What Is Faithfulness?

          In Galatians 5:22-23, we read of the fruit of the Spirit. Those qualities and character traits that every Christian should be seeking to grow in. While not all-encompassing, this section of Scripture presents a good portrait of what godliness looks like. While we could and should spend a lot of time on each of these traits, we want to focus on faithfulness this morning.

What Does Faithfulness Mean?

Faithfulness comes from the same family of words in the Bible as faith, faithful, and faithless. While each of these words has a specific meaning in their context, they all carry the core idea of being dependable, trustworthy, or something that can be counted on (or lack thereof).

The word faithful is used repeatedly of God. For example, He is faithful (trustworthy, dependable) to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). God is faithful to fulfill his promise of eternal life (Hebrews 10:23). And God is faithful to provide a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Think for a moment if God was not faithful? We would have no guarantees or assurances of anything in the Bible! But because God is faithful (trustworthy, dependable, can be counted on) when He says something or promises something, we can be one hundred percent sure about what He has said.

Christian character begins with an understating of the character of God. That is what the fruit of the Spirit is, and we as His people ought to be seeking to grow in His likeness. Thinking of how God is trustworthy, dependable, can be counted upon, how then should one of His followers be described?

In his book “The Practice of Godliness,” Jerry Bridges gave this great description of who a faithful person is:

“The faithful person is one who is dependable, trustworthy, and loyal, who can be depended upon in all of his relationships and who is absolutely honest and ethical in all of his affairs” (Bridges 2008, 149).

Take Daniel as an example of what faithfulness looks like. We read in Daniel 6:4, “At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy [faithful] and neither corrupt nor negligent” (NIV 2011). Here, we also see what being faithful does not mean. Daniel was not “corrupt” nor was he “negligent.” Corrupt would be the opposite of honest or ethical, and negligent would be the opposite of being diligent.[1]

To Be Faithful is to Be Honest.

We can understand then that to be faithful requires honest and ethical behavior. Jerry Bridges goes on to say that “absolute honesty in speech and personal affairs has to be the hallmark of a faithful person” (Bridges 2008, 149). Again, we see Daniel “was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” Daniel was an honest and dependable man. He was faithful.

God abhors deceit and falsehood. He hates it so much that it is listed twice (in different degrees) in Proverbs 6:16-19. “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him… a lying tongue… [and] a false witness who utters lies” (vv.15-16, 19). This is because God, by His very nature, is truth (John 14:6), and He cannot tolerate that which is against Him.

If God then is the truth, then the people of God ought to be people of the truth. We must be so in all our interactions (Ephesians 4:25). There is no such thing as a white lie when it comes to the people of God. When we fudge the numbers on our taxes or hold back important information when selling a used car, we are not being honest or truthful. If we can be honest in the little things, and consistently so, we will be well on our way to being the kind of faithful followers that Jesus desires. After all.  Jesus said in Luke 16:10 that “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous in much.”

To Be Faithful is to Be Dependable

As we noted earlier with Daniel, he “was neither corrupt nor negligent.” To be negligent is to fail to take proper care in doing something. So, we can say that Daniel was honest and dependable; that is, one could count on him to be there, to get the job done. The Babylonian rulers saw this because when Darius becomes king, he places Daniel over a third of his kingdom (Daniel 6:1-2). One would not be placed in that critical position unless one could be counted upon to do the job.

Psalm 15 gives us a good idea of what it means to be dependable in the eyes of God. After the Psalmist asks, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” (vv.1-2), he then says in v.4, “He who sears to his own hurt and does not change.” The NIV words it as “who keeps an oath even when it hurts and does not change their mind.” The idea here is that the faithful person can be counted on when they give their word. No one doubts if they will follow through. Therefore, to be called faithful is to be dependable.

To Be Faithful is to Be Loyal

The faithful person is honest and dependable, but they are also loyal. This is not a blind loyalty that ignores sin, faults, or thinks it’s not your business to get involved. Instead, this is the kind of loyalty that, because of the bonds of brotherhood or friendship, you will say what needs to be said. This type of loyalty can be seen in the Proverbs:

  • “Faithful [trustworthy] are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6
  • “Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed.” Proverbs 27:5

The faithful person is not only loyal to their brethren and those around them, but they are first loyal to God. While we cannot give God counsel, He does to us, and He tells us what we need to hear even if it is not pleasant at the moment (cf. Hebrews 12:10-11).

How Can I Grow in Faithfulness?

The faithful person is honest, dependable, and loyal. Now we may feel that we are woefully short of the Biblical standard of faithfulness or at the very least recognize that there are areas for improvement. So how can I grow in faithfulness?

  1. Recognize the Biblical standard. Being faithful is to be absolutely honest, utterly dependable, and truly loyal. It is to be like Daniel, who the other Satraps could not find fault.
  2. Evaluate your own life in light of the standard. Are you honest in all your dealings? Do others doubt if they can depend on you? Could you or would you sit down with a friend to have a challenging conversation about a truth they need to hear?
  3. Give serious thought to how you can improve in the areas of weakness you have identified. It can be as simple as making sure that if you said you’re going to do _____, then you make sure you follow through with ________.

Finally, we can and must grow in our faithfulness. Jesus said in Revelation 2:10b “be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” If he admonished Smyrna to be faithful, that means they could be faithful. And secondly, those who remain faithful will hear on that day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV).

[1] Bridges, Jerry. The Practice of Godliness. pg. 149

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