The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness
As we continue our study of the fruit of the Spirit, we come to what is likely the least popular today: faithfulness, the quality of being trustworthy and reliable, making and following through on commitments.
Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Tom Schreiner
Galatians (Geneva Commentaries), John Brown
Galatians (Crossway Classic Commentaries), Martin Luther
Galatians For You, Timothy Keller
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We’re jumping back into our series on the fruit of the Spirit today after a 2-week break and we’ve got 3 left. When we come to today’s fruit, though, I think we may be coming to the least popular of all the fruits. Who wouldn’t want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness? But what about faithfulness, the one we arrive at today? I’m only one person, of course, but I don’t feel like I hear as much about that one. There was a time in America, and there no doubt still are pockets in America, where you would have heard a lot about the importance of being a faithful son or daughter, a faithful citizen of the country, a faithful husband or wife. But many of us have recognized how that could be used in abusive ways: People in power tell you you have to do what they want to be faithful. So today we tend to extol the value of freedom much more: People may say citizens should be free to disobey their government, even if it makes them look like less “faithful” citizens, kids, at least as they get older, should be free to live the life they want to live, even if it’s not the one their parents want for them, even though it makes them look like less “faithful” sons or daughters, and spouses should be free to leave their spouses if they want to, even if it means they are less “faithful” spouses. When we turn to the Bible, and especially to Galatians, we also find a positive emphasis on freedom, yet we don’t find that opposed to faithfulness. Galatians 5:13, the first verse in our text, says “you were called to freedom, brothers,” but then it says, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another,” and we all know, that to really love another, you have to be willing to stay even when it’s hard. In other words, you have to say “no” to your “freedom” to leave at any time in order to say “yes” to using your freedom for love. Or to use the words of our passage, you have to be faithful to love, and so when we come to verse 22, we find that as love is the fundamental fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness also shows up on the list. So follow through with the faithfulness the Spirit works in you, and to help us do that, we’ll ask of faithfulness the 3 questions we’ve been asking of each of these fruits: What is it? Why is it a fruit of the Spirit? How can we act on it?
What is faithfulness?
The word translated faithfulness here is the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated simply as “faith” and that could be what it means here. But remember that context is king, and Galatians 5:22 is part of Galatians 5:13-26, a passage that is controlled by verses 13-14, where the focus is on loving our neighbor. So each of the fruits of the Spirit, while rooted in love for God, are fulfilled in love for neighbor. But it is hard to see how faith, if that were the proper translation, could be directed toward our neighbor. The object of faith throughout the Bible is God alone. Therefore, it is worth considering whether the word might have another meaning here, and it is plausible that it might, because the Greek word translated faithfulness here in the Greek literature of the day and in the Bible can mean not only faith as in trusting someone else, but the quality of being trustworthy, or, faithful. So God is described in Romans 3:3 with this same word, and clearly he doesn’t have faith, but he is faithful. And while scripture never directs us to put faith in our neighbor, we can be faithful to our neighbor. Therefore, faithfulness is the best translation here.
Perhaps we can have our cake and eat it too, though, if we realize that while we can be faithful to our neighbor, we can also be faithful to God, and that throughout scripture, faithfulness to God is organically linked to faith: We are faithful to God as we continue exercising faith upon His word. To attempt a definition, then, we could say that the faithfulness which is a fruit of the Spirit is a trustworthiness, reliability, or dependability toward God and others that springs from ongoing faith in God and his Word. To be faithful to God, then, is not to be perfect in God’s sight. In 1 Timothy, Paul can say in the same passage that he is faithful to God (1 Tim 1:12) and that he is still, present tense, the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). But as an example of faithfulness, we can see in his life that he repented of sin, exercised faith upon Christ, and resolved, by the power of the Spirit, to walk in the direction of obedience. We can see that though he was persecuted, and at times he even fled persecution, he did so to continue preaching the gospel, rather than seeing the persecution as a reason to stop doing so. We can see that he continued to love the churches he planted from the letters he wrote to them and the times he went back to see them, and that he labored for their salvation until the day he died. So, looking back on his life, he could say that he had been faithful, though he knew he was a sinner. To be faithful toward people is similar: It means people have good reason to trust us. It means speaking what is true, nothing more, nothing less, no bending the truth, no white lies, no need to put air quotes around what you say, no “well yeah but nobody’s really honest about that anyway.” It means others feel they can confide in you and that you won’t flippantly spread what they’re telling you. It means making commitments and sticking to them, even on the days you may not want to. In the words of Jesus, it means letting your yes be yes and your no be no (Matt 5:37).
