Galatians 5:22-25 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness.
What is faithfulness? It means: “to be faithful and trustworthy; to be loyal and steadfast in devotion and allegiance. It means to be constant, staunch, and enduring.” And I would add to this definition three little words: “NO MATTER WHAT.”
Trustworthy, no matter what. Loyal, no matter what. Constant and enduring, no matter what. When there is something “in it for you” and when you don’t see any personal benefit. When it is easy and when it is hard. When it is painful, when it costs you something, and when you can’t see a good reason to remain true. . . no matter what.
Jesus told a story about faithfulness in Matthew 25:14-30. He talked about a land owner who went on a trip. He gave his servants pieces of property and some money. He knew how much property and how much money each could handle, so he called them together for a meeting before he left to give them some instructions. The first servant got five talents of money, the second received two talents, and to the third he gave one talent of money. Then he left on his trip.
As soon as he left, the one who had received the five talents of money went to work to put his money to work in order to try to make more. So did the man who had received the two talents. But the guy who just received the one talent of money dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money thinking he wouldn’t try to earn any more for his master, but he would just keep it safe.
Before I go any further, let me just say that God hasn’t called us to play it safe. He has called us to be faithful.
Well, the master came home from the trip to see what had taken place. Verse 19 says he came home to “settle accounts” with the servants. He had some expectations of them. The first guy had somehow used the five talents he had received to earn five more. Look at his master’s response in verses 21: “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!” The two-talent guy also doubled his money for the master and received more opportunities and more responsibility. Both were promoted because of their faithfulness.
But the third man didn’t have the same experience. He wasn’t promoted at all. In fact, he was demoted for doing nothing. Perhaps he looked at his one talent of money and thought it wasn’t enough to work with, that he couldn’t make anything good or more come from such a small amount. We don’t need the Bible to convince us, however, that big things can come from small investments. Great things can come from hard work. We hear those success stories all of the time. We need not be focused on what we have to work with, but on WHO we are working for and WHO is working in us to causes us to triumph.
Faithfulness in the little things. I remember when I took typing in high school. (Nowadays it is called “keyboarding,” but back in the olden days, it was just plain “typing!”) It wasn’t fun at all. In fact it was monotonous. It was tedious. It was boring. Our teacher, Mrs. Callet, would tell us to put our fingers on “home row,” you know “asdf for the left hand fingers and jkl; for the right hand fingers.” And then for the entire class period she would stand in a monotone voice say, “AJ space. AJ space. AJ space. AJ space.” That was then changed up when she moved on to “AK space. AK space. AK space. AK space.” That was only altered then to become “AL space. AL space” and so on.
This went on for weeks and months! It seemed meaningless. It seemed pointless. But then one day Mrs Callet said, “Today, you are going to type sentences.” Sentences? I’m thinking, “You have never taught us how to type sentences. How are we supposed to type sentences?” She started reciting some sentences, and I started typing. It was like my fingers had a mind of their own. I was amazed at myself, amazed at my skill, amazed at the ease of typing sentences when I had never been taught to type sentences. Sentences turned into paragraphs, and eventually, I could type 95 words a minute. I went on to win a high school business competition for my typing skills.
How did that happen? I never set out to type sentences or paragraphs. I never set out to type fast. But I was faithful to the little exercises. I was faithful to the routine, ordinary, boring pieces of the process that led to great success.
So what do talents of money and typing have to do with finding contentment in our relationships? Just as the master return to ask for an accounting of what he had given to his servants, so too each one of us will have to give an account to God for how we spend our lives. One of the greatest pieces of that accountability will be the relational aspects of our lives. How did we do with those we love? How faithful were we to invest in those relationships? How much effort did we put into making our marriages grow? How was our faithfulness level in the parenting of our children? How much work did we put into becoming better spouses, parents, and friends? Faithfulness in relationships requires work.
