Faithful Fruit

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One of the signs you are a true follower of Jesus is your measure of faithfulness. In Galatians 5, Paul tells us that faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit. That is, if you are a person who willingly yields to the Holy Spirit, then one of the evidences will be a lifestyle of faithfulness.

Faithfulness is known by words like trustworthy, dependable, and reliable. The late Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”. Faithfulness and obedience to Jesus go hand in hand. 

One of the tests of faithfulness is endurance through pain and struggle. Not a human grit, by the sweat of your brow effort, but by the supernatural power and presence of God living in you by the Holy Spirit. That is true faithfulness.

Jesus’ suffering is beyond all human suffering. No man or woman has experienced such sorrow and suffering.  And, he was/is the most faithful of all.

Let’s take a look at one instance that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion.  This passage comes from Mark 14:32-42.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane.

“And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 

“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.””

Jesus knew that the weight of all the sins of all the billions of people who have lived, are living, and will live is on his shoulders. The sorrow was excruciating. In one of the other Gospel accounts, it says that Jesus sweat drops of blood.  Jesus asked three of his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John to pray for him, and they were not faithful to his ask.

The passage continues.

“And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

I’m sure Peter, James, and John had good intentions, but the late hour and their physical tiredness got the best of them. Falling asleep praying was a blow to their faithfulness to Jesus. 

The story continues in Mark 14.

“And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.”

Have you ever been asked to do something for a friend, but failed? When they asked you why you didn’t follow through, you had nothing you could say that would justify your lack of faithfulness. 

The passage wraps up with this.

“And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.””

Three times Jesus came to his key disciples and found them sleeping. Jesus is about to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified, and those he had invested the most in were sleeping on the job!  This is not a very good sign of true faithfulness.

The question we have to ask ourselves is where is our faithfulness to Jesus and others when the pressure is on? Where are our places of pressure that challenge our faithfulness?

There are four ways that we can drop the ball in terms of faithfulness.

  1. Masks. we have a second side to our character that hesitates and holds back when the pressure is on to step up and show faithfulness. We, at that moment, are relying on our own strength and not the presence of the Spirit.
  2. Temptations. Greed, lust, and the desire for self can circumvent faithfulness. The tug to put self first can circumvent our faithfulness.
  3. Loneliness. One of the ways we drop the ball in terms of faithfulness is in our sexual ethics. We try different sexual experiences with others instead of remaining loyal (faithful) to our spouse, all because of this gnawing urge in our souls.
  4. Disappointment. Unrealistic expectations come when we do not see life from Jesus’ vantage point. We set ourselves up for disappointment partially out of entitlement.

Of course, if we are honest, none of us want to be known as unfaithful. Despite our struggles at times, we long to follow Jesus and be known as his good and faithful servant.  

Here are 4 things that can help grow your faithfulness.

1. Pray. Stay connected to God 24/7. Be in an ongoing relational conversation with Jesus, about any and all things. Nothing is too trivial and nothing is too overwhelming to bring to Jesus. Prayer fosters intimacy with Jesus, which in turn bolsters a Spirit-filled faithfulness.

2. Tell others of your pain. It doesn’t matter how close you are to Jesus, suffering is bound to come. If you hole up in your basement apartment and tell no one your pain, don’t expect anyone to come alongside you in your time of need. Be what we at Mentoring Warriors call courageously vulnerable.

3. Welcome the comforting presence of friends. You and I need a band of brothers; someone to offer mutual presence and support. I recall a time when I had graduated high school. It was a horrible year for me, which included some serious thoughts about suicide. That following summer at church youth camp, the Lord worked in my heart to tell someone about my pain. Max sat there in the dorm lobby listening to my woes. He didn’t say much, but it was apparent he heard my heart. Sometimes, it’s a matter of presence more than advice during times of suffering that can bolster our faithfulness.

4. Anchor your faithfulness in the faithfulness of Christ.  Let me quote Jonathan Edwards. 1703-1758.

Why should I, who have been living from all eternity in the enjoyment of the Father’s love, go to cast myself into such a furnace for them that never can requite me for it? Why should I yield myself to be thus crushed by the weight of divine wrath, for them who have no love to me, and are my enemies? They do not deserve any union with me, and never did, and never will do, anything to recommend themselves to me.

Such, however, was not the language of Christ’s heart, in these circumstances; but on the contrary, his love held out, and he resolved even then, in the midst of his agony, to yield himself up to the will of God, and to take the cup and drink it.

Jonathan Edwards, “Christ’s Agony”

In other words, Jesus’ faithfulness was so deep, so great, and so eternal, that he did not avoid the cross, despite our unfaithfulness to him. What more can we say, but “Jesus, fill me by your Spirit, with your faithfulness.”  Faithfulness to others and most importantly to you.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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