I love football. It’s violent poetry, it’s strategic warfare. Probably the most enjoyable part of football is the start of a new season. Each team begins the season with high expectations; everyone is feverish to see what their teams will accomplish. But once the season makes it to the mid-way point, many expectations are unsatisfied. When the team doesn’t live up to the set goals, it is natural to lose interest and excitement. Does that sound familiar? It should.
Football season expectations, New Year’s resolutions, diet plans, and frantically joining a gym usually have one thing in common: a lack of faithfulness to finish well.
The idea of faithfulness is used in Scripture over 200 hundred times. It is an essential piece of the Christian life, but it is often overlooked. The reason that faithfulness is disregarded by many Christians is usually due to a lack of understanding.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)
In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul describes what the battle over our souls resembles: the flesh versus the Spirit. The flesh is our sinful nature as human beings. All of humanity is born into sin and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Spirit, on the other hand, is the work of God to transform our lives. The Spirit connects all that Jesus does in redemption to the believer. This movement is traditionally called sanctification. Sanctification is the idea of saints becoming more saintly (or holy like Jesus our savior, 2 Timothy 1:8-10).
Paul describes faithfulness as a part of the single fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word for faithfulness in this passage is πίστις (Pistis), the root of this word is faith. Paul uses this word to show the confidence a Christian should have to live for Christ because of their faith. The faithfulness that a Christian requires to fight sin, see fruit from the Spirit, and trust God through trials comes from a trustworthy faith. That faith is generated and sustained by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).
However, this does not mean that the believer can be inactive. The opposite is true. Effort in the Christian life should happen simultaneously with the Spirit, which over time will produce faithfulness in the Christian. Paul speaks to this idea in the letter to the Ephesian church. He says that Christians are created in Christ “for good works… that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Christians are not to be slacking but, instead, to carry out the works of God. Therefore, faithfulness emerges not for the Christian’s fame, but the glory and in the power of God.
Faithfulness is essential to the Christian life.
There are a few things essential to living: clean air, water, food, etc. Just like essentials to survival, there are essentials to the Christian’s existence. Faithfulness needs to be on that list. There are three ways that Christians should be seeking to grow in being more faithful: in relationships, in reliance, and in their resolve.
Christian, be faithful in your relationships.
There is a lot to say on this point, but to keep it brief, consider relationships in two ways: your relationship with God, and your relationship with others.
The Christian’s eyes must be on the Lord. When our eyes move from the Lord, we are like runners sprinting in the wrong direction. Satan is notorious for tempting Christians to go after sin, bad theology, and really anything that will drag them away from the Lord. But Christians must be faithful to look and run towards God alone (Hebrews 12:1-2). There is nothing that we can discover or experience that can produce the joy we desire (1 John 2:15-17). The Lord is devoted to the Christian; therefore, the believer must be faithful to the Lord (Hebrews 10:23).
When our eyes are on the Lord, people come into focus. Jesus’ attention was on people constantly. Most of the time, Jesus was caring for people who were not cared for by anyone else in society. The disabled, sinners, widows, children, etc. were all uncared for in the first century, except by Jesus. Not only that, but the God of the universe lays down His life for His enemies. Therefore, His followers should lay down their lives for others because that is a sign that we know and love Him (1 John 4:7-12).
Christian, be faithful in your reliance.
When the hurricanes of suffering approach the beachheads of your life, what will you rely on for protection? Will your choice of refuge be your efforts (done in the flesh), comforts, or accomplishments? These are the shelters of false hope.
The Christian has a different refuge (Psalm 143:9). Faithfulness empowers the Christian to humble themselves in order to trust in the might of God’s love and power (1 Peter 5:6-7). Humility is one of the most efficient tools the Spirit uses to sanctify the believer. Imagine for a moment that our minds could comprehend the infinite capacity of God’s supremacy. The fiercest storms of pain would be nothing but light breezes on a solid rock. Christians should be faithful to rely not on our strength, but the power of an infinitely holy God (Psalm 118:8-9).
Christian, be faithful in your resolve.
If the Christian is to live a life of faithfulness, resolve is required. This may seem oxymoronic after just reading how faithfulness involves reliance. However, walking across a tightrope needs tension on both sides of the line. Faithfulness means dependence on God’s power, and a resolve to live in His power.
Resolving to be faithful begins with knowledge of Scripture. This knowledge leads to implementing God’s Word in daily life. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Knowledge of what God requires brings clarity to what glorifies God. Without certainty, it is impossible to enjoy Him. Knowing Scripture guides to faithfulness (Colossians 1:10).
Resolution in a faithful life is fueled by prayer (Philippians 1:18-21). Prayer is like throwing a match on a sea of gasoline. A disciplined prayer life will invigorate the Christian life (James 5:16). Prayer takes the faithfulness of saints to a new level of sanctification by fostering humility. The prayer of Christians is founded on the humility needed to ask, praise, beg, and plead God for His grace ( 1 Peter 4:7-8).
The call for faithfulness is not the burdensome regulation of a tyrant. No, the command for faithfulness is ultimately carried out by the king of kings (Revelation 19:11). The fruit of the Spirit finds fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. Jesus’ obedience is greater than all the faithfulness you can muster.
The life of Jesus displays the devotion needed in living for the glory of God. The death of Jesus is the completion of obeying God’s law. In His death, Jesus faithfully absorbs every drop of the wrath of God. Lastly, the resurrection of Christ brings the faithfulness of Christ to bear on His Church. The goal of the believer is not to be the most faithful person, but to follow the only person who is entirely faithful. The essentials of faithfulness are found in the man who is unwavering in every respect, all for the glory of God (Philippians 2:1-11).