Summary: Like all the other flavors of the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is not something we have to manufacture ourselves. It is part of the character and nature of our God.
This is the seventh message in the Fruit of the Spirit series I'm calling “Gracefruit: Jesus Living in Me.” Let’s look at our key passage again. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
I’m borrowing the title of this message on faithfulness from Eugene Peterson. He is best known for his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, but he has written a number of excellent books as well. One of his earliest books is entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. The title itself has fascinated me for years.
But Eugene Peterson didn’t invent that phrase; he borrowed it from Friedrich Nietzsche. Some of you guys may be thinking, “I remember that guy. Didn’t he play linebacker for the Packers?” No, that was Ray Nitschke. Nietzsche was German philosopher. In one of his books he wrote: “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
Of course, Nietzsche is best known for starting the “God is Dead” Movement. Nietzsche died in 1900, so you might have seen the quote that says, “God is dead. Nietzsche, 1883.” Underneath it says “Nietzsche is dead. God, 1900.”
Even though Nietzsche was wrong about God being dead, his phrase “A long obedience in the same direction” is a winner. That’s a simple definition of the fruit of faithfulness.
Have you ever thought about how important the word “faithful” is? In order to illustrate it, let me ask you an historical trivia question. You may know that I love Presidential trivia so here’s my question: “When was the last time we had no legally sworn-in President of the United States?” The correct answer is January of 2008. Here’s what happened. Our U.S. Constitution mandates that the Oath of Office for the President should be: “I do solemnly swear that I will FAITHFULLY execute the Office of the President of the United States.” At President Obama’s inauguration on January 20, he placed his hand on the same Bible that Lincoln used for his Oath of Office and prepared to repeat the oath after Chief Justice Roberts. But Chief Justice Roberts made a mistake when administering the Oath. He led President Obama to say, “I do solemnly swear that I will execute the Office of the President of the United States FAITHFULLY.”
You may be thinking, “That’s no big deal.” Well, it was a big deal, because the Justice Department advised that unless the Oath is repeated exactly as it appears in the Constitution, it is not binding. So, it wasn’t until 32 hours later the next day, January 21, 2008, in a private ceremony in the White House that President Obama correctly repeated the Oath of Office, and he put the word “faithfully” in the right place. Some have pointed out that he didn’t use a Bible for the do-over. But that’s not a Constitutional requirement and three other presidents didn’t swear on the Bible: John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.
So, the word “faithful” is an important word! In this message I want to talk about faithfulness in two directions. First, let’s notice God’s faithfulness, and then we’ll talk about our faithfulness.
I. WE TRUST THAT GOD IS FAITHFUL TO US
Like all the other flavors of the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is not something we have to manufacture ourselves. It is part of the character and nature of our God.
We don’t read the book of Lamentations very much because it contains the expressions of misery of the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. But in the midst of the darkness of his soul, Jeremiah was able to see the brilliant faithfulness of God shining into his heart. He wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
In 1923 Thomas Chisholm blazed the new Chisholm Trail by writing a poem about God’s faithfulness. It was later put to music and has become one of the most beloved hymns of all time. My daughter, Jenni, had it sung at her wedding here in this room 10 years ago. In spite of the King James language the words are still beautiful: “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow or turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As thou hast been, Thou forever will be.” I love the third verse that says, “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth; Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow; Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.” The chorus goes, “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand that provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”