LENT: Goodness, Faithfulness, by Evelyn Underhill

From The Fruits of the Spirit

This time we have two quite positive qualities.  If on one hand the Spirit brings forth a quiet and patient acquiescence in God’s purpose, on the other hand it brings forth a quality of personal fitness of His service.  Goodness, of course, does not merely bear our cheap modern meanings of either goodness or pleasantness; the “good woman” or the “good fellow.”  It has no special reference to correct moral behavior.  It is a word that denotes perfection of quality: a good run, good cheese, good vintage, good stuff, good garden soil – the opposite number to every kind of imperfection, shoddiness, and cheapness.  The fruit of God’s presence and action in the soul is an enhancement of our quality.  It is better stuff right through than it was before.  The Greek word carries with it a certain character of perfection, nobility, rightness, even beauty.  The Good Shepherd is not just the very kind, devoted, attentive, conscientious shepherd: He is the classic pattern of all shepherds, had a total quality of beauty and completeness.

Faithfulness is consecration in overalls.  It is the steady acceptance and performance of the common duty and immediate task without any reference to personal preferences – because it is there to be done and so is a manifestation of the will of God.  It is Elizabeth Leseur settling down each day to do the household accounts quite perfectly (when she would much rather have been in church) and saying, “the duties of my station come before everything else.”  It is Brother Lawrence taking his turn in the kitchen, and Saint Francis de Sales taking the burden of a difficult diocese and saying, “I have now little time for prayer – but I do what is the same.”

The fruits of the Spirit get less and less showy as we go on.  Faithfulness means continuing quietly with the job we have been given, in the situation where we have been placed; not yielding to the restless desire for change.  It means tending the lamp quietly for God without wondering how much longer it has got to go on.  Steady, unsensational driving, taking good care of the car.  A lot of the road to Heaven has to be taken at thirty miles per hour.

The first step taken towards Calvary was the worst: but in the first step all was achieved.  Be thou faithful unto death – and I will give thee the Crown of Life.  Faithfulness is one of the sturdy qualities most dear to the heart of God.  Peter was offered just the same chance of the same royal virtue.  Jesus was victorious on the cross.  Peter was defeated, warming himself by the fire, for the night was cold.  I wonder how we should act if the same sort of crisis, charged with fear and quite devoid of consolation, came our way?  It is a crisis which in some form all the saints have had to face.

You remember the noble figure of Faithful in the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian’s best friend.  How he started from the City of Destruction some time after Christian, but soon passed him on the road because he never thought it necessary to linger, to ask for help or explanations in the House of the Interpreter, or worry about dangers in the way.  He just plodded steadily on.  Christian, who is the sort of excellent man who gets full value out of all obstacles, worries constantly and leaves nothing to chance; he is surprised to find how well Faithful has got on and says, “But what about the lions in the path?”  Faithful said he had never noticed any lions, he thought they must have been having their after-dinner snooze.  And when he got to the Valley of Humiliation, he was attacked by two temptations, one to shame and one to discontent, but made short work of both.  After that he went all the way in sunshine through the Valley of Humiliation and the terrible Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That, I think, is one of Bunyan’s loveliest bits.  Faithful is the least self-occupied of all the pilgrims.  We hear nothing about his burden or fatigue or difficulty or the poor state of the road.  Christian makes a good deal of the Valley of Humiliation, tells us about how horrible it was and feels it very remarkable that he ever got through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  There is none of that in Faithful.  He is not thinking about saving his soul.  He is thinking about God.  And so he goes in sunshine all the way.

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