Faithfulness (Greek, pistis; Antonym: disloyal or unfaithfulness)

This photo was taken in the final months of my grandfather’s life and while it might not be the most flattering photograph, it is an image of faithfulness for me. As you can see my grandfather looks ill and weary, but at the same time, as usual you also see my grandmother right by his side.

My grandparents for me have always been the image for me of what it means to be faithful. Going back to when they met—uncharacteristic of my grandfather, on the dance floor at a New Year’s party in the 1930’s, he spontaneously kissed my grandmother who he had just met. That kiss eventually led to a marriage that lasted fifty-five years. At the start of the Depression, and through various challenging times, my grandparents never wavered from their love and commitment to one another. Whenever you were with them, you saw very clearly how committed they were to one another. They were faithful to the very end.

So with this, faithfulness is the fruit of the Spirit that describes one’s trustworthiness and determination. Constant and devoted might be two other words we would use to describe a faithful person. The person with this quality keeps their word, their promises, and their vows no matter what the cost. As a model of being true to those she served tirelessly, Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, “I don’t pray for success, I ask for faithfulness.” In life, in difficult times, it can be so easy to give up, and yet the fruit of faithfulness asks us to hold on just a little longer.

Of course our greatest example for faithfulness is God. The Scriptures declare over and over that he will never forsake us, never give up on us. Let’s listen to a few passages:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself… O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. (Psalm 89:2,8)

He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8)

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

These are just a handful of verses and these are just from the Old Testament. We could go on and on discovering that there are countless passages throughout the Scriptures that declare that God is always faithful—that he is trustworthy, determined, constant and devoted. Again and again, the Scriptures declare that his love for us is unfailing and not shaken—he is a God who is faithful to the end even to the point of sacrificing himself.

Obviously, when it applies to faithfulness we often think of marriage. As the French author Paul Carvel penned in a witty manner, “One thousand one night stands are no match to a single one life stand.” As attested by a divorce rate that at least half of all marriages fail, faithfulness can seemingly be impossible.  This is precisely why God gives very little room for the pursuit of divorce within marriage—he wants us to experience what it looks like to be faithful just as he is to us. To one person, He wants us to live out a commitment over the course of fifty years that even in those moments when it looks like there is little hope, we stay committed no matter what. Even though we want to be happy and fulfilled, we hold on. If we can be faithful like that, perhaps in a little way, we can experience a determination and devotion like He has for us.

To look at this from another angle, I have a story—some years ago, I worked with a man who had multiple affairs; he was often unfaithful. Time after time, he found himself in the arms of another woman falsely believing that she could make him happy. After his constant unfaithfulness, his wife left him and disappointingly, so did his church. Because of the unending lies and deceptions, I can understand why his wife did so; in ending her marriage, she was guarding her own heart (Proverbs 4:23) and attempting to heal from the many betrayals he had put her through. The sad thing was that all of his friends and community gave up on him as well, and that’s how he ended up on my doorstep in counseling. No matter what a person has done, we should never give up on them. While we may need to take a break from the relationship, to give up on someone for good is not what faithfulness is all about. Faithfulness, like love, always protects, hopes, and perseveres (I Corinthians 13:7). Just as Jesus never gives up on us, we should follow his example. This is the epitome of what it means to become a faithful person—even when there doesn’t seem like a chance that someone can change, we hang on in some way or another, because we know that Jesus has done the same for us at some point in our lives.

Questions you can ask yourself: how faithful a person are you: to your friends when they request you to make some sort of sacrifice, to commitments you make (do you too often find ways to get out of things?), to your commitment to God? How dependable or reliable are you? If you are married, how faithful are you to your spouse, especially in times of difficulty—do you run and hide or do you stay the course? Even if you have been married for thirty years, is your marriage thriving and are you there for your spouse in all ways: e.g., emotionally, spiritually, affectionately? In relationships other than marriage, how do you need to become more faithful in these—how do you need to become more trustworthy, determined, constant and devoted? What do you need to change in your life to become a faithful person?

In: Spiritual Formation
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