There are all kinds of ways such faithfulness expresses itself in the life of someone in whom the Spirit is working it. We already mentioned faithfulness to God, and we can think of the Galatians’ situation here: For them to be faithful to God in their situation would be to continue exercising faith upon Christ as he was preached to them in Paul’s gospel, in which they professed faith, and to persevere waiting for the hope of righteousness rather than turning to the false gospel of the Judaizers to feel righteous now or to avoid persecution. Similarly, as individual Galatians needed to be faithful to God in their time, so the churches of Galatia could be faithful or unfaithful. So we find in the book of Revelation letters written to various churches, calling them to faithfulness, and warning them of judgment if they prove faithless. For the churches of Galatia to be faithful in their situation would mean casting out the false teachers who were promoting a gospel contrary to the one they’d heard. We’ve tried to summarize what it means for us to be a faithful church in our context in our church covenant. That covenant also summarizes what it means for members of this church to be faithful church members. It makes specific provision for our imperfection, but it’s one to which we sincerely commit, and faithfulness means following through on that commitment. Faithful husbands follow through on their commitment to love their wives and give themselves up for them. Faithful wives follow through on their commitment to submit to their husbands as to Christ. Faithful singles use the great flexibility singleness provides to serve the Lord. Faithful children love and honor their parents, submitting to their godly discipline and instruction. Faithful employees obey their employers, and do all their work as unto the Lord. Faithful employers are kind to their employees, pay them a fair wage, give them sufficient time off, and do so as those who work for Jesus themselves. Faithful landlords ensure that the living space they are renting is in good condition and do not extort their tenants. Faithful tenants pay their rent on time without question, respect the property, and the list could go on and on, but hopefully now you have a picture of what faithfulness is.
The opposite of such faithfulness would, unsurprisingly, be unfaithfulness or faithlessness. Lying would be the most obvious action associated with it. It could also, though, look like making what in the moment was an honest commitment, but then failing to follow through on it. So, pulling from our list of works of the flesh, we could see idolatry and sorcery in verse 20 as acts of unfaithfulness to the Lord. In the Old Testament especially, idolatry is represented as God’s people acting like an unfaithful bride, committing adultery against the LORD their husband by uniting themselves to false gods. So when people today turn to tarot cards, palm readings, Ouija boards, or other kinds of sorcery to gain a semblance of control over their future instead of exercising faith upon God and his promises with their future, that’s unfaithfulness to him. Other works of the flesh listed in verse 19 that are opposites of faithfulness are sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality. If you’re single, to engage in them is unfaithful to the Lord; if you’re married, they’re additionally unfaithful to your spouse.
Another species of unfaithfulness that is particularly tempting today is simply making no commitments at all. So how do you avoid being an unfaithful spouse? Never get married. How do you avoid being an unfaithful parent? Never have kids. How do you avoid being an unfaithful church member? Never join a church. The problem with that approach is that ordinarily you must do at least some of these things to be faithful to the Lord. The Bible teaches us that God expects most single people to pursue marriage (Gen 2:24), and he expects married couples to try to have kids (Gen 1:28, Mal 2:15). Or take church membership as an example: God commands all Christians to love other Christians, but how can anyone trust you to do that, how can you be trustworthy, or faithful to use the word of our passage, if you won’t publicly commit to it? I’ve heard people tell me over and over again privately that they are privately committed to loving the people of this church, just like we’ve probably all heard stories of dating couples who say they’re “married in their hearts,” but the problem with that is while you may feel that way today (and I don’t doubt that such people do), you are unwilling to commit in any way to which you can realistically be held accountable to continuing that way tomorrow, and therefore, why should anyone trust that you will? That’s not trust-worthy, or faithful. Avoiding or refusing to make commitments to which we are publicly accountable is unfaithful.
