Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

This is the seventh of nine pieces of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.

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Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

When examining goodness, it was noted that while each piece of fruit is associated with action in Scripture, it must not be overlooked that these acts originate from a heart full of the Spirit of God. Faithfulness is another example of how we must not hurry to action while neglecting to examine our heart. Although is it true that faith without works is dead, it could also be said that works not bolstered by a growing faith amount to aimless activity. Like riding a stationary bike, there can be plenty of motion and energy being exerted, but after a half hour of activity, you still find yourself in the same place.

My own journey with this piece of fruit has evolved over the years (this is just part of the value of using the fruit of the Spirit as a periodic reflective exercise). I tended to associate faithfulness with a commitment to living out my calling. Am I doing the things God has called me to do? Am I committed to developing my gifts? Certainly, these things are pieces of what it means to embody faithfulness. But I can put a great deal of time and effort into my calling, while my connection with God and his Spirit stagnates. I can find myself peddling rapidly on a stationary bike.

Part of the issue is that the word faithfulness denotes a type of commitment – a determination to see something to completion. “Have you stayed faithful to your exercise routine and commitment to healthy eating?” There is a commitment, a resolve in the will behind that line of questioning. Again, this may well be an aspect of faithfulness.

Yet the word use for this piece of fruit in the original Greek is simply the word faith, or belief. It is more a condition of the heart and mind that precedes sheer determination. “Do you believe that exercise and healthy eating will be beneficial to your quality of life?” Do you see the difference in that question? Even though the same general idea is being expressed, the latter question probes the mindset behind the activity. If the determination is not supported with belief, determination will soon fade.

Is it possible, as ironic as it may seem, that before we jump to the question of our faithfulness to our calling or to our spiritual growth, we need to step back and simply ask, “In what condition is my faith?” There are times when that deeper question seems more daunting than the surface question.

As it relates to faithfulness, both aspects working together – faith sustaining faithfulness, if you will – are essential. So how do you see faith, or faithfulness, developing in your spiritual life?

  • Am I growing as a follower of Jesus?
  • Which aspect is more challenging to you right now: Simple faith or the working out of that faith?
  • Do think there is a difference between faith and faithfulness? Do they convey the same idea to you?
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Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

The sixth piece of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Goodness.  For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.

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Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’

Goodness is closely related to kindness in that it can be another word for generosity or a benevolent act.  This has led to some difficultly in distinguishing these two pieces of fruit from each other.  Perhaps the writer was essentially repeating himself.  Indeed, goodness can be related to generosity, but it can also represent more of a virtue – a moral quality of being upright in heart and spirit.  The Greek word at issue here is, in fact, unique to Biblical and other early religious writings.

It is for this reason that I would distinguish goodness from kindness by focusing more on the internal aspect of the meaning – the virtue.  While kindness is more associated with an act performed for the benefit of someone else, it could be said that goodness is more of a condition of the heart and spirit.  And while it is true that each piece of fruit is associated with action in Scripture, it should not be overlooked that these acts originate from a heart full of the Spirit of God.

So what would be a distinguishing characteristic of someone full of the virtue of goodness, as we have now clarified it?  I would contend that it is the ability to recognize the kingdom of God at work in his or her midst – in the people and circumstances that person finds themselves among.  If we are a people that hold to the belief that heaven is not just a place we go when we die, but rather another way of expressing God’s kingdom.  And, as Jesus often suggested, God’s kingdom is advancing and breaking through on an ongoing basis, then it stands to reason that goodness would be a way of recognizing God’s kingdom at work in the world around us.  Goodness is the spiritual eyes – the glasses we wear – that suddenly make visible what otherwise might have been overlooked or ignored.

It is not always an easy way to view the world.  Surely, it is much easier to view the copious visible evidence with cynicism and a lack of hope that God’s kingdom can ever overcome so much that is wrong with our world.  Nor does the outlook of goodness withdraw and merely endure this life.  Rather the virtue of goodness chooses to identify ways in which Jesus’ words are evident: The kingdom of God is in our midst and advancing, whether we recognize it or not.  And it keeps the faith that God is true to his word that one day the kingdom of God will prevail and creation will be restored to the way God originally desired it.

Then again, goodness is not a Pollyanna outlook that naively disregards the evil and brokenness around us.  It chooses to see beyond the surface – beyond the visible – to recognize that pain can bring healing, to find transcendence in the mundane, and to see the wonder of creation.  It is also at this point that goodness is put into action by fostering the good that is discerned in those around us and working to right the wrongs in our circumstances.  Perhaps there is more action to goodness than first acknowledged.

  • Am I recognizing God’s kingdom at work in the people and circumstances around me?
  • Recall an event or interaction from this past week.  How could you view that event/interaction differently if viewed through the lens of goodness?
  • How might recognizing God’s kingdom in your midst prompt you to acts of kindness?