I would also say that we can’t expect big results without faithfulness. We can’t expect great relational success and ease when we haven’t invested in the mundane, routine, ordinary, non-glamourous parts of being in relationship with each other. Taking care of each other when we are sick isn’t fun. Effective communication takes great effort. Having those meetings where you coordinate calendars, make decisions about who is driving which kid where, and dealing with taxes and home repairs don’t really leave me saying, “Yes, I want more of that!” J But when we overlook the needful, perhaps tedious and boring parts of lives, our relationships will suffer.
Investing in our spouses by being willing to just listen when they are having a tough day isn’t exciting. But it is the faithful thing to do. This past week Thom and I laid in bed, and (confession time) I just said to him, “I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I am totally annoyed.” I’m a pretty upbeat, positive, can-do person, but for some reason one day this past week, I needed to rant and vent, and Thom let me. I don’t think I had ever done that before. We’ve talked through and processed difficult circumstances before, but I have never just recognized I was annoyed and let it all out. (And no, I wasn’t annoyed with him . . . this time. J) He said very little, but it really helped. Of course when we woke up the next morning, he shyly asked, “Are you still annoyed?” hoping I had turned the corner, and I had! J But that was partially due to the fact that he was faithful to let me process some of the things that were occupying my thoughts.
People who are faithful are people who will have faith in God and others. That means there will be trust. That means there will be security. It means you will commit to always being available for your friend, spouse, or child when they really need you. When you know you can count on someone no matter what, how does it impact your ability to relate in meaningful ways with them? How does it compel you to want to support them back? To bless them back? Faithfulness creates an environment in our relationships that we can count on.
Judge Shepherd, circuit court judge of Nashville, Tennessee, was a deacon in his church. He was faithful to his church. He never missed a Sunday. But one Sunday, his pastor, Dr. Norman W. Cox, noticed that the judge was not sitting in his accustomed place, and he asked, “Where is Judge Shepherd today?”
The Pastor had someone call the judge’s house. No answer. Immediately after church the Pastor went to the judge’s home. It was locked. Convinced something had to be wrong, the Pastor called the police and convinced them to break down the door. There in the middle of the floor the judge laid unconscious from gas fumes caused by a faulty heater. Another half hour might have been too late.
The judge’s faithful pattern of being in church each week literally saved his life that day. Your faithfulness day in and day out in your relationship with God and in your most important earthly relationships can wind up saving your life and making your life one of joy, peace, and contentment.
Remember, last week I said that “Goodness is doing the right things for the right reason.” Faithfulness helps us add on to that definition. Faithfulness is doing the right things for the right reason no matter what. The man who buried his one talent of money said he did so out of fear. We can’t let any excuse keep us from being faithful to grow and invest in our relationships if we expect God to say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
But the Fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.
Gentleness is an approach. It is an attitude. It is a commitment to treat people with consideration. It is an honest attempt to understand where people are coming from. It involves a spirit of humility and receptivity. When people approach us with hard things will we receive them?
People who let the Holy Spirit rule in their lives realize people are precious. Precious things should be protected and treated as valuable. There should be an effort to keep precious things safe.
A website I ran across this week packaged some Scripture on this topic in a very concise manner. I want to share what it said to you:
Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When someone questions our faith 1 Peter 3:15-16 tells us to respond with, “gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” And why? The final part of 1 Peter 3:16 (NIV) gives us the answer, “…so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
If someone is caught in sin Galatians 6:1 (NIV) says, “You who are spiritual should restore him gently.” We don’t shoot our wounded. We don’t vote the weak off the island. We restore them with gentleness and great care.
This website article went on to say something incredibly helpful and profound. It said, “Gentleness maximizes the redemptive potential of relationships.”
If your goal is to help a relationship on, to strengthen it, to repair it, to invest in it, gentleness rather than harshness will have a more positive long-term effect. Oh, you might get your point across in a minute with a few harsh words, but what is the long-term effect on the relationship?
