by Josh Winfrey
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness
Most of my adult life has been in the Marine Corps. I’ve met and served with many incredible men but Chris Whitman is on my short list for the most impressive. Chris and I served in multiple units together, on multiple combat deployments to some of the worst holes in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2012. Under austere conditions, facing continuous threat to life and limb, Chris was unshakable. It didn’t matter what came at him; no task was too big; no chore was too small. If you needed an enemy strongpoint cleared, he led his platoon in the attack. If field maintenance was needed on the latrines at the patrol base, he led the poop-burning detail (only those who’ve had the unfortunate distinction of having to burn and stir buckets of human feces know just what a wretched a job that is). It didn’t matter if it was inconvenient or undesirable, life-threatening or simple. If it needed doing, he was on it, no matter the circumstance; and you could rest assured it would be done right the first time.
On one occasion in early 2010, while fighting for control of a Taliban-stronghold in southern Afghanistan, I personally witnessed him run more than 200 meters under enemy machine gun and RPG fire to re-establish contact with a squad that was pinned down by an enemy sniper. After reaching the squad, he directed mortar and machine gun suppressing fire on the sniper and machine gun nest and then led the assault to clear the enemy from their position. Later, he coordinated casualty evacuation flights for multiple Afghan National Army soldiers who were injured while fighting alongside us, even personally carrying one man to the landing zone who was critically injured. It was extraordinary, but that was routine with Chris. His commitment to the mission and loyalty to the men around him quite literally saved lives. He exemplified faithfulness in its truest sense and remains to this day a personal inspiration to me.
For Marines, the motto Semper Fidelis, “Always Faithful”, is more than a catch phrase. It is an expression of the deeply held conviction that binds us to the fundamental principles and core values of who we are as an organization. It speaks to keeping your word and to unwavering commitment to the mission and to the men and women with whom you serve. It means being true to the legacy, loyal to your fellow Marines, and steadfast in meeting the physical, mental, and moral responsibilities of wearing the uniform. It’s foundational to every aspect of the job and life.
Unfortunately, in the broader American culture the word faithful typically calls to mind less an ethos and more just a nice idea. In fact, for many their mind jumps immediately to the context of marriage, precisely because of the widespread and public unfaithfulness that plagues marriages in our culture. But the Bible intended a broader application of the term that is frankly closer to the Marine Corps’ concept. When Paul lists faithfulness among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, he wasn’t talking about marriage but an overall quality of character that shapes and impacts every area of life. He was describing a quality of loyalty and dependability, of reliability and trustworthiness that should characterize every relationship and responsibility of a man’s life. Further, by including it among the fruit of the Spirit, Paul said that if we are walking by the Spirit, there should be evidence in our lives of faithfulness that is a true expression of God’s character working in and through us.
For most of us, our fidelity to Him will not be tested to extremes, under threat of violence or death. Unlike our brothers and sisters in many other parts of the world, or our ancestors in centuries past, we live in a time and place where openly claiming the name of Christ brings no physical persecution. Our test is rather different and lies in navigating the mundane, sometimes monotonous rhythm of the tasks, challenges, and responsibilities in everyday life. Can we be found faithful in the simple spiritual life He’s called us to amid the distraction and excesses of American materialism? Are we faithful to Him in all of the seemingly inconsequential details of our work, our home, our relationships? That is our test.
God desires us to be faithful in all things, big and small. His faithfulness – to Himself, to His promises, to His people – is at the very heart of what makes Him God. He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). He keeps His promises, always. Not some of the time, or 99.99% of the time. He keeps ALL His word, ALL the time. And that’s what He desires of us. If I say I am going to do something, the God-honoring thing is to do it, even if it becomes inconvenient. If I make a commitment to someone, the God-honoring thing is to see it through, even if I get busy with other stuff.
If I see that someone needs help or that a task needs to be done no one else is tending to it, the God-honoring thing to do is to step in and help, no matter how menial the task may seem. God desires servants who are faithful to Him, who follow through on their commitment to Him, who are dependable and trustworthy with the tasks they’re given. We show ourselves faithful to Him by being faithful in the responsibilities and relationships, big and small, that He puts in our lives. And as my faithfulness to Him increases, my faithfulness in the little things becomes less about trudging through it and more about honoring my God and King in every aspect of my life. He wants to accomplish great and mighty things in and through His people. But unless and until we show ourselves faithful in the little things, He will not open bigger doors and greater responsibilities for us.
Where do you lack faithfulness to God? What are the “little things” He’s given you that you haven’t followed through on? Are you a reliable co-worker, a dependable friend? Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” – Luke 16:10. He amplified this point with eternal ramifications in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Imploring the disciples to take an eternal perspective, Jesus told them that their faithfulness and dependability in this life would have a direct impact on their role in the Father’s eternal kingdom. I don’t know about you, but considering how often I falter in the “little stuff”, that’s a sobering thought.
The call to action is simple: Be true to your word. Be dependable in your relationships. Follow through. The first step to accomplishing big things for God is to be faithful in the little things