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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: PART EIGHT

Sermon Presented on 07-06-13

 

             Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (NIV).

       Today we look at the faithfulness as one or the behaviors listed by Paul as fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word rendered “faithfulness” in Galatians 5 is the noun pistis.  This word occurs 244 times in the Greek Scriptures and is mostly translated into the English word faith.  The KJV renders pistis as “faith” in Galatians 5:23. 

       Greek lexicons show this word is used in the Greek to express two basic meanings.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon lists its first meaning as having conviction of the truth of something.  Pistis is used in this fashion in much of the NT.  There are dozens of Scriptures that speak of having faith in God and faith in Christ.  Faith in God is seen as not only believing God exists but believing what he says is authoritative and to be respected and obeyed.

       Faith in the NT Scriptures is intimately associated with the message of salvation through Christ and the way of life we are expected to live in response to that message.  To have faith in Christ is to acknowledge He is the Son of God who paid for our sins through His death on the cross and through His resurrection facilitated our own resurrection to eternal life.  To have faith in Christ is to respond to what He has done for us by being obedient to how He commanded us to live.  This is the manner in which the Greek word pistis is commonly used in the NT. 

       Pistis, and its adjective form pistos, is also used in another way in the Greek language.  A second meaning found in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon is that of fidelity. Being reliable.  The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek lexicon shows pistis and pistos is used to designate one as trustworthy and dependable.  Scriptures shows these words are also used to describe our being counted on to follow through on what we say we are going to do. 

       In Paul’s list of the attributes of the Spirit, he appears to be dealing with character traits and therefore his intending meaning in using the Greek pistis appears to relate to the second meaning of this Greek word which the Lexicons identify as being trustworthy, dependable and loyal.  To be trustworthy and dependable is to be faithful.  Being faithful in all phases of one's life appears to be what Paul is revealing as an attribute of the Spirit.  Most English translations of Paul’s use of pistis in Galatians 5 render this word as faithfulness including the NKJV which changed the rendering from “faith,” as used in the 1611 KJV, to “faithfulness.”

       Being Faithful is an important attribute.  It is one that Jesus pointed to as vital to how we conduct ourselves as participants in Kingdom living.  In Matthew 25 Jesus gives several parables that characterize what the Kingdom of God is like.  One of those parables speaks of a man going on a journey and entrusting to his servants his property while he is away.  He gives five talents of money to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to another, each according to his ability. Then he goes on his journey.

       The man who had received the five talents put the money to work and gained five more talents.  The one given two talents gains two more. But the man who had been given one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid the money. He did nothing to make it grow.  Eventually the owner returns.  Seeing how the man given five talents increased them to ten, the owner said: 

       Matthew 25:21:  'Well done, good and faithful (Greek pistos) servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

       Likewise, the man with the two talents presented them to the owner showing how he too had doubled the talents given to him. What do we hear from the master? 

       Matthew 25:23:  `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

       Then the man with the one talent appears before the master and we read the following: 

       Matthew 25:24-27: "Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,' he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' "His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 

       Jesus is telling us through this parable that we are to be faithful with what He has given us.  The indication is that we have been given or we have attained to different levels of ability.  In verse 15 of this parable it is recorded that the master entrusts his property to his servants according to their ability to maintain and increase what is entrusted to them.  We are expected to take what we have been given or attained as to ability and apply it to increasing what we are given to do. We are to be faithful in applying the abilities we have to building upon what we have been given and not to shrink from that responsibility.  

       It is implied that to the extant we are faithful with what we are given in the here and now will determine what we are given beyond this physical life.  So one way the Scriptures identify how we are to express the Spirit of faithfulness is to take what God gives us and be fruitful with it.  Last week we briefly discussed what Christ said about good seed producing a good crop.

       Luke 8:15: The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

       God intends for us humans to produce a good crop which means He intends for us to faithfully take what He gives us and cause it to grow.  It is akin to how we relate to a food plant.  We provide such plant with a growing medium called soil and we water the plant and try to protect it from harm and in so doing we expect the plant to produce a crop.  God provides us with abilities and opportunities to apply those abilities and expects us to produce a crop. 

       In Luke 16 we see Jesus giving another parable that turns out to be a lesson in what it means to be faithful. In this parable, a manger was apparently mismanaging his masters wealth and was about to get fired.  He decides that it would be in his best interests to make deals with those who owed his master money so that he could provide his master at least some return on investment.  His master commends him for acting shrewdly in recovering what he could from various debtors to his master.  The master commends the manager for recouping some of the master’s wealth.

       Luke 16:10-12: He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? (KJV)

       The message is that we are to be faithful, dependable and trustworthy with what we are given if we expect to be given greater wealth or responsibility. 