I’m not suggesting that we have to tippy-toe around everyone, that we should mince words, that we should choose political correctness over truth or never challenge anyone. Christians should have unwavering conviction and established boundaries. There should be lines we won’t cross. We should be ready to defend our faith and testify to the hope that lives in us. We should stand for what is right and just and godly. Absolutely. But there are gentle ways and there are mean-spirited, pride-filled and judgmental ways to get our messages across. One approach will lead to righteousness and peace while the other will lead to division and conflict. Which do you want in your work place? Which would you opt for in your home?
Gentleness doesn’t mean you lack passion or boldness. Gentle people can be full of zeal and power. Gentleness is really power under control. For us as believers we could say gentleness is the power of God in control of our lives rather than the power of our will or flesh. The Fruit of Gentleness helps us express ourselves the way God wants us to in every conversation rather than the way we might feel like engaging.
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to ALL.” Are you a teddy bear at home and a bully at work? Do you tell people off at school but then treat everyone kindly at church? Just as faithfulness is a “no matter what” kind of thing, gentleness is supposed to be an “everywhere kind of thing.”
What ought to be a hallmark of Christians is often missing from our approach. Ephesians 4:2-3: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Colossians 3:12-17: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Jesus called Himself “gentle in heart” in Matthew 11:29. There isn’t really room for debate about God’s desires for us when it comes to gentleness. Do your friends get treated like they are precious? Do your children or siblings get treated by you as if they are precious? Does your spouse get treated by you as if he or she is precious?
“But the Fruit of the Spirit is self-control.”
I want to say to the students in the house this morning that if you have parents who are willing to tell you “no” sometimes that is a good thing. I fear we have overdone the word “yes” in the last twenty plus years because we think saying “yes” to people will make them happy and will then strengthen our relationships. People who grow up getting everything they want have a hard time reigning themselves in when they are on their own and can’t afford the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
In my opinion, many homes are upside down in that the children are deciding how the family’s schedule will run, how the family’s money will be spent, and even where the family will attend church and how often. I am seeing this more and more. We see a generation that is increasingly impulsive and unable to subdue their desires and passions. Drug addiction and sexual promiscuity passed the “out of control” line years ago. I’m not saying what I have just said is a description of the students here today, but a generation in general, and it is worth some self-examination to see how each of us is doing in the area of self-control. And parents it is our responsibility to help model and teach this as a value and as something desirable and to be pursued by our children.
Dad and Moms we need to say “no” to some things that will help keep our children safe. We need to say “no” to some things that help them learn to wait for the things they want. We have added some parental controls to our television. Our kids know we have the option of reading their text messages and checking their electronic devices without warning, and we do. We want to emphasize that Christians are supposed to live alert, self-controlled and disciplined lives. We should use the tools that can help us avoid temptation like pop-up blockers on our computers that keep pornography from popping up. You can even have controls put on your phone that will send records of every website search you have made to an accountability partner or parent. Why not just go ahead and download the apps? “But Pastor, I don’t have a problem with pornography.” Good, let’s keep it that way! One of the apps is called “ever accountable.” These aren’t just temptations for teenagers, but for all of us in this room.
I Peter 5:8 warns us: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” One of the major ways we defeat the devil is to exercise the Fruit of Self-Control.
Satan wants us to see self-control and self-denial as bad. Self-control is a good thing. It is a God-thing. God wants us to make choices that lead to life and godliness because He wants us to live content and have great relationships and joy and peace. Satan wants to tempt us to live in the moment just for the moment and to seek pleasure which will lead us to addictive behaviors which will eventually control us.
Think of it this way: Satan is powerless when we exercise the Fruit of Self-control. Temptation has no power over us when we exercise the Fruit of Self-control. Why? Because self-control is the power of God in us to enable our success. Satan can’t trump God’s power, ever.
So, the bottom line is we either allow the Fruit of Self Control to dominate us or we wind up being controlled by Satan through our lusts and passions.
