Faithfulness - 1/6/19

Galatians 5: 22

Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary has a pretty extensive entry under
“Faith/Faithfulness.” … That’s expected because “Faith” and “faithfulness” are
pretty big subjects in the Bible. … But here’s the part in the Holman’s definition
that caught my eye: … “… faith (a human response to God) … and faithfulness (a
virtue of God and his servants).”
It seems like the more we study Holy Scripture, … the idea that these attributes
(the fruit of the Spirit) that God wants us to have … are really qualities of God
Himself. … We’ve lived under this idea (at least I have) … that the Bible is a list
of rules for human behavior: … “God wants you to be good, to be faithful, to be
kind, to be gentle, to love, to experience joy, to have peace” … but the bigger
message is that God is good, … God is kind, … God is gentle, … God is the author
of love, … joy … and peace.
God is simply saying; … “Be like Me.”
It’s a lot more personal than many of us would have imagined.
So, … in light of Holman’s definition, … what’s the difference between “faith”
and “faithfulness”? … To me, … it’s the difference between an act … and a habit.
When I started to truly absorb the Gospel, … the message of who God is and how
He wants to interact with me, … I either had to accept that it might be true …
or might not be true.
If I accepted that the message might be true, … I had to believe in it enough to act
on it. … When I acted on it, … that was faith.
That initial act of faith may not have been too powerful on my account; …
I probably just raised my hand in public or mouthed a silent prayer; … but it was
sufficient as far as God was concerned … for the moment.
If you’re old enough, … you remember what a “Red Man Writing Tablet” was.
It had a red paper cover with a picture of an Indian on the front. … The pages were
a sort of wood-pulpy grayish-white and they had rows of lines printed on them.
Each row consisted of a solid top and bottom line with a dashed line in the middle.
If you recall, … these were the tablets on which we practiced writing our ABC’s in
first grade. … We were taught to stay inside the lines and that the capital letters
reached from top to bottom … but the lower-case letters couldn’t come above
dashed line in the middle (unless they had little sticks like b’s and d’s).
My six year-old intuition told me that that’s why they were called … “lower-case.”


Technically, … I learned to write when I was six. … Upper-case, lower-case; …
Aa, Bb, Cc; … I learned them all, … all twenty-six of them.
That was my first act of writing.
As the years went by and I progressed through the first grade, second grade and
beyond; … I practiced and my writing advanced. … By third grade I was learning
cursive. … By sixth grade I was writing stories. … By eighth grade I had a
pen-pal. … The older I got … the more I learned what writing was all about.
Today in my 70’s, I’m still writing. … Some days I do a lot better than those
stories I wrote in grade school; … some days I wonder.
I do know; … I’m a lot better at writing today than I was that first day I put pencil
to my Red Man tablet. … I’m hoping (if I’m still around) … that ten years from
now I’ll be a lot better at writing than I am today.
It’s a progression; a habit. … The more I practice it, … the more I learn.
That’s about as close as I can come to explaining faith and faithfulness.
For us, … faith is that first act; … like the first time I focused all my concentration
on making that first “A a”. … Then it’s on to the next act and the next.
Each act of faith grows us just a little.
With each act of faith … we become just a little more comfortable with acting out
our faith. … By persistence we get better; … but then the challenges to our faith
tend to get a little bigger also … and that’s good!
It’s like writing lessons. … The lessons I faced in fifth grade composition were a
lot tougher than those I conquered in third grade cursive. … The educational
system planned it that way. … It was a progression. … I was supposed to be
making progress with each lesson; … tackling tougher problems as I practiced.
Faith is a progression. … Each lesson is a little tougher than the last. … When that
progression becomes a habit, … or as Holman puts it; … “a virtue,” …
faith becomes faithfulness. … Faithfulness is a kind of running record of acting
on faith.
Another thing I noticed was that the Bible mentions God’s faithfulness many
times … but never states that God has faith … or acted on faith.
Faithfulness is a sign that, … through the Holy Spirit, … we’re taking on God’s
qualities; … having faith … or acting on faith … is not an attribute of God.
That’s our territory only. … God doesn’t need faith … and He doesn’t need to act
on faith … but He is faithful.


