“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
In his commentary, Galatians For You, Timothy Keller describes faithfulness this way: “Pistis = faithfulness, loyalty, courage, to be utterly reliable and true to your word. Its opposite is to be an opportunist, a friend only in good times. And its counterfeit is to be loving but not truthful, so that you are never willing to confront or challenge.
Nearly every book I read in preparation for this article spoke of faithfulness in the context of friendship. And that makes sense, because it is often in the context of friendship that we learn just how faithful we are—or aren’t.
But since we’re talking about a fruit of the Spirit, we are talking about a characteristic that has its basis in our God, the Vine to which we must be attached at all times. So let’s look at a few verses describing the faithfulness of our God:
- Deuteronomy 32:3-4 – I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
- Psalm 25:10 – All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
- Psalm 33:4-5 – For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
- Psalm 36:5 – Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
And one of my personal favorites:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13, emphasis added).
Now, with those verses in mind, let’s go back to Keller’s comments. He describes a faithful person as one who is “utterly reliable and true to [his] word.” It’s a tall order, and one that most of us recognize we cannot do in our own power. Jesus describes this kind of person in Luke 16 in the story of the faithful servant. He says:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)
But let’s get a little practical. In their book, The Fruit of the Spirit, Thomas Trask and Wayde Goodall list several items which they describe as qualities they look for in a person qualified to run a program or lead a department. I’m going to list just a few of those, because they very ably describe a faithful person. (I’m modifying their wording a bit (see p. 121), but keeping the gist).
Think about yourself:
- Do you complete assigned tasks in a timely manner?
- Do you work to resolve unforeseen obstacles?
- Are you discipled with your time?
- Do you keep your word?
- Do you treat people you work with well?
- Do you consider responsibility a critical attribute?
- Do you accept responsibility for yourself and for your actions?
I have a friend who loves to “help.” She is frequently the first to volunteer for a task. But! She may or may not show up. Even if she does show up, she may or may not do her job. She typically does not prepare herself, or collect any material needed, to do the task she’s accepted. And if she doesn’t get the feedback she feels she deserves (loud and public praise for her participation!), she pouts and complains to anyone and everyone that she’s been mistreated.
I know I cannot count on her, so now I tend to gently refuse her help—unless it really doesn’t matter if the job gets done or not.
(By the way, this “friend” is actually a compilation of several people. So no, I’m not talking about you. If you think I am, think about what that means.)
That is not a faithful person. And I have to constantly and continually search my own heart to be sure I’m not falling into the same pattern.
But the point here is not the “worth” of the task; it’s not how important or unimportant the job is—in your opinion or in anyone else’s. No, the point is, if God gives you a task, do you perform that task faithfully?
The point is to live in such a way that one day, when you meet Jesus face to face, He will say to you, “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!” (Matthew 25:21).
Are you that kind of faithful?