By Richie Thetford
Faithfulness is one of nine fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 of which it is said “against such there is no law.” The only way in which we will be able to possess this precious fruit in our life is through hearing and study (Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:15). Knowledge is an essential element in all of faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Faithfulness is an essential element that each and every Christian must possess in order to go to heaven; “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
The Word “Faithfulness”
Faithfulness is the Greek “pistis.” There are 244 uses of the word “pistis” (faith) in the King James Version of the New Testament. It primarily means to have a “firm persuasion” which is usually gained from having a conviction based upon hearing. It is used in the New Testament to mean “faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, New Testament, p. 222). Vine’s goes on to say:
“The main elements in “faith” in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from “faith” in man, are specially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgment of God’s revelation or truth, e. g., 2 Thess 2:11-12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good “faith” without necessary reference to its proof. The object of Abraham’s “faith” was not God’s promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his “faith” rested on God Himself, Romans 4:17,20-21.”
The word is further defined as: “steadfast adherence to a person or thing to which one is bound as by an oath or obligation; marked by or showing a strong sense of duty or responsibility; conscientious; reliable” ( Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition ). The writer of the book of Hebrews states: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith, according to the Hebrew writer is composed of two elements: confidence and conviction. The meaning of faith is made clearer when this is understood. Therefore, it is a confidence in things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen (invisible). Faithfulness is not a fleeting thing that is based on momentary pent-up emotions. Faith has substance which only comes by hearing!
True faith is an essential grace, and a mainspring of the Christian life. Faithfulness is what helps the Christian overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, resulting in a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy
4:7-8). Because of faithfulness, worthy men of old did great things (Hebrews 11:1-40; Acts 14:9; 1 Corinthians 13:2, being sustained by Omnipotence in doing whatever God enjoined, Matthew 17:20; 9:23).
Bible Examples of Faithfulness
Paul wrote in Romans 15:4; “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” We have used this passage many times in showing the value of what can be learned from Bible characters of long ago and this is especially so concerning faithfulness. Not only can we go back to the Old Testament to read in detail the lives of those that have exhibited this wonderful fruit of the spirit, but God thought so much of those that did so, that He included a snapshot of their life for us to learn from in Hebrews, chapter 11. When we take a moment to reflect on the lives of those that had great faith, we can learn not only what faith is, but how to put it to use in our life.
As one progresses through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we notice many individuals that exemplified great faithfulness in their service to God.
Let’s look at just three of these characters that are named in this chapter:
1. Abel: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel’s faithfulness still speaks to us today, even though he has been dead for thousands of years. It was his great faith in God and the price that he was willing to pay for it that really speaks to us today. He was the first believer that we know of to present an offering acceptable to God. His faith was put on display in worship (Genesis 4:3-4; Romans 10:17), obedience, and endurance (Genesis 4:8). Abel was a man that was willing to suffer and die because of his faith in God.
2. Noah: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah means “to comfort” and he was certainly a comforting example of faith for all ages. He’s described as an “heir of the righteousness which is by faith” yet his righteous life was not without mistakes. At one point he became drunk with wine and became uncovered in his tent (Genesis 9:21). His was a life of challenges but he succeeded in faithfulness. Noah had to overcome many obstacles through his years (wickedness of man, corruptness, violence), yet remained faithful in his service to God. How did he do it? Noah had seen nothing else upon which to ground his faith up to this time in his life. His faithfulness (confidence) could be tested because: 1) No deluge of rain had ever happened before. 2) The world had never changed before, why now? 3) Would God destroy humans, creatures and beauty? Noah only had God’s word and his faith rested solely and completely on that word. It was all Noah needed to sustain him. Noah’s faith was manifested by obedience to the directions that he received by God (Genesis 6:14-16; Romans 10:17). Noah’s faith was expressed in a truly remarkable way. Notice the great magnitude of the work that he performed ? based on pure faith: 1) He built an ark that was (assuming a cubit represented 21 inches) 525 feet long, 87 feet wide, 52 feet high (six stories). 2) He worked long hours sustained only by faith. 3) His work was most certainly ridiculed by many who must have thought he was crazy. He endured sarcasm yet pressed on! Noah was a righteous man before he was commanded to build the ark. But the building of the ark exemplified his faith. In other words, he not only believed, but his belief, his faithfulness, caused him to do God’s will.
3. Abraham: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10). “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19). There is so much that can be said concerning the great faithfulness of Abraham. The Hebrew writer has discussed two events in Abraham’s life that showed an unwavering faithfulness in God: His calling to go to an unknown land; and his trial he endured with his son Isaac. As with Noah and Abel, the outstanding trait in all of Abraham’s life was his willingness to believe God. We do not know how he came to believe God in his idolatrous environment, but his trust had to be deep and abiding for him to be able to do as God directed him. Romans 4, Hebrews 11, and James 2 are scripture monuments to Abraham’s faith! It seemed that whenever the Holy Spirit needed one to cite as an example of justification by faith, it was Abraham that He usually chose.