“Faith”, … according to Webster, … is “trust, confidence, complete acceptance of
a truth which cannot be demonstrated or proved by the process of logical thought.”
That’s why God doesn’t need faith. … He’s the author of all truth; … He was there
at the beginning … and He will be there at the end … or the Second Advent.
As a matter of fact, … concepts like beginning and ending … don’t have the same
relevance to God as they do to us; … because He exists beyond our sense of time
and space; … beyond past and future. … He knows the past and future because He
is in the past … and He is in the future.
He’s not “was” … or “going to be.” … He just is.
That perception defies our logic; … which is exactly why we need faith …
and He doesn’t!
Faithfulness is another matter. … Faithfulness signifies “reliability” …
or “trustworthiness to adhere to an original precept.”
Faithfulness, … on God’s side of the equation, … means that He can be trusted to
reliably complete what He started … or bring about what He promised.
Faithfulness; … on our side of the equation, … if faith is defined as “humanity’s
response to God,” … translates a reliability … in responding to God.
To respond to God by trusting that what He says is true and then acting upon it …
is faith. … To make a habit of reliably responding to God by trusting that what He
says is true and continually acting upon it, … is faithfulness.
Faithfulness then, … in the relationship between us and God, … is God reliably
doing what He says He will do … and us trusting that He will … and reliably …
acting on it.
So how do we develop the “virtue” of faithfulness?: … Practice, practice, practice!
Respond to God. … Trust that what He’s saying is true, … in spite of our ability to
justify it logically.
Act (another word for obey) … based on what we know God wants us to do …
and trust that He’ll keep His promise. … Do it over and over again until it becomes
part of our resume.
That’s faithfulness.
God doesn’t expect us to live a life of blind trust. … He’ll throw evidence our way
that our faith is working. … Be prepared!!!! …
Like I said, … this faithfulness stuff is a process. … Just when we think we’re
getting the hang of it, … a challenge comes along that our logic can’t cope with.
That’s why it’s called faith; … each step gets a little bigger.


I really don’t think that Jesus was just being metaphorical when He told His
disciples, … “…For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you
will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be
impossible for you.” (Matthew 17: 20)
We make it a metaphor because we don’t believe it; … it defies our logic …
but that’s kind of the point of faith; … isn’t it?
What defies our logic right now? … What’s the situation we know we’re supposed
to do, … that we can’t do, … because it’s impossible?
If God says that nothing is impossible and we, … “respond to God” by obeying
Him even though the chances of success … “cannot be demonstrated or proved by
the process of logical thought.”
That my friend, … is acting on faith.
We act on faith, … God proves Himself faithful … and the task our logic told us
was impossible yesterday … is now possible.
Our logic readjusts and we’re ready to move up to the next … “impossible”
It’s a progression. … Keep at it long enough … and moving the mountain doesn’t
seem so metaphorical.
By-the-way, … I didn’t learn to write that day I scratched my first capital “A” on
the Red Man page. … I haven’t finished learning to write yet. … It’s a process, …
a progression.
If we think “faithfulness” began and ended the day we lifted our hand in Church
… or mouthed a silent prayer, … think again.
That was an act of faith; … our first … but not our last.
“Faithfulness” is a progression. … If we’re sitting fat and happy in the Christian
life and our faith hasn’t been challenged for a while, … we’d better check our
progress chart!
The Holy Spirit’s job is to mold us into the likeness of God. … How we know
that’s working is demonstrated when we start taking on attributes that belong to
God; … kindness, … goodness, … faithfulness; … the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
“Fruit” means “produce” … “product” … or “result.” … The end result of the
Holy Spirit doing its work in us … is that we begin to take on the likeness of God.
It’s not a single event; … it’s a lifelong process.
I promise, … you and I are not there yet; … but we will be one day. … That’s the
way He meant for us to be in the beginning … and that’s the way we will to be in
the end.