(Originally posted 9-11-19)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22,23
Taking a slight turn this week, our discussion of The Fruit moves toward faith itself. As mentioned, all traits within Galatians 5:22,23 seem to have some overlap. Certainly our last couple of weeks have shown that as we’ve talked about kindness and goodness. It would lead us to believe that with other fruits such as love and gentleness, there is much to be said of compassion and honest care for others within the list. I hold that to be true and if we look at Jesus’ life, there is no shortage of compassion within His steps. His kindness, His goodness, and His gentleness were always on display.
But what about faith? We are called to be faithful but what is it in Christ that we observe as an example of faith? I believe His faithfulness was in obedience and trust in the Father. He did nothing outside of the Father’s will and He was constantly looking not for man’s approval, but God’s. In a couple weeks, we’ll end this series with the attribute of self-control. In kind of weird way, I see faith and self-control being counterparts within this list. I’ll dive more into self-control (temperance in the KJV) later. But could we honestly say that as we increase our faith, we increase our means of self-control (i.e. not being willing to succumb to temptation)? It seems both traits add to and reinforce one another.
Today we will discuss the spiritual fruit of faith; what it looked like in Christ and in return, how we model and show it to others. Faith can be a big, somewhat ambiguous topic so my attempt here is to take some bite-size chunks so we can make it a little easier to process. Without further adieu, let’s start it up!
1. Faithfulness in Jesus’ life was 100% devotion to the Father
Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Luke 22:42
Jesus models faithfulness in a way that called Him to act and obey. Part of what comes to mind when we speak of faith is an idea of loyalty or trust. If you have faith in something, you trust that it is real. Certainly, Hebrews 11:1 provides one of the best definitions we can find in the Bible of faith: Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. But faith in Jesus’ life may seem hard to wrap our minds around. After all, He is the Son of God. Doesn’t He already know the outcome of all things and have no need for faith in the unseen? In other words, hasn’t Jesus "tested out" and no longer needs to exhibit faith?
I believe the Bible gives us some reasons to question this notion. We see that Jesus knows He must go the cross but in laying down His divinity (i.e. His power to not experience death), He knows there is pain and suffering that awaits. He also knows there is separation from God as He becomes the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. But His faith sustains Him to trust the path He must go down, knowing His Father in turn will be faithful. So yes, Jesus has to display and possess faith in order to follow His Father’s will 100%.
2. Faithfulness led Jesus to the cross
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8
Jesus knew the cup He was to bear was for our benefit. He knew there was no other way. His tears of blood and pleading with God in the Garden of Gethsemane should not be interpreted as His questioning of God or even a lack of faith. Really it is faith that sustains Him during this time and allows Him to draw strength. As stated before, He had to lay aside His divine nature in order to go to the cross; to experience death fully as a man. All the while, He was still fully God and supernaturally raised to life because death could not hold Him. It had no power over Him.
It was faith through all of this that kept Jesus going. We talked in this series about joy and the fact that it was “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2) that kept Him going. He knew beyond the cross, there was freedom and His death would open the door for us to have access to life. Similarly, faith was a sustaining aspect that kept Him determined not to change course or abandon the call. As we discussed last week, I believe His goodness gave Him no other choice but to pursue Calvary for us. Jesus is faithful!
3. Faithfulness for us means not turning back when life gets tough
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
At the end of Luke 9, there is a passage in which Jesus calls out those who say they will follow Him, but first have to go do some other task. I believe there’s a bit of hyperbole there but the message is clear: You cannot say you have faith in Jesus and then live your life as if you don’t. The natural inclination we all have is to stop moving forward when life gets tough. Sometimes in my faith, I feel like if I just put it in coast for awhile, I’ll find some relief. If I take my foot off the gas, things will get easier. It’s weird but it seems the like the harder I press in and the deeper I try to go, the more slings and arrows seem to come my way. Maybe it’s just part of the territory!
Faithfulness in the Kingdom looks a lot like that. You must keep plowing ahead and not looking back to question or doubt whether or not you should have gone down this path. I draw from the example of Lot and his family fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah and the angel clearly warning: do not look back (Genesis 19:17) We know what happened. Lot’s wife turned back around and instantly became a pillar of salt. Why did she look back? We do not know. Maybe a tinge of regret. Maybe a curiosity over what was happening behind her. Maybe even thinking somehow what lied ahead was worse than what they were fleeing. Don’t look back. Faithfulness requires 100% all in, 24/7, 365 days a year.
As we end today, I believe a challenge is posed from Christ to us: In a culture in which many are falling away and being deceived, what will you do? Will you turn back also? In John 6 after laying out a difficult teaching, many deserted Jesus. It was too far-fetched and too hard to receive the truth He was proclaiming. In that moment, Jesus asked His own disciples: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) I believe Jesus gives us these opportunities to realign, recenter and reaffirm our commitment to Him. We know many will abandon the path and in these days, it seems the faithful are fewer and fewer.
This is that moment to examine yourself and with this fruit in particular, to ask “Is there any hint of doubt within me?” If there is, you can confess it, repent, and return back in fellowship with your Savior. He wants all of your heart, not just a part. He wants your complete faithfulness and trust. With the power of the Holy Spirit at work, you and I are able to be faithful as He was faithful.
I love walking the journey with you guys!
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
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