The first step in allowing the Spirit to birth self-control in our lives is admitting our powerlessness to control ourselves. At first read that sounds pretty defeating, doesn’t it. If we are powerless then how can we ever lived self-controlled lives? Self-control is a misleading concept. We can’t rely on ourselves for control because we don’t possess the power to overcome the things Satan puts in front of us. We must admit we are really powerless in and of ourselves so that we can accept and rely on God’s power which will give us the power we need to resist the devil and say “no” to temptation.
Self-control, like patience, is a fruit producing fruit. So many wonderful things come into our lives and so many unwanted unnecessary things are avoided when we live under the Spirit’s control.
Our minds need to be controlled by the Spirit. Our attitudes need to be controlled by the Spirit. Our impulses and decisions need to be controlled by the Spirit. Our tongues need to be controlled by the Spirit. Our bodies need to be controlled by the Spirit. Without that control our relationships become reduced to a “what’s in it for me?” arrangement. There is no successful relationship when selfishness and impulse reigns. An out of control attitude, an out of control tongue, an out of control attitude, and a person who is ruled by impulses will cause disaster in our relationships. They will erode any attempts at exercising the other eight fruit.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self–control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
Did you notice how the phrase “without self-control” was tucked right in the middle of all of the yuck that was just described. Isn’t a lack of self-control in the middle of a lot of our problems in the world today? God doesn’t want our lives to be in upheaval. He doesn’t want them to be full of drama. Many people are creating their own chaos simply because they won’t let the Spirit of God possess them and empower them to say “no” to themselves and to the temptations Satan places in front of them. But, self-control, Holy Spirit control, will lead to personal satisfaction and success which will give you confidence to invest in your relationships.
So that’s it. The nine-fold Fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It’s no wonder these are the things the Holy Spirit seeks to produce in our lives because these are the qualities and characteristics, these are the attitudes and behaviors that will transform us and transform our relationships to bring contentment to ourselves and those around us. It is through these attitudes and behaviors that Heaven comes to earth. Will you join me in seeking to allow the Spirit to possess us and grow His fruit in our lives and thereby transform our relationships?
Psalms 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Scripture That Shows God’s Faithfulness
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Psalms 36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Psalms 89:8 O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?
Psalms 119:90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
God could crush us, but he speaks to us in a gentle whisper. Zechariah 9:9 (NIV) tells us with what manner Christ would come to reign over his kingdom. Christ had the power to come with horses and chariots, with legions of angels and with great violence, but here’s what he did instead. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Christ came in humility
When Christ came, he could have condemned us. He could have beaten us down for our sin and shame. But no, he did something else instead. Matthew 12:20 (NIV) says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out…” Have ever felt like a bruised reed? Have you ever felt like a smoldering wick, just barely hanging on, beaten down by life? Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
The growth chart had slipped from the playroom wall because the tape on its corners had become dry and brittle. Five-year-old Jordan hung it up again, meticulously working to get it straight. Then he stood his sister against the wall to measure her height.
“Mommy! Mommy! Anneke is forty inches tall!” he shouted as he burst into the kitchen. “I measured her.”
His mom replied, “That’s impossible, Sweetheart. She’s only 3 years old. Let’s go see.” They walked back into the playroom, where the mother’s suspicions were confirmed. Despite his efforts to hang the chart straight, Jordan had failed to set it at the proper height. It was several inches low.
We easily make Jordan’s mistake in gauging our spiritual growth or importance. Compared to a shortened scale, we may appear better than we are. Only when we stand against the Cross, that “Great leveler of men” as A. T. Robertson called it, can we not think of ourselves “…higher than we ought to think.” Christ, Himself, must be our standard.
Practical Illustrations – Practical Illustrations – Volume 9: Galatians-Colossians
The Miracles of Christmas
It’s a Wonderful Life-Christmas Movies-Kelly Geraci