"Living In The Spirit Of Faithfulness"
(Galatians 5:22-25, Hebrews 10:23-24)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A church secretary spent her vacation at the beach. As she sunned herself, a little boy in his swim suit approached her and politely asked her a series of questions. "Miss, do you believe in God?"
The woman was taken aback a little but said she did.
Then the little boy asked, "Do you go to church every Sunday?"
The woman told the boy that she went to church every Sunday and even worked at the church during the week.
The little boy persisted with his interrogation and asked, "Do you read your Bible every day?"
The woman told the boy she read her Bible every day.
The boy nodded his head, seeming satisfied with her answers and then he said: "It that case, will you hold my dollar for me while I go for a swim?" (1)
Jesus said, "Whoever is faithful in a little, is faithful in much." Obviously the little boy thought this woman qualified for the latter.
Today our focus is Living In The Spirit Of Faithfulness. Let's look at the quote we still haven't found the source on, concerning the Fruit of the Spirit.
"Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Generosity is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins." (2)
Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)
 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Hebrews 10:23-24 (NRSV)
 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful
 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,
As we look at the whole idea of Living In the Spirit of Faithfulness, we have to begin at the beginning. We have to begin with God who is the ultimate example of Faithfulness.
I. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS:
Years ago, before personal scanners and printers, a young male college student walked into a photography studio with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. Of the photo had to be removed from the frame. In doing this, the studio owner noticed the inscription on the back of the photograph: "My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity." It was signed "Diane," and it contained a P.S.: "If we ever break up, I want this picture back."
Fortunately, God is not like that. We who have been baptized have professed our love for God through Christ. As a result, we belong to Christ, we belong to God. There is no P.S. in our relationship with God. There never has been and there never will be. God will never break up with us. We are His. We belong to Him, forever. (3)
Do you remember what Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy concerning this whole idea of God's Faithfulness? He wrote: "The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself."
These are God's very own words in Deuteronomy 31:8 "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."
And in 1 Kings 6:13 "I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel."
In John 14:18 Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned. . ."
Page after page of Scripture shows us God's Faithfulness. We have turned away. We have been the ones who have been unfaithful. God has never turned away from us. God has consistently and constantly sought to bring us back.
Even before we are aware of the presence of God, through God's Holy Spirit, God whispers God's love for us everyday. The Faithfulness of God is the model for our Faithfulness.
II. FAITHFUL IN OUR WITNESS:
A. Because of God's Faithfulness, we are called to be Faithful In Our Witness.
Our task as Christians is to bear witness to the love of God through Jesus Christ, who gave His life on the cross for our sakes. Christ gave his life so we could have life, a life free from the guilt of and punishment for our sin. We have been given access to the Abundant Life as Christ called it. Not a life of "stuff" but a life of Spirit.
And if that wasn't enough, Christ also destroyed the greatest fear of humanity, the fear of death. Jesus was raised from the dead so we could know the promise of eternal life with God.
In the garden, Adam and Eve took the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil against God's will. As a result of that greed, we began drifting away from God. And from that moment on, God began calling us back. At the cross, that transgression against God was forgiven. We are still living with the consequences of our actions, but the incident has been forgiven.
In the Resurrection, through our faith in Christ and what He did for us on the cross, God offers us the fruit from the other tree we were supposed to leave alone in the garden, the Tree of Life. The fruit of that tree is Eternal Life with God.
B. That is our witness. That is what we are called to share with the world. We use the term, here comes the E-word, Evangelism to describe our witness. The Faithfulness Of Our Witness is our gift and response to God's love for us. Sometimes we do it with words, sometimes with actions. Sometimes it is both. Sometimes we even do it reluctantly.
Moses said he was, "Slow of speech;" Jeremiah said he was "too young;" Amos said, "I am no prophet;" Mary said, "How can this be?;" Peter said he was, "too sinful;" the centurion said he was "not worthy;" Paul said, "I know that nothing good lives in me." And look at what God did through them.
God calls us. God does not ask if we are suitable. God doesn't ask if we have the training or skills. The only ability God asks about is our availability. What can God do through you? What can God do with your availability. I know what God is going to do with all the volunteers for VBS, God is going to bless them and their families for all their hard work, perseverance and the provocation we have all received to "love and good works" through their example.
Not only that, God is going to bless every child who walks through these doors. The seeds and kernels of faith that we will plant this week will grow in their lives. And someday will grow into the Fruit of the Spirit.
VBS is one example of being Faithful In Our Witness.
III. FAITHFUL IN OUR PERSEVERANCE:
We are also called to be Faithful In Our Perseverance. What I mean by that is this. Faithfulness is consistently doing what is right even when it is difficult or when it appears we might fail. Faithfulness of Perseverance is doing what is right because it is right.
In the classic Dr. Seus book "Horton Hears A Who," one day, Horton the elephant hears a cry for help coming from a speck of dust. Even though he can't see anyone on the speck, he decides to help it. As it turns out, the speck of dust is home to the Whos, who live in their city of Whoville. Horton agrees to help protect the Whos and their home, but this gives him nothing but torment from his neighbors, who refuse to believe that anything could survive on the speck.
Still, Horton stands by the motto that, "After all, a person is a person, no matter how small." That's his motto, that's his code.
And through many trials and tribulations Horton perseveres saying: "I meant what I said. And I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%."
That is the Faithfulness of Perseverance, consistently doing what is right even when it is difficult or when it appears we might fail. Faithfulness of Perseverance is doing what is right because it is right.
Our model for Faithfulness is God who promised never to forsake us. Our call as Christians, as followers of Christ, is to be Faithful In Our Witness and Faithful In Our Perseverance.
Today as we pause to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we come to the table which retells the story of our salvation through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and it reminds us of God's Faithfulness. Through the elements of Bread and Wine, we come into the very Presence of God and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be Faithful In Our Witness and Faithful In Our Perseverance.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
2. Source Unknown
3. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 97-98.
Other References Consulted