You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. Galatians 5:4-6
By faith we wait for the hope of righteousness. When I think of faithfulness I usually think of the ways I’m not faithful. For some reason the word immediately draws my attention away from the concept of grace to the opposite concept–my failures. This reveals that I have a faulty idea of what faithfulness is, because these verses are saying we do not become justified by works, but the only thing that matters is faith working itself out in love.
Treadmill of Good Works
In looking at this topic I realized that my assessment of my own faithfulness is based on what I’ve done or what I’m doing. Instead I should be looking down the horizon at what God is transforming me into. What’s the difference?
Assessing what I’m doing creates an internal pressure to do more or at least to maintain my level of perceived righteousness. The actions that might have started in sincerity quickly turn into a self focused treadmill of good works. If I look at the horizon toward what God has promised he will transform me into, I then keep a healthy understanding that God is the one doing the transforming and I’m cooperating with him. This is seen here in the few words that can be easily skimmed over, “For through the Spirit, by faith…” Because I don’t understand how this works I move right past it and yet this is the lynchpin. The Holy Spirit is working in and with us to cause this transformation. This process is what is known as our sanctification.
Eyes on the Horizon
Sometimes when I’m walking down the sidewalk my son wants us to walk without stepping on any cracks. We do this laughing and pointing out when each other misses and steps on a crack. Walking this way is fun for about a minute and then it’s almost dizzying to walk looking straight down at our feet. Not to mention you can only walk at a snails pace doing this. And this is like our life. As we walk through life, if we’re constantly analyzing the minutiae of what we want to avoid it’s like trying not to step on cracks in the sidewalk. It’s not possible, it’s not efficient and it’s not enjoyable.
If we look toward our goal it’s still possible to avoid tripping over things blocking our way. It’s the correct way to walk, looking ahead toward the horizon. To bring the metaphor back to real life, we want to look at our goal and not at the ways in which we fail. And we know what the goal of this process is—it’s found just a few verses later in Galatians.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. Galatians 5:22-23
We are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus himself and as that happens these qualities will become more prominent in our lives. How does this transformation happen? I think there are many things that God uses to bring about our sanctification but certainly spending time in prayer is a huge piece of the puzzle. Our relationship with God is a relationship which is cultivated over time; and we need to put in the time.
I know I spend the most time praying when something difficult is taking place in my life. As I look back those are also the times when I gained more perspective or developed a better understanding for God’s love for me and for other people. Difficult times will come and go but we don’t have to wait for those times before we build a relationship with God. By getting to know God, we will get to know his love more intimately. By knowing his love we will experience the grace needed to face the areas in our lives where we need to grow. When we bring those areas to God he will then empower us by his love and grace to grow, and as we do, we will understand his love for us and others even more.
This whole cyclical process is where we will find faithfulness. Mostly it’s God’s faithfulness to us, but it’s also where we can exercise our faithfulness to God by his grace.
Let’s keep our eyes on the goal and not on our failures. By God’s grace, let us be faithful to the calling.
All scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version