Posted by The Upper Room @UpperRoom – 5/20/16
“Although we may not understand what God is doing in our lives, God is always faithful and wants what is best for us.” -Paul E. Vander Wege
In my years of teaching discipleship, mentoring, and working with women in life recovery I have often taught about the Fruit of the Spirit. I teach about the order in which the aspects of the Fruit are listed and how the list can be thought of as moving from easier to more difficult…….like from the “low hanging, easily gathered fruit” , like strawberries or blueberries or grapes that God pours out on us by the bushel basket loads as we move into relationship with him…..Love, Joy, and Peace. Then we are called to cooperate more with the Spirit in gathering the Fruit of Patience and Goodness…..as would be required in gathering and enjoying oranges or apples. Then we move into the next level of difficulty to gain competency with Kindness and Gentleness….enjoyment and effort being something akin to the effort to eat pomegranates or grapefruit. Then the even more challenging Fruit of Faithfulness…….like wielding a sharp blade to gather and prepare a pineapple. And finally, that elusive one, Self-Control, being like gathering and cracking open a coconut. Just a fun way of considering moving along the increasingly difficult call to live out the fullness of the character of Christ.
Through the years, too, I have focused frequently on “Faithfulness”, it being a somewhat hallmark measuring standard of how well we are doing in our Christian journey toward maturity…..represented by ability to seek out, understand and be obedient to God’s Word. As a Bible teacher I emphasize the many blessings of Faithfulness and Obedience, especially as I teach spiritual disciplines, too.
This week, however, the Lord has tweaked my understanding of how I am to teach Faithfulness. It’s something I’ve always known, but now this understanding has taken a significant priority in reorienting my thinking about Faithfulness. In the past I would say that my teaching on Faithfulness was more focused on Truth…..knowing and doing the things that God desires and Christ has exemplified and taught.
This week God has directed my attention to another aspect of Faithfulness…..Perseverance. It is not always about knowing or doing what is right. It can just as importantly be about staying engaged in the process as we journey on the path with Christ, or at the table with Christ if you prefer. What is Faithfulness when the efforts to know and do what is right fail us or we cannot see what Faithfulness looks like or we have out and out failed to be Faithful. What does one do then? Abandon the journey, like Mark did in his first journey with Paul? Or blame the stumble on someone else, like Eve and then Adam? Or make corrective actions, learn from mistakes, get up and go at it again? One would think that in all my years of working with women in recovery (and the relapses that go with it) that I would have made this correction toward Fiathfulness as Perseverance in the effort instead of simply in knowing and being Obedient to it without failure.
As many times as I have failed and found God Faithful to love, rescue, comfort, instruct, and set my feet on the path again one would think I would have already adapted this pattern myself. But no, I have tended to focus on the knowing and the doing the Truth through Faithfulness, not on the staying with the effort in pursuit of Faithfulness.
As I think about it, in the Beatitudes, Christ says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” The blessing is not reserved for those who achieve righteousness, but is for those who are willing to continue in the daily pursuit of it. It is the same thing with Faithfulness……just as none are righteous, no not one, neither are any of us Faithful every time, in every way, and with every effort.
God has impressed on my heart once again that in the priority of our seeking to be like Christ, we must allow for the necessity to put Grace ahead of Truth, as described in John 1: 14, 17. Truth is good and necessary, but Grace is to have the first billing, as it will carry us further than Truth in the long run. We need both legs to walk the path well, but if one must choose only one to rely on……we can rely on Grace, trusting that Christ will allow us to lean on him to be the Truth. Our view of Truth may be wanting, as none of us holds all of the Truth. But with Grace, there is no partial portion or degree….there is simply Grace in all its sufficiency for every time and every purpose for every person. Given one or the other on which to bank one’s Faithfulness……..based on our own ability to know and trust it….I think I’d rather have Faithfulness in attempting Grace than Faithfulness in attempting Truth. No matter how much Truth I can discern, it will never be the “fullness of Truth” that is Christ alone. But with Grace, it doesn’t matter. We will always be given the “fullness of Grace” sufficient for the need.
These little pillows with hanging wires are something I have made through the years to give to ladies who finally seemed to “get it”…..striving for Faithfulness in their relationship with Christ. After multiple disappointments over the years and less and less time for making the handstitched and sewn fabric tokens, I quit doing it. This week I found 5 of them in a bag. As God would have it I have witnessed some truly remarkable evidence of Faithfulness in staying on the journey along the path, or at the table with Christ even in the face of stumbles and out and out failures As God also would have it those instances were observed among the 5 women in the Titus 2 house. God impressed on my heart that there would never be anyone more deserving of recognition for their Faithfulness in staying resolute in the journey than these women who have overcome much and have learned that failure is not fatal when one simply continues to get up again and chooses to keep making the effort to journey with Christ. His Grace will always be sufficient to secure Faithfulness and the Truth will come for all of us in time.