Opportunism and skepticism are glorified today, making it hard for anyone to develop true faithfulness. Why is faithfulness such a needed fruit of the Spirit?
Faithfulness is the seventh in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 (New King James Version). Essentially, faithfulness to God is loyalty to Him and to His teachings, which should shape how we think and act.
What the Bible says about faith and faithfulness
“Faithfulness” is translated from the Greek word pistis. In the King James Version this word is translated “faith.” Pistis includes both meanings (faith and faithfulness), but in Galatians 5:22 it seems to carry more of the meaning “trustworthiness or reliability” (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary note on Galatians 5:22).
The Bible provides a fundamental description of pistis in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
We grow in faith as we use the power God gives us through His Spirit to obey Him and build a relationship with Him. Faith in God grows in us as it did in Abraham as we see that God will always do what He has promised (Romans 4:18-22). So, faithfulness would include being full of belief and confidence in God and all that God promises.
Hebrews 11, often called the Faith Chapter, goes on to say: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (verse 3).
Faith is what keeps us from believing that we are all here on earth by accident. It assures us of our Creator’s existence and love.
Faith involves the way we live. Paul said we must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Faithfulness includes loyalty. In Titus 1:9, toward the end of a list of qualifications for ministers, Paul says that an elder should be “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” “Holding fast the faithful word” means remaining loyal to what we have learned from the Word of God.
So the fruit of the Spirit of faithfulness includes trusting God and remaining loyal to Him and His doctrines.
Why does God want us to demonstrate faithfulness?
In Luke 18:8 Christ asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Looking at the state of faithfulness today is not very encouraging. The world has thousands of different versions of Christianity to choose from, all claiming faithfulness to God and His doctrine, but far too many have been willing to change biblical truth to what suits them. And, at the personal level, infidelity and unfaithfulness are rampant today.
God is faithful to His people, and He expects them to be faithful to Him. All of the fruit of the Spirit follow this pattern, and faith is no exception.
Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” God calls on us to make a promise to Him through baptism. Will we be faithful and true to Him as He is faithful to us?
So why does God want us to demonstrate faithfulness to Him? How else will He know that we trust Him and are truly committed to being a part of His family? James 2:17-20 clearly tells us: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”
Our faithfulness greatly influences how we love God and love others, including whether or not we remain loyal to relationships, sound doctrine and God.
Examples of faithfulness to follow
Hebrews 11 lists Abraham and Sarah as examples of faithful people who did many things by faith. Abraham left his home, not knowing where he was going but depending on God. He dwelled in a foreign country with his wife and waited many years for promises from God. Sarah received strength to have a child after she was well past the childbearing age, holding onto the promise made to her by God. Abraham was even willing to obey God’s command to offer his only son as a sacrifice because he completely believed that God could raise him from the dead.
Abraham and Sarah’s examples of faithfulness are timeless in their demonstration of commitment, willingness to believe God and to act on their beliefs despite growing physical evidence to the contrary. They did have some difficulties with faith (see below), but they made God the priority, and He bountifully blessed them.
Abraham turned his back on everything that wasn’t approved by God and moved forward with only God’s promises guiding Him. Talk about faithfulness!
Examples to avoid
The story of Abraham and Sarah (found in Genesis 12 through 24) is often called a “journey of faith,” because their lives also provide some specific examples to avoid. There were times they both struggled with accepting what God had told them and with trusting that God would do what He said. (However, in time they turned back to the conviction that God not only was able to do what He had spoken and promised, but also that He would do it.)
For example, Abraham was deceptive on two occasions about Sarah being his sister, not having the faith to trust that God would protect him in those situations (Genesis 12:11-20; 20:2-13). Instead of believing that she and Abraham would have a son, Sarah insisted on using her maid Hagar to try to bear the son of promise (Genesis 16:1-15), leading to much conflict and heartbreak (especially when Isaac, the true promised son, came along). In fact, Sarah and Abraham both laughed when they heard from God that they would have a son (Genesis 17:17; 18:12)! Despite their overall faithfulness, they both had some hard lessons to learn about faith.
Many of the things God commands and tells us in the Bible truly don’t seem physically possible, making it hard for us to believe. Well, that may well be because they aren’t physically possible and require God’s intervention and help. Like Abraham and Sarah having a child in their old age! They had to wrestle with faithfulness, but in the end God was faithful, and they came to be counted faithful as well.
Faithfulness self-examination questionnaire
- How loyal am I to God? Does my faith place God as the first priority in my life? How?
- What obstacles are there to my faithfulness? Why do I have difficulties trusting God?
- Am I satisfied with spiritual evidence, or do I always depend on physical evidence for my beliefs?
- What areas of my life are not completely faithful to God? How can I change them?
How do we demonstrate more faithfulness?
It takes a lot of faithfulness to make an invisible Being and an ancient book the very center of our lives. We must allow our belief and trust in God and the teachings of the Bible to shape our thoughts, speech and actions toward God and others.
How do we grow in faith and faithfulness? We can:
- Write out a list of reasons we believe the way we believe. If we are lacking in spiritual evidence in some areas, we can study, pray and meditate about those areas where we are weak in faith.
- Remember and think about God’s faithfulness in every area of life: protecting and providing for us, giving us forgiveness of sins, promising us eternal life and His coming Kingdom of peace. We can let His faithfulness inspire our commitment to be faithful.
- Make God and other people a priority in our lives. How? We can make a list of our relationships and commitments and then honestly evaluate ourselves on how faithful we have been. Any unfaithful behaviors and practices have to be eliminated from our lives.
Faithfulness is more than just being there for someone. It is total commitment and loyalty to God that flies in the face of human reasoning. We may easily believe in God, but it takes faithfulness to actually believe His teachings enough to change our lives.
Study more about faith and faithfulness in the section “Faith: Believing and Pleasing God.” For more about the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, see our article “The Fruit of the Spirit” and the links to the other eight.