The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
Faith, as it appears in the King James Version of Galatians 5:22, includes the concepts of faithfulness and obedience. In this particular instance it is contrasted with works of the flesh (acts of sinful nature). Faithfulness is both an attitude and an action shown toward God and toward others.
The nine graces or fruit of the Spirit can be divided into three groups for ease of study and consideration. Love, joy, peace reflect our relations to God. Patience, kindness, goodness can be seen in our relations to others. Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are indicative of the regulation and conduct of our own individual Christian lives.
The Greek word is pistis, translated primarily as “a form of persuasion.”1 In the Galatians passage the focus is on the concept of trustworthiness, trustfulness, and reliability.2
Trustworthiness Of Our Example
First, let us consider the example of an individual who clearly demonstrated this Christian grace, Henrietta Mears. In 1928, she walked into a classroom of college students assembled for Sunday morning study in the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. She made quite an impression, dressed in a pink silk dress draped with white furs and a pink picture hat covered with white roses. However, she left no time for gasps as she led the class into a study of Romans 12:1,2. She held the young people spellbound. Although famous for her flashy appearance, she was keenly sensitive to the importance of helping her students see Christ. She saw that college class grow from a few dozen to over 600 students. As the director of Christian education for the church, she supervised a Sunday school that grew from 400 people to over 4,000 in just 2 years.
She also was keenly aware that scriptural truth must be relevant, Christ must be presented in every lesson, and the teaching staff must be adequately trained. After seeing a lesson, which taught that the apostle Paul survived a shipwreck by eating carrots, Henrietta knew something must be done to correct such bad curriculum. Scriptural integrity was essential.
One of the students she influenced was Vonette Bright, now associated with Campus Crusade for Christ. Mrs. Bright said, “I caught from her the Christian life, not only from her teaching, but also from her living. To me she was one of the greatest Christians of all time.”3
Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade for Christ, also attested to Henrietta Mears’ great influence and affirmed that 2 Timothy 2:2 was particularly applicable to her, “Teach these great truths to trustworthy men who will, in turn, pass them on to others” (Living Bible).
Paul would not agree with the Greek philosopher Plato that virtue comes by recalling innate ideas; nor would he affirm the position of Aristotle that a virtuous life is the result of good habits alone. However, this Christian grace of faithfulness certainly needs to be cultivated.
Trustworthiness Of Our Stewardship
The idea of trustworthiness is further reflected in our concept of a “trustee” in connection with stewardship. In 1 Corinthians 4:1 we are told, “Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” A Christian teacher is responsible to be a good steward of the truths God reveals, and to minister these truths in a reliable manner to those who will be taught.4
The Christian teacher must be faithful to the recipients. In a larger context, a trustee is one who has received a trust. In common practice we generally see this manifest through building a public image, raising funds, authorizing use of funds, and mediating personnel disputes.
The parable of the 10 minas (Roman pounds) also teaches our responsibility to provide proper care and use of the property or business of another. In Luke 19:11–17 we see that each of the 10 servants received one mina, suggesting we all have some capacity for productiveness. But only “one pound”? This may seem a small amount. No one is entitled to say, “I have so little.” God knows how valuable each life is. The appropriate emphasis is on the need for a proper accounting of that which has been entrusted—dependability!
One author suggests 10 basic principles for effective leadership. Dependability is viewed as one of these essentials. This can be demonstrated by answering correspondence within a reasonable time, keeping appointments, avoiding rationalization in regard to one’s weaknesses, and loyalty to the group or organization with which an individual is associated.5
Trustworthiness Of Our Reliability
In Luke 16 we have the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. The concept of faithfulness is also demonstrated in this passage. Interpreters disagree as to whether the discounting practice is honest. Was the manager giving away something he himself did not own? On the other hand perhaps he was eliminating the interest payments his master may have overcharged the debtors. Whichever it was, he was shrewd enough to appropriate the means at his disposal in order to plan for his future well-being.
The ingenuity of the manager was recognized and rewarded. The important lesson for us here is that when an individual is given a responsibility, he must establish confidence. Our first impression may be that Christ restricted the application of this parable to the 12 apostles or to the Seventy. However, it appears to have been addressed to all professed followers of Christ who were present when it was delivered. Therefore, we can understand it as applicable to all Christians today, not those in leadership alone.
If we were not required to account for our actions, responsibility would be meaningless. We must give an account of our time, talents, homes, bodies, speech, and possessions. We must be accountable for everything God has entrusted to us.
Furthermore, faithfulness in small things is taught in verse 10. Fidelity is required in small matters as well as in those of more importance. An office supply salesman once observed his sales of common lead pencils seemed to triple in volume during the month of September. His comment about this phenomenon to several customers resulted in a close monitoring of the supplies. It was then discovered that certain employees repeatedly needed a larger supply of pencils during this period of time. Further inquiry resulted in an interesting discovery. These employees were all parents of schoolchildren; and school had resumed in September! If our reliability (faithfulness) can be affirmed in small matters, it will stand the test of greater responsibility!
For centuries, Christian mystics and others have written and spoken disparagingly of ambition, thinking it to be sinful. However, ambition when used to the glory of God is worthy of praise. The word comes from the Latin and means “canvassing for promotion.”6 True leadership is achieved in selfless service to others and is wrapped in humility.
One can have selfish ambition to control others, to enjoy power for power’s sake, and to be unscrupulous or manipulative in control of other people. Jesus gave a different standard to His followers. The one who would be the greatest shall be the servant of all.
Many years ago when as a pastor I was engaged in the process of building a new church, discouragement set in. Much had been accomplished, but we had reached a plateau of growth and progress. The budget was inadequate, and expenses were mounting. How could God be glorified in this state of affairs?
As I sought to “pull myself together” to be able to lead a midweek service positively, and to provide appropriate guidance for the congregation, encouragement came in a most unexpected manner: The widely known gospel singer, “Big” John Hall, walked into the church. He was free that night and said he would enjoy the opportunity to worship with us.
When the invitation was extended to the singer for an unplanned musical presentation he responded with the song, “They That Sow in Tears Shall Reap in Joy,” dedicating it to the pastor. The song was based on Psalm 126:5,6, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” What a glorious confirmation of faithful effort!
The full extent of our influence through faithfulness may not always be known. The story is told of the time Lyman Beecher was engaged to preach on a wintry day, and there happened to be only one hearer. He went through the service as if he had a large audience. About 20 years later, a stranger in Ohio reminded him of that wintry day, saying, “I am the one person who was in that service. Your sermon saved my soul, and I too became a minister. The converts of your sermon, sir, are scattered all over the state of Ohio.”
How faithful are we in example, in stewardship, and in reliability?
1. W.E. Vine, M.F. Unger, and W. White, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985), 222.
2. R. Bultmann, in George Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1985, 853.
3. Dream Big: The Henrietta Mears Story, ed. Earl O. Roe, from promotional brochure (Ventura, Calif: Regal Books, 1991).
4. H.D.M. Spense and J.S. Excell, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1950), 19:160.
5. Kenneth Gangel, So You Want To Be a Leader (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1973), 17,18.
6. Ted W. Engstrom, The Making of a Christian Leader (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 38.