So unfaithfulness is the opposite. For the counterfeit, I’m going to break the mold a bit and suggest two counterfeits, one I’ll call the traditional counterfeit, and the other I’ll call the modern counterfeit. The traditional counterfeit we might call dutifulness, though I want to be careful in my use of that word, because duty tends to get a bad rap today that the Bible doesn’t give it. Indeed, to be faithful often means doing your duty when you don’t feel like it. But the dutifulness I have in mind here is more of a slavish dutifulness toward people that isn’t directed by faithfulness to God. It’s a dutifulness that places duty to parents, or country, or employer, above faithfulness to God. So, for example, I think of a friend who was considering becoming a Christian, but who felt he could not do so because it would make his parents ashamed of him. On the one hand, it may appear like he really wanted to be a “faithful” son, but what it reveals is that he was slavishly controlled by what his parents thought of him. So such people can appear very “faithful,” they’ll never break a commitment, but their faithfulness is driven by a fear of people, a fear of being perceived by people as unfaithful, rather than a sincere desire to be faithful to God. Such people may easily overcommit themselves and so lack other fruits of the Spirit such as peace, joy, and self-control as they follow through on their commitments. Often, though, they hit a point where they get overwhelmed and drop everything, thus ironically becoming unfaithful.
I say that’s the traditional counterfeit because our world today is basically screaming at us telling us not to let ourselves become that person. Our world has rightly recognized how such people could easily be abused; think of the abused spouse who feels like she must stay in the marriage because she must be faithful. But as is always the case with the flesh, instead of correcting the counterfeit with true faithfulness, the world has sought to correct the counterfeit by promoting the opposite. So in the church I do still know a number of you who struggle with the counterfeit of dutifulness, who kinda feel like you have to say yes to everything and so overextend yourselves. But honestly, you’re the minority. Most people today are so afraid of becoming that person that they kinda default to saying no to everything, and live the commitment-free unfaithful life to which I’ve already alluded. So let me suggest another modern counterfeit to faithfulness: Successfulness. So instead of simply aspiring to be faithful to God, we aspire to material prosperity in this life, for example. We may not overtly deny him (that’s the opposite), but we feel a need to also achieve worldly success alongside serving him. Instead of being content with faithfulness in parenting, we drive ourselves crazy trying to find the perfect technique to produce visibly successful kids in the eyes of the world. Consider a church even: What marks a church as healthy in God’s sight? Isn’t it often the case today that we functionally assume that the best churches are those with the most people, the most baptisms, the most giving, the best building, and so on, those who are visibly successful by worldly standards, instead of those that are faithful? What do we aspire to as employees? Climbing the ladder, or being faithful? So today, a common counterfeit of faithfulness is successfulness. But faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit, so let’s talk next about why it is.
Why is it a fruit of the Spirit?
As we’ve done with the other fruits, we’ll begin answering this question by considering why it’s not a fruit of our flesh. Our flesh can’t make us faithful because our flesh always inclines us to prioritize our private interests above everything else, including the truth, and including following through on our commitments. So if lying or shading the truth in some way benefits us, it saves us some money, makes us look better to others, or helps us fit in better, our flesh inclines us to do it. And if we made a commitment that now feels like it’s costing our flesh more than it’s benefiting our flesh, our flesh inclines us to drop it. Our flesh also inclines us to avoid commitments, because commitments constrain our flesh. To give maybe the most obvious example, when you commit to marry someone, you commit to only engage in sexual activity with that person as long as you both shall live. That means even if 10 years down the road your flesh desires sexual activity with someone else, it’s constrained by that commitment to not act on it. That means even if 10 years down the road your flesh just wants out of the commitment to love this particular spouse, it’s constrained by that commitment to not act on it. And man, the flesh just resists that, doesn’t it?
So the flesh can incline us toward the opposite of faithfulness, or it can incline us toward the counterfeits. Remember when we looked at patience we talked about how the flesh is a fundamentally “here and now” impulse, and this element of the flesh comes up with faithfulness too. If you are faithful to the Lord, even when it means letting down your parents, you may visibly, audibly, and tangibly see, hear, and feel your parents’ displeasure, but you won’t yet see, hear, and feel God’s pleasure in that same sensible way. Remember Galatians 5:5 – For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. So your flesh inclines you to slavishly obey your parents rather than being faithful to the Lord. Or, in the modern counterfeit, it inclines you to seek that sensible feeling of success now instead of aspiring to be faithful to the Lord.
But faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit first, like the other fruits, because it is an attribute of God. In the classic Old Testament description of God, we read that he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). First of all, to say that God is faithful means that he is who he is eternally and essentially, through and through. He is God, and there is no other. He is the true God, in distinction to all false gods. When he says he is God, he is being utterly truthful, and everything he says about himself is utterly truthful. Furthermore, everything he is and says about himself is incapable of change, because he will be who he will be forever. As James puts it, with him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). And then here’s the crazy thing God does: He freely chooses to make commitments! Though he is the freest being there is, the only sovereign, who does whatever he wills, and who has the power to carry out whatever he wills, he freely chooses to constrain himself by making commitments, promises, which the Bible calls covenants, and his essential faithfulness, then, is revealed to us through his covenants.
The first covenant he made was with the first humans, which we commonly call the covenant of works, wherein he committed himself to grant eternal life to humans on the condition of their personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, which is why we call it a covenant of works: The promise of eternal life was conditional on the works of humanity, and especially of humanity’s federal head, Adam. There was also a promise of death on condition of anything less than personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. Adam did in fact sin against God, and so God’s faithfulness then required the sentence of death to be carried out. But God, out of sheer grace, freely chose to constrain himself again, by making another covenant, which we call the covenant of grace, whereby he promised to save a people from the curse of death to which all humanity was then subject. The first revelation of that covenant is in Genesis 3:15, when while God is pronouncing a curse on humanity’s disobedience, he promises the woman that her seed will crush the head of the serpent, the devil, the one who has the power of death. In that promise we see that there will be a seed of the woman who will not be given over to the serpent, and who will in the end emerge victorious over the serpent.
And though God would go on to destroy the earth that then was with a flood, he was faithful to his promise by saving Noah and his family from the flood. After they came safely out of it, he made yet another covenant, recorded for us in Genesis 8:21-22 – “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” And can we not see today that he has been faithful to his promise? Though the intention of humanity’s heart is still evil from youth, God has not struck down every living creature. Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, have not ceased. So we plant to sing today in the great hymn to God’s faithfulness of summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness, to his great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
And what God’s faithfulness to that promise enabled was for humanity to be fruitful and multiply, until the ultimate offspring of the woman, the fulfillment of God’s promise, should come. You see, the predicament God was in once he made both a covenant of works and a covenant of grace was this: His faithfulness now required him both to punish human sin and to save human sinners. He had promised both; how would he be faithful to both? He would be faithful to both by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. So we saw a couple weeks ago when we celebrated the coming of Christ at Christmas that Zechariah, on hearing that he was coming, said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (Luke 1:68,70). In other words, the sending of Christ proves that God is faithful. In sending Christ, he was keeping the promises he made, because in human flesh, Jesus Christ offered to God the personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience required of humanity under the covenant of works, and on the cross, he suffered the punishment of death God promised to human sin under that same covenant, in our place. Then he received the reward of eternal life promised to personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience under that covenant, so that we could receive eternal life as a gift under the covenant of grace. So Paul says of Christ that in him all the promises of God find their “Yes” (2 Cor 1:20). Has God been faithful to his promise to punish human sin? In Christ, Yes. Has God been faithful to his promise to save his sinful people? In Christ, Yes.
And now God has published the covenant of grace by promising that whoever believes will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16), that whoever comes to him he will never cast out (John 6:37). Whether you’ve believed in God or not, none of us have been faithful to him in our flesh. So believe his promise, and he will be faithful to it in your case, to forgive you of your sins, to give you the gift of eternal life, and to send His Spirit to live in you and make you faithful. Through faith in that promise, we now eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. In other words, because Christ has already accomplished our salvation, we now have hope of a reward beyond this life, though we are still guilty of sin. It is now possible, in him, that we could be declared faithful in the end, though we are still the chief of sinners. And, in fact, God’s promise even extends that far for all who sincerely trust in Christ. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, to a church he was about to rebuke for its many sins, that God “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:8-9). So how can we be faithful in this life, to the Lord, as a church, as a single, as a husband, as a wife, as a parent, as a child, as an employer, as an employee, as a landlord, as a tenant, when our flesh is inclining us to be unfaithful, to shy away from commitment, to always protect our private interests? Because the Spirit shows us how faithful God has been to us, and he works in us faith that he will keep us faithful until the day we hear from him that glorious verdict: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). We can let ourselves be constrained if we know that’s the end to which we are being constrained. Let’s close, then, by considering how we can act on such faithfulness as the Spirit works it in us.
