December 16, 2015

Who Is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit (Part 7)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like faithfulness.

What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patiencekindnessgoodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

This is going to be a different kind of post, sweet friends. As we finish out this series on the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I've been sharing the wisdom and inspiration of other writers. I asked my 12-year-old, who loves to write, to share with you on faithfulness. Which she agreed to do...until school and dance and band and other life stuff got in the way. So you're back to me for this post, and because I'm doing this in the thick of the Christmas season, I'm just going to write in relatively unstructured fashion.

What other words come to mind when you think of faithfulness? My brain leaps pretty quickly toward loyalty, consistency, dependability. A few years ago, my uncle was talking about my dad, and he said, "Russ...he's steady." Yes. Steady. My dad is steady. My husband, bless his heart, is steady. And Abba is steady. Look up James 1:17. I love the beautiful word picture of faithfulness James paints in the last part of that verse.

Our pastor at church has been challenging members of our congregation to prepare their testimonies--and to be ready to share them, at any time, in four minutes. I've been working on mine, and I don't know of a better way to write on faithfulness than to share it here. Not because I have been faithful, but because God has.

This is my story. This is my song.

I grew up in the church. This is a truth I write with a heart full of gratitude, because I do not take it for granted, and as an adult, I know what a gift it is.

From the time I was a baby, I was in church every Sunday morning. When I was old enough, I went to Sunday School every week. I sang in the "cherub choir." I went to Vacation Bible School and summer church camp. And because of all this, truth about Who God is was woven into the fabric of my reality all along.

I learned that the Earth is round, that the sun comes up every morning, that 2 + 2 = 4, and that God loves me and wants me to belong to Him and that He sent His Son Jesus to deal with the sin that gets in the way of our relationship. 

The was my reality, and I accepted it with the childlike faith God says we all have to have to enter His kingdom. Out of this faith, I prayed a prayer in my bedroom of my parents' house when I was in about third grade. I told God I believed in Him and that I knew I was a sinner. I asked Jesus to wipe my sins away and to come live in my heart and to make it possible for me to go to heaven when my life on this earth was done.

I absolutely believe I received eternal salvation in that moment. I believe my status as a child of God was sealed that night. And I believe God wrote my name in His Lamb's Book of Life (see Revelation 21:27)--and there it remains to this day.

If you're waiting for a story of teenage rebellion against God, I don't have one to share. In junior high and high school, I kept wanting to be closer to God, but I didn't really know how to get there.

When I went off to college at a private Christian school where I knew no one, I suddenly got around people who loved God differently than I did. They loved Him more. They loved Him with a passion that was new to me. And I wanted what they had. 

Very quickly, God in His mercy and faithfulness, showed me a game-changing truth. He showed me that up to that point, He had been a piece of my life, but He had never been the whole deal. He had been a spoke on my life's wheel, but He had never been the center Hub. I had compartmentalized God: He was one part of my life, but He was not part of all the other parts. I heard Him say to my mind and heart, "Elizabeth. I don't want to be part of your life. I want to be your life."
One night, in the middle of a typical young-adult personal crisis, I sat in the dark on my bed in my dorm room and cried out to God like I never had before. I lifted up my soul to Him, using these words from Psalm 25: "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God. Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long" (Psalm 25:1,2,4,5).

Since that night, God has been faithfully--steadfastly, consistently--drawing me to Himself and showing me what life with Him as the center spoke looks like. He has taught me to weave personal, in-depth Bible study, prayer, Christian music, worship, fellowship, and service into the fabric of my existence.

Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Faithfulness, then, looks to me like acting and living and thinking based on what we hope for but do not yet see fully. Because hope in I AM is never misplaced. Because His love is faithful. Because His redemption is abundant.
Sweet girl, I'm going to wrap this up with a song. When I hear or read the word "faithfulness," I automatically think of the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." If you're not a hymn fan, take a moment to listen to this version from Page incredible group whose passion is to introduce this present generation to hymns of the past. (Curious about the back story on this group's name? You'll find it at #8 on this list.)
"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"

"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

(Looking for Part 6 of this series? Find it here.)