       Being faithful to God and what he wants us to do and how he wants us to behave is foundational to what it means to love God and be His servant.  Being faithful is very important to God.  We see from OT history that it was unfaithfulness that often led to God removing people from power and it was unfaithfulness that ultimately led to Israel going into captivity. Saul is a good example of unfaithfulness leading to ones demise.  Saul was appointed King of Israel but when given orders to kill all the Amalekites, men women, children and animals, Saul failed to do so. Saul also went to sources outside of God for advice rather than depending on God for direction.  The consequence for Saul was that he was removed from office and died in battle. 

       1 Chronicles 10:13-14: Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

        God expects us to be faithful to Him even when things are not going all that well.  Being faithful at times can be a real challenge.  Sometimes faithfulness to God or to man can produce negative circumstances for us.

       Let’s look at what happened to Joseph.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up becoming a servant in the house of an official of the Egyptian Pharaoh.  The official’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and Joseph refused.

       Genesis 39:9: No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"

       Joseph was in essence saying he would remain faithful to his physical master and above all remain faithful to his Spiritual master who was God.  Well you may remember the rest of the story. His master’s wife continued to try to seduce him and one day grabbed him when no one else was around and tried to force him into bed with her.  As she gripped his cloak, Joseph ran from her naked out of the house leaving her holding his cloak.  She apparently had had enough of Joseph’s refusals and she told her husband Joseph tried to rape her but she screamed and Joseph ran naked out of the house and left his cloak.  Her husband believed her and Joseph was thrown into jail.  

       Joseph was faithful to his convictions in the face of great temptation to do otherwise. His faithfulness resulted in punishment he didn’t deserve which is something that will occur from time to time when we remain faithful to the way of righteousness.  Being faithful is an expression of the Spirit of God because it manifests an attribute of God’s character.  God is seen as faithful throughout the Scriptures.

       1 Corinthians 1:9: God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

       1 Corinthians 10:13: God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear

       1 Thessalonians 5:23:  The one who calls you is faithful.

       1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

       Jesus, being filled with the Spirit of God, expressed God’s Spirit by being faithful in fulfilling God’s will even to the point of suffering the pain of the cross so we can be resurrected to eternal life.

        Hebrews 3:1-6: Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

       We know from OT history that Moses was faithful in carrying out God’s will in leading the Israelites out of bondage to their Egyptian overlords.  Moses was considered a savior to Israel.  In this respect, Moses is looked upon as a type of Christ.  Christ took the whole savior thing to a new level by leading humanity out from under the penalty for sin by paying that penalty on our behalf.  That is why the Scripture says Jesus was worthy of greater honor than Moses. 

       For the purpose of our discussion today, however, it is to be noted that both Moses and Jesus are seen as being faithful to God in every respect.  In doing so, both Moses and Jesus were expressing the attribute of God’s Spirit that Paul in Galatians 5 lists as faithfulness. 

      Hebrews 10:23:  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

       Here the writer is speaking of the faithfulness of God.  Just think if God wasn’t faithful. The hope we profess wouldn't have much value, would it.  The hope we profess is that upon leaving this physical life we will enter a new dimension of life that will never end, a life much superior to what we now experience.  When the writer speaks of having this hope, he is not speaking of hoping in the sense of hoping this may be true but not knowing for certain that it is true.  The writer is saying we can have complete confidence that what God said would happen will happen because God is faithful.  God is reliable and trustworthy and we can be assured we will be recipients of what He has promised. 

       It is this level of reliability, trust and faithfulness that we are to display in our interaction with God and with each other.  Just as we are to be faithful to God in carrying our His will that we obey Him and seek to live righteously, so are we to be faithful to each other.  We are to be faithful to our spouse.  We are to be faithful to our employer.  We are to be faithful in dutifully carrying out the responsibilities we are given.  We are to be faithful in doing what we say we are going to do.  When we give our word on something we are to faithfully carry it out.  While being faithful is not to be done for reward, sometimes reward is given for being faithful.   In the parable of the talents Jesus spoke of reward for being faithful.

STORY:       

       George Boldt worked faithfully for years at the front desk in a small hotel. One day an elderly couple came into the lobby and asked for a place to stay. Every room in the hotel—and every hotel in town—was occupied. Realizing that the elderly couple had nowhere to sleep, Boldt offered them his own room. Although they were reluctant to accept his offer, they eventually did so because George insisted.  

       The next morning when the couple was checking out, the elderly man said to George, "You're the kind of man who should be managing the best hotel in the country. Some day I'm going to build that hotel and let you manage it." 

       Several years later, Boldt received a letter in the mail. It contained a round-trip ticket and a note from the man to whom he had given his room years before. The man invited George to visit him in New York City. 