How can we act on it?
Let’s begin by considering faithfulness to the Lord, since that’s the spring from which all other true faithfulness flows. What does it mean to be faithful to the Lord? Under the first covenant, that covenant of works, it did mean personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. So the first part of being faithful to the Lord is confessing that we have been faithless to that covenant. Admitting that is part of believing in God’s promised Savior; without that, we’re suggesting we don’t need salvation, and that’s not true. So we must tell the truth about ourselves by confessing ourselves as sinners. But then, in union with Christ, we are accounted righteous in God’s sight, and faithfulness doesn’t equal perfection. It is possible to be faithful to the covenant of grace without being perfect; it’s the only way to be faithful to the covenant of grace. That’s why it’s a covenant of grace. So how can we remain faithful while we remain sinners? I don’t think I can summarize it any better today than we tried to summarize it in our Church Covenant, so let me just read you these words from it: “We will submit to The Scriptures as the final authority on all matters of life and doctrine, seeking to obey all they command and openly believe all they teach. When we become aware of sin in our lives, we will confess our sin, exercise faith upon Christ, and seek, by the power of His Spirit, to walk with Him in all the ways of new obedience.” The faithfulness the Spirit works in you compels you to submit to the scriptures as your final authority on all matters of life and doctrine; they are God’s covenant document with us. And when you fall short, the Spirit compels you to confess it, exercise faith upon Christ for forgiveness and the power to change, and then seek, by the power of His Spirit, to walk in a different direction toward obedience.
What if that was your fundamental aspiration in life? I just want to be faithful to my Lord. I don’t need to be successful on earth, I don’t need to be wealthy, I don’t need to be prestigious, famous, or extraordinary. I don’t even need to be the flashiest Christian around. I just want to be faithful. Do you see how that could work pretty well with the other fruits of the Spirit we’ve looked at? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness? Don’t you think those would grow too if your aspiration in life was just to be faithful to the Lord? And when that’s your aspiration, it enables you to be faithful in the other spheres of your life as well. So what’s it look like for us to be a faithful church? How can we act on faithfulness together? It looks like doing the things God commands churches to do in scripture, which we’ve attempted to summarize in our Church Covenant. That may mean we never get big and famous. It may even mean we don’t see a lot of conversions. Maybe that’s only a hard pill for the pastor to swallow, but I admit it’s been hard for me at times. Some churches get big and famous, some churches see a lot of conversions, but that’s in God’s hands, and not all of them that do are faithful churches. Can we make it our aspiration to be faithful, and leave it in God’s hands whether he makes us big and famous? As we’ve talked about evangelism a lot this past year, can we make it our aspiration to be faithful in evangelism, and leave it in God’s hands how many he converts through it?
Similarly, what’s it look like to be a faithful church member? Look at Galatians 6:9, right in our context here: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). Follow through on the commitment you’ve made. Don’t grow weary of doing the good things to which you committed when you publicly committed to that Church Covenant. It doesn’t even mean you have to always stay at this particular church; we have a provision in our covenant for changing churches, but you can even do that faithfully by joining another true church and communicating about it well and with integrity with your current church. But the Spirit compels you to not grow weary of doing good, to stay even when you get bored or tired. And man, I just see this in you all. I see Matt, Keith, Mitch, Steve, and the other sound/music people getting here early Sunday after Sunday, even when they don’t always like the songs I choose, and they faithfully serve us by leading us in singing together and accompanying that singing with instrumentation. I see Phil week in and week out getting here early to make sure these services happen. I see Shannon week in and week out sending an email to Citygroup leaders. I see Kelly taking minutes at the members’ meetings. I see Citygroup leaders faithfully preparing to care for their groups week in and week out, hosts faithfully having people into their homes, my fellow elders Michael and Mark who faithfully pray for you all, spend time with you all, and sit through long elders’ meetings thinking together about how best to lead you all. I see Dave’s faithfulness reading long reading assignments each week and writing papers to grow in his knowledge of theology in his pastoral residency. I hear the story of Jack and Shannon meeting with one of Shannon’s neighbors to talk to share the gospel with him. I see the ladies’ Bible study that faithfully meets at my house weekly with my wife. And I see these things being done joyfully! All this stuff looks pretty unimpressive to the eyes of the flesh, but the eyes of faith see this is how faithful members of a faithful church live. Those are just some of the ways you act on the faithfulness the Spirit is producing in you.
