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Faithfulness & Longsuffering
Faithfulness and longsuffering are both virtues listed in the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 but they never seem to be the first ones we want to talk about. Why is it we can be quite happy avoiding these two? Maybe it’s because they’re not the first ones on the list, maybe it’s because we don’t think they’re quite as important as love, joy and peace or maybe it is because we fear them.
Faithfulness can be defined as ‘adhering firmly and devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity.’ Devotedly? No thank you, I’m fine just here screaming ‘Go God!’ from the sidelines, I don’t need to actually do anything….why does it have to be so serious all the time? God knows I love Him, I tell Him all the time, why do I have to devote my entire life to Him as well?’
But wasn’t it Christ that said, “If you love me, keep My commandments”? (John 14:15)
Unfortunately we find ourselves in the above mindset much more often than we would hope for and this might be because we don’t always esteem God with the importance He deserves. Aren’t we loyal in our studies, our work, to our friends and ourselves because those are the things we value? So what value are we giving to God?
Today in a world which preaches the need to serve yourself, a society that whispers ‘go on, indulge, you deserve it’ around every corner, it’s a bit easier to see why we’re so unfaithful to His word. But the Bible wasn’t written yesterday, God describes the faithlessness of His people from years past. Israel failed repeatedly even though we heard, ‘Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statues, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. Also today the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He has promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made’. (Deuteronomy 26:17-19). Despite this promise Israel still “played the harlot” (Hosea 2:5) betraying the Lord multiple times.
The amazing thing in the story of Israel’s repeated betrayal is that God was always loyal; never did He reject her repentance, because He made a covenant with His people. So when we read ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ (1 Corinthians 2:9), trust it, because unlike us, He always keeps His promises.
So, why is faithfulness a fruit of the Spirit, capital S? Well that’s exactly it; because even ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13). In the process of sanctification, we become more like Christ, more like His Holy Spirit; so as He is faithful, we ought to be faithful. That means we need to quit compromising, quit thinking ‘I’ll repent tomorrow’; quit lying to others and ourselves because ‘it makes it easier’ and start obeying; and through faithfulness start to look a bit more like Christ.
The idea of this scares us a bit because we know Christ didn’t really have it easy in fact the world hated Him, so surely the world will hate me? Jesus Himself said it would. Perhaps, yes it will, because ‘We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.’ (1 John 5:19) but does that translate to mean that every person in the world will hate you? No, there will be people with the same heavenly goal as you; it just means it may be more difficult at times; we may need to make bold decisions at times to avoid falling into sin but remember: ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Now, if we trust in God’s promises towards us then we will ‘know that all things work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans 8:28) and therefore we will patiently endure through tribulation; that is, longsuffering will be born in us. Just as Noah in the ark did not lose heart as the rain poured night after night, whilst the smell from the animals could hardly have been that of flowers; so should we patiently endure hardship. Although the grey sky around him seemed hopeless, Noah held on the hope that they would be delivered from the flood; God kept His word.
The word longsuffering here reminds us that ‘love suffers long’ (1 Corinthians 13:4); alerting us to the fact that the fruit of the Spirit is one fruit, of which love is mentioned first, being the foundation for all the other virtues listed.
Again we are called to be longsuffering just as God ‘is longsuffering’ (2 Peter 3:9). The idea is to become like Him, letting His Spirit grow in us. So ‘Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’ (Joshua 1:9) Even if times are tough, even if you feel alone remember that ‘In all their affliction He was afflicted’ (Isaiah 63:9)
By Mary Henry