Our look at the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23) started by organizing them in three groups: summer fruit (love, joy, peace), winter fruit (patience, kindness, and goodness), and useful fruit. Useful fruits lack visual appeal. They’re bland to the taste. They’re neither intended nor recommended for casual consumption. The useful fruits of the Spirit (faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) are given to propagate the Spirit—to spread its growth and nature across the landscape. Useful fruits encase seeds of God’s character. They enable us to bear His presence at large in the world. God’s faithfulness to us is so key to our relationship with Him, it’s no surprise that faithfulness is the first among the useful fruits on Paul’s list.
Faithfulness Among People
Today, we most often discuss faithfulness in terms of relationships—particularly romantic ones, making faithfulness synonymous with monogamy. This actually reveals how little we understand, or appreciate, the meaning of faithfulness. Yes, it’s essential that we be faithful lovers, but it’s just as essential we be faithful friends, neighbors, colleagues, and believers—that we bear the fruit of trust and reliability, that those around us comfortably place their faith in us to do our utmost for what’s right and best.
A popular thought says, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” The notion certainly has its merits. It removes complications and hindrances that often confound our ability to get things done well or correctly. But it’s also a second-tier strategy inasmuch as it neglects faithfulness. If we maintain faithfulness among people—if our word is our bond and our actions back up what we profess—asking neither forgiveness nor permission is necessary.
In the second chapter of the Revelation, God speaks to the church at Smyrna, promising if it remains faithful—holding true to its values and commitment, even to death if necessary—He will reward it with life. Poor Smyrna! Few early congregations suffered more hardship. “I know your afflictions and your poverty,” the Lord tells them. “Yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2.9) But be faithful, He says, and I will give you a crown of life.
Faithfulness grows out of confidence that our Father knows our situation and judges our thoughts and behaviors accordingly. It’s important for us to remember He has no standardized tests; all trials and tribulations are subjective. What I may find a constant struggle you may overcome without a second thought. What you may battle your entire life, day and night, may never become so much as a blip on my radar. In the end, the specifics of our tests don’t matter. The faithfulness we produce in response to them is what counts. Faithfulness inspires faithfulness. The seeds buried in the fruit we bear will find their way into others’ lives. Faithfulness is useful—to God, to us, and to all those around us.
Faithfulness is a useful fruit--more essential for the seeds it protects than its taste or visual appeal.