You want to know how to be faithful in any area of your life? Search the scriptures, in community with your church, under the leadership of your pastors, to simply discover, “Lord, what do you want from me in this area of my life?” and make that your aspiration in that area of your life. I seriously see this in you all in so many ways. I see faithful singles, faithful husbands, faithful wives, faithful parents, faithful employees, faithful employers, faithful church members, faithful pastors, faithful deacons, faithful landlords, faithful tenants, faithful friends, and so on, but my fear for us is two-fold: One, that we place too low of a value on faithfulness. Our flesh tempts us to want to be more than faithful, to be successful or something else, and man, I just pray that the Lord gives us great contentment and joy in being faithful servants of Him. And second, my fear is that we will believe the lie of the world that the desire to be faithful, the desire to make commitments and follow through on them, even when it adds stress to our lives, is actually a bad thing, and what we need to do to be happy is to drop our commitments. But this text is showing us that the desire to be faithful the Lord, and to others in the Lord, isn’t from the flesh; it’s from the Spirit! It’s a desire to act on, not one to suppress.
Now, that said, I better say a word or two to the over-committed and the under-committed. How can you act on faithfulness if you find yourself in one of those two scenarios? First, you should recognize that none of us are very good at self-assessing whether we’re over-committed or under-committed. Invite some faithful church members and/or pastors into your life to help you assess whether you really are over or under-committed. I’ve had people tell me how overwhelmed and busy they are, but when I dig into their schedule, they have 3-4 free hours every night of the week. And then they tell me one day they want to have kids! I don’t doubt that they feel overwhelmed and I want to help them with that, but it’s not because they’re over-committed. Nonetheless, some are over-committed with the dutiful counterfeit of faithfulness I mentioned earlier. If after seeking godly counsel, you find that’s you, here are some basic steps you can take with that godly counsel still speaking into it: Go back to your basic identities: I’m a Christian, I’m a member of Citylight Church Center City or whatever church you’re a member of, I’m a spouse perhaps, a parent perhaps, an employee perhaps, etc. and search the scriptures to see what God does require of you in those roles. I can tell you already that it doesn’t look like quitting all of them. That’s the temptation when you’re overcommitted, but that’s not faithful. Nonetheless, you may need to quit some of them to enable you to sustain faithfulness in the ones you can’t quit, and in the most important of them. When you do that, though, do it faithfully: Don’t do it immediately, and do it in such a way that the responsibilities you’re leaving can be transitioned to others in a healthy way.
Now, a word to the under-committed: my big idea for this sermon is “follow through with the faithfulness the Spirit works in you,” but you can’t follow through on something you’ve never started. The faithfulness of the Spirit inclines you first to enter into a covenant, and then to follow through with the faithfulness the Spirit works in you. So if the Spirit is in you, he inclines you to get baptized and join a particular church. That’s how you visibly enter into a covenant relationship with God and his people. If you’re single and therefore not committed to a particular spouse, you should be filling your schedule with commitments to serve the Lord, and, unless you feel fairly confident that God is assigning you a life of singleness, you should be filling your schedule with ways of pursuing marriage. Men, I’m talking to you in particular here: That means preparing yourself for the greater responsibility of marriage by being faithful over your present responsibilities, working toward a place where you can support a family financially, asking a girl out not knowing whether she’ll say yes or not, leading that relationship toward clarity on marriage, and either proposing marriage or breaking it off once you have that clarity. Ladies, that means being willing to put yourself around godly men, it means being open to saying yes to guys you may not have considered, and it means working with them toward clarity on marriage if you do date. And if you’re someone who longs for some of these greater commitments, who isn’t afraid of them, but just for whatever reason, God hasn’t provided them yet, be faithful in what God has provided.
God is faithful. He is entirely truthful, the same God through and through, and he will never change. He is a God of promise, who freely, under no constraint, makes promises. He promised eternal life to those who perfectly obey, and he promised judgment to those who disobey. But he also promised to save a people who disobeyed him, and in Christ, all of his promises find their yes and amen. He suffered the promised judgment, and won for us the promised life. He’s committed himself to us, and he will be faithful to keep us to the end, where we will hear those blessed words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So follow through with the faithfulness His Spirit works in you now.