Genesis, chapter 12 tells us of the call from God to Abraham, that now begins a lifelong journey of a faithful example for us today. He left a city thought to have 500,000 people, to become a nomad dwelling in tents (Hebrews 11:8). His 500-mile journey to Canaan saw him building altars where he would worship God and keep his faith strong. Again, it is important to note that his life was not a sinless one, such as his deception in Egypt, for which he was sent out of the country. But through it all, we can’t help but be impressed that he listened to God’s call to leave home and friends. For approximately 10 years he wandered in Canaan (Genesis16:16). He did not know where he was heading or what was before him in that strange land but he believed God and obeyed God. There are many times in the life of Abraham that his faith was put to the test. But the trial recorded in Genesis 22, (the offering of his son Isaac), is a narrative charged with emotion, sympathy, and triumph! Let’s take a moment to look at some of the ways in which Abraham’s great faith was exemplified: 1) He acted promptly in that he did not question God, but rather got up early in the morning, determined to obey God. He made no excuses. 2) He prepared thoroughly, making all the necessary physical preparations for himself, his donkey, and in getting the wood, food etc. There is no doubt as he was making the long journey that he was reflecting upon what he was about to do - his heart was prepared. 3) Abraham had confidence in his God. He knew that it was through his seed that the divine promises would be fulfilled. The severity of the command did not destroy Abraham’s faithfulness in God. He trusted that all would turn out well. 4) He showed complete obedience despite his great attachment to his son. Faith said “I believe in God” and works said “I’ll show you how much.” He had a perfect faith -- a faith that grew to maturity. James wrote: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Having passed the test, a ram was provided by God to offer as a sacrifice. God had provided a substitute for Isaac. Abraham’s faithfulness was clearly evident.
These are but three examples of faithfulness exemplified. We could continue by talking about Enoch, Moses, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Rahab, and others but these should prove enough to show us the great and abiding faithfulness that each had in almighty God. Now that we know what faithfulness is and how it was exhibited in the lives of Abel, Noah and Abraham, let’s turn our attention to how we can learn to have this kind of faithfulness in our life today.
Gaining Faithfulness in Our Life Today
In Hebrews 10:35-39 it says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
Those that are righteous before God are those who live by faith. We have seen through the examples of others that through perseverance in God’s promises, that we can have salvation. In addition, it is the power of faith that keeps our mind and heart firmly fixed on heaven even in the midst of trials and tribulations. These examples should help us adhere steadfastly to the profession of our faith. In every case these great examples of faithfulness heard, believed and acted on God’s word (Romans 10:17), which is what we must do today. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), therefore we must learn to be faithful in all things in order to be pleasing to Him. As they longed for “the heavenly hope,” we should do likewise today. “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1-3), so as to live our life fully and completely for the Lord. As we run the race of life, we need to look toward Jesus who is truly “the author and finisher of our faith.” Every single witness of Hebrews chapter 11 exhibited obedience to God. We must do likewise to be counted worthy. Jesus endured the cross and died for us. Knowing this, let us not become weary and discouraged in our daily life (Galatians 6:9). All we have to do is look at these examples of faithfulness and we can see that as they gained their faith by hearing the word of God, that we can to (Romans
10:17). When we are determined to study God’s word and to apply His teaching in our life, then we will be able to endure the hardships that come our way. No matter what Satan throws our way, we will be able to overcome. We can never learn faithfulness, to walk in the steps of the Saviour if we don’t learn what it is that we must do to walk in His steps. The faithful man of God is one that really trusts in the Lord and counts on God to deliver him from the hand of the Devil. Faithfulness is a mind set. We must be of the mind that we want to serve God first in our life and meditate on all that is good (Mark 12:30; Philippians 4:8).
Sadly, far too many Christians have an evaporating faith as stated in Hosea 6:4: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away.” But this does not have to be the case. Let’s strive to have a greater and stronger faithfulness to our God. So, how do we develop this greater and stronger faith? Basically, by studying the word of God and applying it to our lives in every way (not just the areas we want). A sincere study of His word will prompt the Christian to pray fervently and realize a greater dependence upon God. A greater, stronger faith is developed when we study the Bible, learn, meditate, assemble with the saints and worship on a regular basis. The one that will receive the divine testimony and yield to it will become a partaker of the heavenly knowledge. Let us strive diligently to uphold the banner of Christ in all faithfulness!