Faithfulness is really the mature fruit of faith. Faith is given to all who believe in Jesus. (Romans 12:3). It is a seed. This seed is capable of growing and maturing. God plants the seed of faith inside of you when you believe in Jesus. As you tend to it, it grows into a fruit, the fruit of faithfulness, which is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Jesus talked about faith with His disciples. We often think He said that faith the size of a mustard seed would move mountains. But what He said was that if you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could move mountains. (Matthew 17:19-20). If you possessed it. He didn't say the seed would move the mountain, but once you possess the seed you have the potential to move mountains. The seed has to grow to the point that moving mountains is a possibility, but being in possession of it is the first step.
The other day, I gave my daughter some parsley seeds. If I would have handed them to her and then immediately asked her to make me a parsley salad would she have been able to? No. But did she possess parsley? Yes, but in the form of seeds which have to be planted, nurtured, and given time to grow. Until she had those seeds in her possession, eating parsley was an impossibility. However, once the parsley seeds were in her possession it became a possibility. In the same way, once you possess faith, nothing is impossible.
We're all tested. We're sent to this earth for the testing of our faith. The earth is our proving grounds--the furnace which burns off the dross and reveals the purity of our hearts because of our faith in Jesus. (See Psalm 12:6, Isaiah 48:10).
Consider the man born blind. (John 9). His disciples asked Him whose fault it was that the man was born blind. In the Old Testament, whenever the children of Israel disobeyed or got off into sin, sure enough sickness, disease, or calamity of some type happened. When they would repent, then healing and deliverance came. We see the pattern over and over again. The disciples knew that, so when they saw the blind man they wanted to know whose sin was responsible for his condition. Jesus surprised them by saying neither. This man was born into a situation, but Jesus came to bring healing and deliverance to him.
We are all born into situations, some better than others, but all of us go through tough times throughout our lifetime. Times of trials and testing. These situations of life test us, they reveal things like what kind of person we are, and who (or what) our trust is in. Although really, its the Word of God that is tested, but along with that our faith in Him and His Word is tested. Hopefully, it will be proven to be genuine--the real thing. The Bible tells us that the trying of our faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:3-9). Jesus knows what its like to go through tough times. He lived on the earth as a man and was tempted in every way that we are. (Hebrews 4:15).
The only way to test faith is to measure it by faithfulness. Anyone can believe for five minutes. But when the pressure is on for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, will your faith remain strong? Or maybe its not a long time of testing, but an intense period. Either way, if you remain true to the Lord, you have proven your faithfulness. Faithfulness is proven faith. Faith matures into faithfulness as it grows. The same is true of patience. Being patient for five minutes is not a true test of patience (in most cases). But remaining patience through the entire test or trial proves you have genuine patience.
It's also important to realize that the ultimate test of your faith is not whether or not you can turn a situation from bad to good, but whether you will remain faithful through the testing period. We often think that being able to proclaim a thing and see it happen instantly is a sign of great faith. However, look at these three examples:
- Job...After Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health, he said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). During his entire time of testing he did not sin or blame God (Job 1:22). He knew something about faithfulness. Even though God allowed Satan to do all he did to Job, he still kept his eyes on God. He was his hope for deliverance.
- Joseph...His brothers sold him into slavery and told his father he was dead (Genesis 37). He went through hard times--being away from his family, false accusations, imprisonment, and yet he remained faithful to God.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego... When Nebuchadnezzar gave the command for everyone to fall down and worship his statue, they refused stating that they will only worship God. He threatened to throw them in the fiery furnace and they responded by saying that God is able to deliver them from the furnace, but even if He didn't, they still wouldn't bow down and worship a false god. (Daniel 3:16-18).
In all three of these examples, they came through their trials with the blessing of God. Job ended up with twice of what he lost (Job 42:10). Joseph became second in command in Egypt and saved God's nation of Israel from extinction. In Egypt he was promoted and able to prepare the nation to survive a coming famine, saving the nation of Israel in the process. He told his brothers, what they meant for evil the Lord used for good (Genesis 50:20). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the furnace unharmed and not even smelling like smoke. Their faith--really their faithfulness--was tested and proven to be genuine (Daniel3:26-27).
In the book of Hebrews11, we read of some who didn't receive the promise before they died. However, they saw them from a distance and realized that this earth is not their true home. What happens here is not the end, God is preparing a much better place for us on the other side (See Hebrews 11:13-16, John 14:1-3).
What happens if your faith(fulness) fails? You still have seeds. As long as you have faith in Jesus, you have the seed of faith within you. You still have your measure of faith He gave you. Jesus prayed for Peter that His faith wouldn't fail (Luke 22:31-32). Peter went through a time of testing when Jesus died, but he came through it and lived to proclaim the gospel as he was called to do. Jesus is praying for you too! He's praying for your faith to remain strong. He's praying for you to remain faithful during the trials of this earth. (Hebrews 7:23-25).
Prioritize. If you had to choose one thing to remain at the end of your trial, would it be:
- That you get your answer to prayer, or
- That you remain faithful to God during the trial (don't sin, get bitter etc.)
Which would you choose, if you could only have one? The thing that will last for eternity is faithfulness. The things of this earth will fade away and sometimes, when you choose faithfulness, you will get both--like Job, Joseph, and the boys in the fiery furnace. Just remember that the end doesn't justify the means.
God cares about your eternal life. He cares about you spiritually, your character, your heart and motivations. He knows what is most important. At times He may push you. He may challenge you. Not for punishment, but to strengthen your faithfulness. He is building faithfulness in you that will last for all eternity. Isn't that better than a new car? In fact, anything that will be done away with at the end of your life, or the end of this age, is less important than the faithfulness, or any fruit of the Spirit, that is developed during your time of testing.
The seed of faith is planted in your garden. Its meant to grow and produce fruit. Will you nurture it? Will you bear the fruit of peace during your time of testing? Will you produce love during your time of testing? What about joy, gentleness, self-control, and patience? These are all fruit that you can bear during your testing time. Faithfulness is the key to it all. The seed of faith grows into faithfulness. Don't waste your trials, allow them to do the work of purifying your faith--more precious than gold.