FAITH: Fruit 7 of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22g
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

The word’s meaning is better conveyed if translated faithfulness. It means being trustworthy and reliable, doing our duty toward God and people.

The faithful put their hand to the plow and never look back. Once they shoulder a burden, they never drop it.

Few virtues are as vital to Christian living as faithfulness. What use are gifts and talents if not used faithfully? Many talented people are fickle. They blaze a while and then fizzle. To God, flashiness doesn’t compare to faithfulness.

All church leaders need it (II Timothy 2:2). Paul was usable because God knew he would be faithful (I Timothy 1:12). Nehemiah (7:2) put Hanani in charge of Jerusalem “because he was a faithful man who feared God more than most.”

“A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries. In this regard, it is expected of managers that each one be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:1-2).

Be loyal to God whatever the cost. Always be faithful to others, also. Let our word be our bond. Keep promises. Be a person others can rely on. Be trustworthy in every relationship, a faithful neighbor, friend, parent, spouse, child.

Whatever our place of service to Jesus and others, we must be dependable, faithful to our task. God and people must be able to count on us. Few things are more disappointing than unfaithfulness. “Trusting an unreliable person in a time of trouble is like a rotten tooth or a faltering foot” (Proverbs 25:19).

Resolve to remain faithful, to stay on task no matter what. First, stay faithful even if we are discouraged and don’t feel like doing our duty.

When Dad was pastor at South Side Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he occasionally asked one of the members to go visiting with him. The man was a successful businessman, well liked, and upstanding, but never consented to go visiting with Dad. He always had an excuse: being busy, tired, under the weather, etc.

In the same church was Charlie Dietiker, who barely eeked out a living, working 12 hours a day, six days a week in his grocery store. He suffered terribly with gout in his feet, but every time Dad asked him to visit, he did. Charlie never missed a Sunday School, morning worship, Training Union, evening worship, prayer meeting, revival service, study course, or Brotherhood meeting for 27 consecutive years. Charlie was faithful, even when he didn’t feel like doing his duty.

Second, stay faithful even if we’re scared or nervous. If you want out of a job in a local church, simply say, “It would make me nervous.” This excuse may pacify a nominating committee, but not God.

Our Lord revealed His attitude on this subject in His parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The servants who received five and two talents brought back to the Master five and two more. Both men were rewarded by the Master, who called them “good and faithful.”

A third servant, afraid to invest his talent, said, “I know you. You’re a difficult man . . . I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”

We would have comforted the last fellow, “We understand. No one would want you to be scared or nervous.” But the Master said, “You evil, lazy slave!” He commanded, “Throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Don’t let the jitters keep you from doing your duty. “Fear not” was one of Jesus’ most often repeated commands. Face your fear. Lean into it. Don’t run from it. Behind the fear may be the task you are best suited for. The life you’ve always dreamed of often lies hidden in the mission you’ve always dreaded.

Third, stay faithful even if others are unimpressed. There are no small jobs in the Kingdom. While waiting for a seemingly more impressive position to come your way, be faithful where you are. If we are not successful on our current job, a promotion probably will not help.

Too often we let artificial worldly standards blur our definition of success (big numbers, big budgets, big building, fancy clothes, nice cars, perfect manners).

Was Stephen successful during his stoning? What about Peter in jail? Or John on Patmos? Paul was left for dead outside Lystra. If he could have been transferred at that moment to our era, how would he view our situation?

We are to win the world, not impress it. Popularity and fame are not our purpose. Maybe the toughest test for Moses was when God offered him fame, saying, “Leave Me alone, so that My anger can burn against them and I can destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:10).

Imagine the privilege it would be to have God’s special holy nation named after you. Moses declined, urging God to remember His servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Fourth, stay faithful to the end. In England’s darkest hour, Churchill’s words saved the day, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

There was no quit in him. He once addressed a graduating class. His entire speech was, “Students, never, NEVER, NEVER turn back.”

We believers are to be faithful to the very end, loyal for a lifetime. How long are we to stay true? “Be faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10).

Spartan mothers told their sons to come home with their shield or on it. Their sons were to fight regardless of circumstances, to the death if necessary. The same is true of believers. We are expected to remain at our post until death.

To quit is an act of mutiny and rebellion, a disobeying of orders from headquarters. Our duty is to obey forever. We have no right to quit.

John and Mary Gasten were missionaries to China, deeply in love with each other and with Jesus. They studied for years to learn Mandarin and went to the field.

Mary would stay at the mission station while John went out preaching on evangelistic trips. One day a Chinese doctor told John, “You can’t leave Mary any more. She is very ill, and needs your attention.” As they discussed it, Mary persisted, “John, God will take care of me; He led us here to preach; it’s not right for you to stay.” John reluctantly returned to the circuit. After a while the doctor gave another warning, “You must take her to a warmer climate or she will die.” Hoping Mary would recuperate, John hired some Chinese workers, and rented a boat to head down the river to warmer weather.

On the journey, Mary, slipping quickly, said, “John, aren’t you glad we obeyed the Lord and came to China?” “I’m glad, Sweetheart,” he said, unable to look at her due to his tears.

At a place where a tree was on the bank near the river, Mary asked to go rest a little while in the shade. After they carried her ashore and laid her down, Mary said, “John, I can’t go any further. This is it, but listen to me! God brought us here. I want you to promise me you will not go home, but go back and preach to these people.” Then she died.

The Chinese workers, not wanting to look on death, went over the hill and left John. All he could find to dig a grave with was an oar. With no one to prepare the body, read Scripture, say a prayer, or sing a song, John gathered a few wild flowers and placed them on Mary’s grave. Then he called the Chinese back over the hill.

They started down the river, heading away from the mission station. John stopped them, “No! Not down the river, but up the river to preach for Christ.”

While Pastor Martin Niemoller was in prison, held captive by the Nazis, his father died. Heinrich Niemoller had come out of retirement and resumed an active ministry when his son was arrested. He said, “There was a gap in the ranks so I stepped in.” Of Martin’s imprisonment he said, “Yes, it’s a terrible thing to have a son in a concentration camp . . . but there would be something more terrible for us . . . if God had needed a faithful martyr and our Martin had not been willing.” Faithfulness can be costly. Unfaithfulness is always more costly.

4