The Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness
(Matthew 25, John 16)
Introduction: Imagine parents whose children repeatedly rejected them. The children even went so far as to claim their parents had died (when they had not) and then asserted that they were children of another couple! One day the real parents lost their lives rescuing their ungrateful children from a fire. That is a picture of faithfulness. That is the picture of what our God has done for humans. As followers of God, what does He expect of us when it comes to being faithful? Are we called to be firefighters? How do we get to the point where God calls us ( Matthew 25:21) a "good and faithful servant?" Let's jump into our study of the Bible and find out!
- Wedding Faithfulness
- Read Matthew 25:1. We have television shows where twenty women will compete to marry one guy, or twenty men will compete to marry one woman. Do we have ten potential brides? Or, is this a polygamous marriage and we have ten brides? (The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary suggests that these are the bride's attendants. The groom would go to the bride's home to take her back to his home for the marriage. Thus, these attendants are waiting with the bride for the groom to come.)
- Read Matthew 25:2-4. How important was it for these attendants to be ready at whatever time the bride came? (Very! They were not just some of the friends, they were a part of the wedding.)
- Read Matthew 25:5-9. Let's talk about the "wise" attendants for a while. How can they be wise and fall asleep?
- Who was it who woke them up? Someone more faithful than they were?
- Did the wise love the foolish "as themselves" ( Matthew 22:39) when they refused to split their extra oil with them?
- Read Matthew 25:10-12. The wise and selfish attendants go in, and the foolish are shut out because they were working hard to buy more oil. Does this seem fair to you?
- Read Matthew 25:13. Jesus suggests the problem is that the foolish did not "keep watch." What would you say if you were a foolish (but smart) attendant? (I would point to the fact ( Matthew 25:5) that all of the attendants fell asleep. No one was properly keeping watch!)
- Something else troubles me. Why would the groom say that he never knew them? They were just late!
- When Jesus says "Keep watch, you don't know the day or hour," is He talking about weddings? (No. Matthew 25:1 says this is about "the kingdom of heaven." Christians understand Jesus to be telling a parable about His Second Coming - the time when Jesus takes us home to heaven.)
- Let's examine this story more deeply to understand what Jesus is trying to teach us. What were the most important factors for a favorable outcome? (Having an extra oil supply and being ready at the right time.)
- What factors have no impact on the outcome of the story? (Having some oil, having a lamp, falling asleep, having to be alerted by someone else to the coming of the groom.)
- Our lesson is about being faithful. In light of Jesus' parable, what do you think it means to be faithful?
- What is the oil and where do we get an extra supply?
- The traditional answer is that the oil is the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4), but how does that fit with the idea of an "extra supply?"
- Read John 16:7-15, but specifically focus on John 16:13-15. Based on this, what do you think it means to have an extra supply of the Holy Spirit? (Understanding God more fully. The deeper our understanding of the Bible, the more "oil" we have.)
- What does this say about whether the wise attendants were selfish? (You cannot instantly sell or share a deep understanding of God. Each person must, through the power of the Holy Spirit, study to know God.)
- Why was being asleep not important to the outcome? (This shows that we can be mistaken, we can be asleep, we can fail to understand things correctly, but if we have this deep understanding of God, if we have a desire to know Him, then He will waken us to truth at the right time.)
- Why was being chosen as an attendant, being part of the bridal party, having oil and a lamp irrelevant to the outcome? (Being a Christian, being a church member, having some degree of the Holy Spirit in your life, and even being a "light" do not guarantee the outcome. God is looking for those who take their Christianity seriously. Those who have an intense desire to know and do God's will. Those are the faithful. Those are the ones who God knows ( Matthew 25:12).)
- Servant Faithfulness
- Read Matthew 25:14-15. On what basis did the master decide to distribute his property? (By the relative talents of the servants.)
- I have this idea that God can work wonders through anyone. The disciples seemed to be ordinary people. On the other hand, Moses and Paul, seem extraordinary. What does that teach us about faithfulness? (If you were born with natural talents, God expects more of you. What you can do with God's blessings is extraordinary.)
- What if you are like me, and you see people around you who are more talented? (God has important work for us. We should not be envious of those with more natural talents.)
- Read Matthew 25:16-23. Notice the final score - ten talents for the one guy and only four for the other. One fellow has 100% and one fellow has 40%. Forty percent is a very failing score in my class. Why are they both called "faithful?"
- How does this fit into the "extra supply" lesson that we just learned from the story of the wedding attendants? (The smarter you are, the more natural ability you have to understand God's word. (But see, 1 Corinthians 1:20-21.) Natural talent may mean you are given more opportunities, but it plays no role in the final verdict: "Well done, good and faithful servant! ... Come share your master's happiness!")
- Read Matthew 25:24-27. If the fellow had put the talent in the bank and collected interest, would he have been commended?
- Did this fellow get a break from the master because he only started out with one talent? (No - at least not from the obligation to do something to advance the master's interests.)
- What must we do to avoid the fate of this one talent fellow?
- Read Matthew 25:28-29. Why give the one talent to the ten talent guy as opposed to the faithful four talent guy?
- What does this teach us about the nature of our natural talents? (They are not static! I started out talking about natural abilities, those we had a birth. But, this reveals an important Bible secret - that the same God who endowed us with natural talents at birth can expand and improve those talents during our life if we put them to work for Him.)
- As you consider these two stories, what picture do you now have about the meaning of faithfulness? (First, it means that through the power of the Holy Spirit we study to better understand the will of God. Second, it means that we take that understanding, combine it with our natural abilities, and we go to work to advance the interests of our Master. We advance the Kingdom of God. We are not troubled by people with more natural talent who seem to be able to do more, but we know that if we are diligent, God will bless us with more "natural" talent.)
- Friend, this is a challenge. Will you decide, right now, to partner with the Holy Spirit to seek to more completely understand God's will? As your understanding of God's will improves, will you use your natural talents to advance God's will? If so, look forward to these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant! ... Come share your master's happiness!"
- Next week: The Fruit of the Spirit is Meekness.