       When Boldt arrived in New York, the gentleman took him to a downtown corner where a huge building stood. “George, this is the hotel I built for you to manage."

       Boldt stared in amazement at the glorious structure. The hotel was the Waldorf-Astoria! The elderly man was William Waldorf Astor, one of the wealthiest men in the country. Boldt’s faithfulness in managing a small hotel had prepared him to manage one of the most magnificent hotels this country has ever seen.

       Matthew 25:21:  'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.

       Being faithful is closely tied to being loyal.  Loyalty is a virtue that is often lacking in today’s world and is actually seen more in the animal kingdom than in the human kingdom.  We all are aware of the loyalty of dogs.  I want to end today’s sermon with a dog story. 

STORY: 

       In January 1924 a professor at the Japanese Imperial University brought home a two-month old Akita puppy. Dr. Ueno named the pup Hachiko.  The Akita, is a large breed of dog originating from the mountainous northern regions of Japan. 

       The following year was a wonderful time for Hachiko and his new master. Akitas are large dogs, and Hachiko grew to be over ninety pounds. This beautiful white dog accompanied Dr. Ueno to the train station every morning, where Dr. Ueno would say goodbye to Hachiko and head on down to the university. Every day when Dr. Ueno returned home Hachiko would be waiting for him at the train station and the two would go home together. Anyone could see the powerful bond between the large Akita and his master.

       If things had continued like this, the story would still be one of admirable faithfulness from a dog to its master. But the story doesn’t end here.

       May 21, 1925 was like any other day for the pair. In the morning, Professor Ueno left Hachiko at the train station. But when Hachiko returned to the station in the evening, his master was nowhere to be found. Though Hachiko waited, Dr. Ueno never showed up.  Dr. Ueno had died from a stroke earlier that day.

       Akitas are very loyal dogs and do not bond easily with new people. Hachiko was sent away to another area of Japan where there were relatives of Dr. Ueno's who could take care of the dog.  Because Hachiko had only belonged to Dr. Ueno for a little over a year, they probably hoped that the Akita would adapt to the family where the dog was sent.  But this didn’t happen. The dog ran away from the family and found its way back to the train station to wait for his master. After this happening a number of times, the family realized that they couldn't keep the big Akita dog from heading to the station every day, so they gave Hachiko to Dr. Ueno's old gardener who still lived in the area where Dr. Ueno had lived.

       Every evening Hachiko would return to the train Station and wait for Dr. Ueno to get off the six-o'clock train. He never missed a day of hoping that his master would return to him.

       The commuters noticed the dog waiting every day at the station. Some of them had known the pair when Dr. Ueno was still alive.  People petted him and gave him food. Months passed, then years. Still Hachiko kept his vigil.  A newspaper heard of the dog's story and Hachiko became a Japanese celebrity. To commemorate his loyalty, a statue of an Akita was erected at the train station. Hachiko was even present at the ceremony!

       Despite the people's loving intentions, Hachiko basically lived as a stray. He would call no place home except where Dr. Ueno was, and since Dr. Ueno was nowhere, Hachiko had no home. He lived on the street, fought other dogs, and ate scraps and handouts. Hachiko got sick with worms and mange, but because so many people admired him he was given treatment by a veterinarian. Hachiko became an old, scarred dog, with one ear up and one ear down, and no longer looked like the purebred Akita that he was.

        It was March, 1935 when Hachiko finally died. The old Akita was found on a city street. He had waited for his master for almost ten years. Many people were saddened by Hachiko's death.  Hachiko's story of loyalty touched the hearts of many people all over the world.

       The dog’s statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II but in 1948 "The Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue" had a second statue made. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot. There is even a ceremony to remember Hachiko every year on April 8.  A Japanese movie was made in 1987 about Hachiko and his master and it became a smash-hit.

       In 2009 a fictionalized version of the movie was made in America entitled Hachi: a Dog’s Story. The movie stars Richard Gere as the professor and three Akita’s from Japan play the part of the dog at different stages of his life.  Besides Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Jason Alexander have parts in the movie. 

       On May 19, 2012, a ceremony took place at the Woonsocket, RI train depot where the American move was filmed.  Unveiled was a permanent bronze statue of the legendary Japanese dog Hachiko.  Hachiko now had a statue in both Japan and America.

       I think we can all learn something about faithfulness from man's best friend.  To be faithful is to be loyal, reliable and trustworthy.  Hachiko was all of these things and then some. Brethren, let us be faithful to God and to our fellow man.

       We have two more attributes of the Spirit to discuss, gentleness and self control. Next time we will look at the attribute of gentleness. 

 PART NINE