The Spirit's Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus ~ 20170723 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/23 The Spirit's Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170723_faithfulness-like-jesus.mp3
We are looking together at the fruit of the Spirit, the character that the Holy Spirit without fail produces in the life of every follower of Jesus.
Today we look at the fruit of faithfulness. If you are using the old King James, it will have 'faith' instead of faithfulness. This word, along with all 8 of the other words in this list of fruit is a noun. This word is most often translated in other contexts simply as 'faith'. But in this list it indicates an ethical quality, so it is translated as an adjective. The Greek word is [πίστις] from the [πιστεύω] word group. It means to have faith; to believe, trust, to depend on. With the definite article it can refer to the faith, the teaching, the content of the gospel. The adjective form means to be faithful, dependable, trustworthy, or reliable.
We can look at Romans 3 to see some of the ways this word is used. In Romans 3, Paul is asking if Jews are not automatically saved, but must believe the gospel just like everyone else, and the gospel has gone out to all people, then is there any advantage in being an ethnic Jew. The first advantage he lists is that
'Entrusted with' translates the passive verb form of this word 'faith.' They were believed in or trusted with the Scriptures. They were considered faithful in the task of transmitting Biblical revelation to us. In the next verse, he uses both the verb and the noun of this word.
'Unfaithful' or 'unbelieving' translates the negative verb form. They were without faith. They did not believe. Those who did not believe are called 'faithless,' the negative noun form. In contrast, God is called 'faithful,' the noun form we see in Galatians 5. Verse 4 goes on to describe the faithfulness of God.
God's faithfulness is his truthfulness, his righteousness or justice, that what he said certainly happens. His words, when examined, prove to be flawlessly true and trustworthy.
The next chapter, Romans 4, has my favorite Biblical definition of faith.
From this passage we see that to have faith or to believe is opposite of works; it is depending on or trusting in the work of another; 'to the one who does not work but believes in him'. It is depending on a gracious promise; something we didn't earn and don't deserve, but is freely offered to us; 'that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace'. Faith must have the proper object; it is faith in the God 'who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist'. Faith must have content; 'he had been told.' Faith is trusting the impossible promises of God in spite of the circumstances to the contrary. Unbelief is doubting or questioning the promises of God, wavering in confidence in God. Faith gives all glory to the God who is able to do the impossible. Faith is being 'fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised.' Our faith must be placed in the promises of our faithful God.
Galatians 5 tells us that faithfulness is fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is produced in us when we look at our faithful God and trust his character. To have faith is to believe, trust, depend on one who is faithful. To be faithful is to be dependable, trustworthy, reliable; to keep your word.
In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus is talking about the signs of his coming, and the unexpected nature of his return. He says:
Jesus encourages us to be always ready for his return, to be faithful and wise with what he has entrusted to our care. He has trusted us with caring for his household. We will be rewarded for faithful service. There will be punishment for unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness looks like self-centered abuse of authority and taking advantage of the absence of the master for personal indulgence. Faithful service looks like doing exactly what the master requested at the proper time, serving others, providing for the needs of others.
Jesus asks 'who is the faithful and wise servant?' Then he tells a story in Matthew 25 about wisdom or foolishness in being prepared at all times for his coming, and he tells a story about faithfulness or unfaithfulness.
Faith is confidence in the God who entrusts us with gifts, that he is wise and good. Notice, it says he gave differing sums of money to the servants, 'to each according to his ability'. He knew he servants, he knew their capacity, their capability. He gave them exactly what he knew they could handle.
We all tend to doubt this. We all tend toward unbelief. Pastors tend to look around and see other pastors with larger congregations and ask 'why can't I have a bigger church?' He gives to each according to his ability. Then you have a pastor of a large congregation who knows that more people equals more problems and he looks at the smaller church and says 'wouldn't it be nice to have fewer problems'. He gives to each according to his ability. God knows what he is doing. I'm sure this is true of everybody. 'Why was I entrusted with this? Why wasn't I entrusted with that? Why did he get five and I only got two?' In order to be faithful, we need to have faith that God knows what he is doing when he gives us what he does. Has he given you resources? Health? Sickness? Adversity? Prosperity? Be faithful to glorify him with whatever he has entrusted to your care.
