REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 66: Faithfulness.
We move into the third trio of the Holy Spirit’s fruits today. The first three speak mainly of our relationship with God. The second three primarily of our relationship with others and the last three: faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of ourselves. The pandemic, as we have seen, gives opportunity of growing deeper in our trust of God [as uncertainty and disruption of routines and plans threatened easily upset our equilibrium], stronger in our love for others [rather than retreat into ourselves] and increasing Christlike stickability.
I was taught at youth group the very helpful reminder: it is the glance that justifies and the gaze that sanctifies. Both speak of faith in Jesus and both are the work of the Spirit in us. The glance that convict of sin also opens our hearts to receive Him as Saviour and Lord. The gaze, is that ongoing captivation with Jesus that sees His character formed in us, little by little, day by day, as the fruits of the Spirit replace the fruits of our own self-centredness [Gal 5:19-21].
The faith in Christ that secures our salvation, grows into a faithfulness that mirrors His fidelity to us, and is then reflected in our trustworthiness with both God and others. Faithfulness towards others will grow in us as we grow in faithfulness towards God. This is where it must all start and mature. Turning up to church with a good heart, expectant prayer and Bible reading, keenness to look out for the needs of others, more interested in meeting the needs of others than having our own interests met, doing things without being asked, even when we are not thanked, are signs of our faithfulness to both God and others [Philippians 2:1-18 and Romans 12:1-13].
Paying our debts on time [Romans 13:8], working hard for our boss, being a kind and helpful boss [Col 3:22-4:1], keeping our promises [James 5:12], using words designed to encourage and build others up [Ephesians 4:29], earning our keep and giving to others in need [Eph. 4:28], being faithful to spouses [Col. 3:18-19] and parents committed to giving a Christlike lead [Col 3:20-21] are all signs of our fidelity in relationships. How good it is to be assured that these not only reflect God’s faithfulness to us but, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, will always attract His strength and help. Help not as we wait passively for Him to work in and through us but as we actively seek the Spirit’s strength [Gal 6:7-8] and get on and engage in faithful behaviour [Gal 6:9-10].
There are many Bible examples of faithful believers set before us to encourage us positively and to give us a big wake-up call [kick in the pants!] when needed. The roll call of Old Testament people of faith in Hebrews bids us recall their deeds which showed their faith. Noah built his ark, Abraham left his home, Moses’s parents hid their child, Moses chose mistreatment by identifying with God’s people, Rahab welcomed the spies. Each proved their faith in God by being trustworthy in the circumstances they found themselves. Ruth’s famous words to her mother-in-law Naomi: where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God [Ruth 1:16] betrayed her faithfulness and loyalty to both Naomi and the God of Israel. Mrs Namaan’s unnamed servant girl is one of my great heroes of faithfulness [2 Kings 5]. Instead of being bitter about the providential events that had seen her a captive slave from Israel, she remained loyal to God and loving toward her captors by explaining where the real God could be found; bringing Namaan release from his leprosy.
Loyalty is a vital character trait in every aspect of life, not least in families and churches. We hear no complaint but a real sense of relief in Paul’s voice as he records, from prison: only Luke is with me [2 Tim 4:11]. The support of friends is a real gift that we can give others. A real presence when possible, a prayerful presence when not, a financial presence [as with our persecuted brothers and sisters] or a lettered presence are all signs of our loyalty to others. On Sunday morning I preached from Luke 17:7-10 which ended with our Lord’s words: so when you have done everything you were told to do should say, we are unworthy servants we have only done our duty. Faithfulness is our duty as believers. We should never expect praise for faithfulness since we are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ faithfulness to us. Praise will come from our Lord when we stand before Him [Matt 25:21] and in the meantime faithfulness, loyalty, trustworthiness and fidelity are expected of disciples. We are not worthless servants since we are made in God’s image, redeemed by Jesus and have become temples of the Holy Spirit, but we are to be servants. We are unworthy because we owe our all to God. Though a duty, our faithfulness to God and others, emulates our Saviour and in reality becomes our sheer delight. This call to duty is given, because our Lord wants to rescue us from laziness and the pride that feels we may have done more than enough for Him [Article 14 is worth reading for this later presumption and Articles 11 and 12 for the privileges that are ours in Christ which will keep us faithful].
Peter Brain 9th March, 2021