with fear, grace with disdain, and hope with anger. The healing balm of peace is soured with selfishness. The pure water of life is polluted with the bitterness of gall.
Even so, God’s beautiful purpose for us is unchanged. His love for us is unconditional, constant, and eternal. So, even though we disobeyed his will and messed up our lives, he still calls us forward. He makes our complete restoration possible by giving us the pure life of Jesus in exchange for our old messed-up one. Paul writes, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). God’s purpose for us is exactly the same as it was originally before sin. Paul continues, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors. God is making his appeal through us” (vv. 20-21).
Can you imagine!? What incredible love! Unimaginable grace! Total forgiveness and restoration! God has recalled, re-created, and re-commissioned us as ambassadors for heaven’s greatest cause—eternal peace throughout all creation, both here on this earth and in the new heavens and new earth.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, trusting in his grace and moving forward in faith, we can faithfully serve God’s ultimate purpose by sharing his love and inviting (recruiting) anyone willing to “come on board” for the greatest of all adventures–personally representing the King of kings, the Lord of love, and the Master of grace. Forever and ever, amen!
Faithfulness to Vows/Promises
Now, before we leave this short study on Holy Spirit-empowered faithfulness, I want to spend a few moments talking about promises and vows.
Just a few days ago (as I write this) my wife and I attended a beautiful wedding. Our granddaughter and her fiancé stood facing each other, holding hands, and “in the presence of God and these witnesses” declared their love and loyalty “Til death do us part.”
Vows are good. They are the promises upon which most of our society is based. Not just marriage vows, but also promises to pay back a loan, provide a service, recognize achievements (e.g. graduations), honor a building contract, show up on time for appointments, and a host of other things. We make promises all the time—sometimes more formally, sometimes just in casual conversations.
The question for us now is, How reliable is your word?
A couple generations ago most people lived by a code of conduct and relationships that said, “Your word is your bond.” In other words, a person’s promises must be absolutely reliable. A handshake was as good as a signed, written contract. If two parties came to an agreement about anything—a business deal or whatever—a handshake sealed the deal, and both parties could rely on the promises made.
The Bible’s King David wrote a psalm about this very thing—with a very pithy message. In Psalm 15, after asking a pointed question about who could stand in the presence of the Lord, he answered his own question with a list of several qualifications. One of these was, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (verse 4).
Some of you who are reading/listening to this message today will probably think I’m a little bit crazy, but because of some very stupid decisions I made in the past this teaching has cost me (literally) tens-of-thousands of dollars! Even when I could have legally declared bankruptcy and gained relief from heavy indebtedness, I refused to go that route. I had made promises—even signed written, legal contracts—and I determined to faithfully honor those commitments.
Indeed, God’s spiritual gift of faithfulness in all things brings peace of heart, a clear conscience, and a good reputation for being an honest, dependable person. I absolutely believe this is the only way we can bring honor to God as we go through life representing him to our world.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Gentleness.” Watch for it on August 29!
Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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