I want you to see something else about faithfulness in Jesus' story. Look at what the servant who was given five talents did. He put them to work. He took what he had been entrusted with and made use of it. We are not told exactly what he did, but a 100% return on investment is pretty substantial, and probably indicates a high level of risk. He invested the money aggressively and doubled his investment. Safe investments don't produce that kind of return. He took risks with his master's money. And he is commended for it. The master doesn't come back and say 'what were you thinking? You could have lost it all! You got lucky this time, but I'm never trusting you with my money again.' No, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Being faithful means taking great risks with what we have been given in hopes of great gains for our master. Remember, the money does not belong to us. It belongs to the master. Neither is the gain ours. The profit goes to the master. God expects us to step out of the safe zone. William Carey, missionary to India, remembered as the father of modern missions, said 'expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.' We can take risks with what God entrusts to us, because God is ultimately in control. This too is a matter of faith. Do we believe God's promise that 'for those who love God all things work together for good' (Rom.8:28), even the bad things? Is any risk too great that has the potential of advancing the glory of Christ in the world?
Notice in Jesus' story, both servants who invested what they had been entrusted gained 100%. There was no servant who invested and lost money. There was no servant who invested and only gained 50%.
Notice also that there was no differentiation between the servant who gained 5 and the servant who gained 2. Both were faithful with what they had been given. Both heard the words 'well done, good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your master.'
But there was one servant who was not good and faithful.
This servant misunderstood his master. He thought him to be a hard man, a lazy man, a greedy man. He had no confidence, because he did not understand his master was gracious and forgiving. He acted out of fear and unbelief. He played it safe with the master's money. He buried it. He hid it. He preserved it. He was careful not to lose any. He returned what he had been given. And he was called 'wicked and slothful.' Not good and faithful, but wicked and slothful. He was not faithful; he failed to invest at all. He was slothful.
God's Faithfulness and Ours
You see, faithfulness is fruit. It grows in a heart that is looking at our faithful God. We can risk being recklessly faithful because we know God. Our confidence is not in our skill or ability, in our effectiveness in planting or watering, but on God who gives the increase.
Paul, addressing the messed up church in Corinth, points them to:
Paul's confidence for the Corinthian believers was not in them. His confidence, his faith, was in the fully capable faithful God. He said the same to the Thessalonian believers.
In 2 Thessalonians, he asks for prayer in the risky venture of advancing the gospel into places where Christ was not named.
His confidence for himself and for them was in the faithfulness of God. He was faithful in his mission, because he knew God would always be faithful to his promises.
The author of Hebrews points us always back to Jesus.
Because of Jesus, because we have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus, because we have a great priest who invites us to draw near, we can hold fast without wavering, we can be faithful, because he who promised is faithful. We can be faithful to love and stir each other up to love because he will never let us down.
He who promised is faithful. God is dependable, trustworthy, reliable. We can count on him, we can bank on him. He will never let us down. He will never go back on his word. Because we have this kind of confidence in this kind of God, we can become this kind of people. We can be know as dependable, reliable, trustworthy, women and men of our word. Even when others let us down, we can follow through.
Martin Luther writes sees the passage this way: “In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?”
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to 'be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus' and entrust what you have learned to faithful men who will pass it along. He encourages him to be a good soldier, to live an unentangled life. He reminds him of Jesus, and Paul's own sacrifice and suffering 'for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus' as he risks his very life for the gospel. And he recites this well known saying:
We can risk suffering, even death, because we have his word, his promise, he will be faithful. And we can have this gospel confidence, knowing that it is not contingent on our performance. Even if we are a failure, even if we are faithless, if we confess Jesus as Lord, he will be faithful to his promises because his own character is at stake. He will not deny his own faithful character just because we falter. He who promised is faithful; he will surely do it.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org