Sunday, April 25, 2010

Back To Basics – Part 6

(This week we continue our series on “The Fruit of the Spirit” with a discussion on the word “faithfulness.”)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful." (Beyond Hunger, Beals)

What a powerful example of someone who measured her life not by how many awards she received, money she earned, or material wealth she accumulated. Rather than care about earthly things, like success, Mother Teresa measured her life by her faithful walk with the Lord. Her faithfulness can teach us much.

It is important to know that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to produce the fruit of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit is an ever present help as we try to stay on the narrow path on our daily walk with Christ.

When we are lost, the Holy Spirit works to bring us to Christ. As believers, the Holy Spirit brought about our new birth in Christ. When we backslide, the Holy Spirit restores us to Christ. The Holy Spirit’s presence within us is revealed by the fruit He produces.

Today we will discuss the fruit of the Spirit called faithfulness. We will learn about faith that is childlike; faith that rises to all the challenges of life; and faith that proves the believer’s life is different.

Faith That Is Childlike

Do you remember what it was like to believe like a child? Some of us have to go back further in our memories than others to remember.

As kids, we believed almost anything we were told. Most of us lived in a world of imagination where bunnies hid eggs, elves made toys for good boys and girls, and the good guy always wore a white hat. If an adult told us that there was an island somewhere in the world where candy grew on trees we probably believe it. We could believe, or have faith, in the impossible because we had no reason to doubt. Most of us had not yet been exposed to all of the lies and deceptions of this world.

God calls us to have this kind of childlike faith in Him and His kingdom. The Bible contains many examples of how we are to have childlike faith. Unfortunately, some people try to make faith complicated. They make up unending rules for how people must pray and worship to be considered good enough to be a child of God.

In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus illustrated faith with a little child. It reads, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

In this scripture, Jesus explains that one’s faith should be like a little child’s faith. Jesus was skilled at making deep things easy to understand, and he often compared familiar things to spiritual things.

Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that a little child simply believes. We need the kind of faith where we can believe in what seems impossible. We need to have the kind of faith where we can declare, “God said it … I believe it … that settles it!”

We need the kind of faith that cuts through religious ceremony and simply believe. We need the kind of faith that places no limits on the power and love of God.

Faith That Rises to All the Challenges of Life

Faithfulness is a fruit that when ripe brings forth faith that rises to all the challenges of life. It is the kind of faith that is built on the conviction that God can do anything!

Contained in the book of Hebrews is a chapter that gives us one of the best explanations of what the word faith means. Hebrews 11 begins by exclaiming, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In other words, faith means believing in something even though we can not physically see the proof of what we believe in.

We live by faith everyday. We have faith that air exists, because we are able to breath. We have faith that germs exist, because we get sick. We can not see gravity, but we have faith it exists because we are not floating around in space. Everyday we believe in things that we can not see.

Not only does Hebrews 11 explain what the word faith means, it also gives us many examples of people who lived by faith. For instance:

• Faith made Abel worship God (Hebrews 11:4)

• Faith made Enoch walk with God (Hebrews 11:5)

• Faith made Noah work for God (Hebrews 11:7)

• Faith made Abraham obey God (Hebrews 11:8)

Faith has also sustained many in tough times. Imagine the amount of faith a person must possess to start rebuilding after a tornado, flood, or hurricane. Imagine the amount of faith it takes to try again to conceive a child after having experienced one or more miscarriages. Imagine the amount of faith it takes a person to get out there and find another job after being laid off after 20 plus years of service.

Faith removes all limits on God’s ability to provide, and it claims the resources of God in every crisis. Faith allows us to believe:

• It was God who gave us the extra money to pay for an unexpected expense.

• It was God who allowed us to walk away unharmed from a serious accident even though our car was totaled.

• It was God who healed us from a serious affliction that doctors said could not be cured.

• It was God who saved us from a bad situation and gave us a better life.

• It was God who delivered us from our enemies who had surrounded us and threatened to crush us.

“'If you can'?" said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’” (Mark 9:23)

Faith That Proves the Believer’s Life is Different

It is through the fruit of faithfulness that we are able to find faith in the deepest and broadest sense of the word. The kind of faith we are talking about here can be translated as “fidelity.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word fidelity as “strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.” This is not a wishy-washy belief system that changes depending on which way the wind is blowing. It is a steady pressing toward a real, trusting, and devoted relationship between us and our Lord.

This is the carry through part of faith. Real faith produces visible evidence in our lives. People should be able to see the faithfulness in us. They should be able to see our faithfulness to Christ and to His Word. It should be visible in our faithfulness to our church through the use of our talents, gifts, and in the use of our material resources.

In closing, I want to ask you to describe your faith. Is it childlike? Is it sufficient for life’s challenges? Is it visible? Has it changed your life? Or, do you need a faith lift?

It is time to commit your life to the Lord and watch your faith grow. You will find that when you turn your life over to Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit will guide you in such a way that you too can be filled with the Spirit and begin harvesting spiritual fruit.

Next week we will continue this series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Until then, may God bless you!

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