I have a best friend here on earth. For sure, I would be a very different person if not for his influence in my life these last five years. We’ve spent countless hours in each other’s company and maybe even more over the phone since I moved away. Like every friendship, ours could not have started without first meeting the person in one way or another (while I don’t really advocate making close friendships over the internet, I suppose that it is legitimate in some respects.).
What I want to ask you is this: How far do you think our friendship would have progressed if all I was willing to do was smile and nod when we met? I almost never spoke, I never offered to have him over, never did anything but nod in acknowledgement of his presence in the room. I guarantee you, he probably would have moved on rather quickly (after awkwardly nodding back).
How often do we treat our relationship with God the same way? We enthusiastically acknowledge His presence, and label the things we do with trying to stay in “His will.”
So you believe in one God? Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:19~20)
I remember the first time that this verse stood out to me: I was floored. By our simple, pious acknowledgement that there is one God, and we believe it, we do nothing more than the worst of all creation. In fact, we do less, because most of us have no concept of what it means to fear God, let alone serve Him. And yet, we put ourselves on some sort of pedestal because we believe in the one true God when a large percentage of humanity does not. I cannot criticize your belief, James is not sarcastic when he says “Good!” But I must condemn the hypocrisy that you and I share in not making our faith legitimate by our refusal to work on God’s behalf.
I am a photographer. I recently purchased some really great software (Adobe Lightroom 3, I highly recommend it). I love that program: it makes work so much easier and more enjoyable. However, to save a couple hundred dollars on it, I bought the student/teacher edition. It’s the full package once you provide proof of enrollment. I have had that program for a month and a half, and have not gotten it unlocked yet. So here I am with this $320 software disk sitting on my shelf because I have not taken the time to make the few simple steps to unlocking it. It’s foolishness.
So how long is our faith going to remain all about us? Shoot, I’m saved and I’m going to heaven, what else is there? But how can we possibly claim that we have “faith” when we never take an opportunity to put it to the test?
I also like cutlery, specifically smaller knives. I greatly enjoy keeping a very finely honed edge on my knives. But how impressed would you be if when asked how sharp my knife is, I puffed my chest and said “I sliced the tape on the package that I got yesterday! And I mean sliced: like butter. And it was even the kind with the string woven through it! And my knife, the one that I sharpened went right through it!” You would be thinking “give me a break!” If someone tells me that their knife is sharp, I want to see them whacking through 1.5inch nylon cord, or making paper-thin shavings off of rawhide leather, at least.
So how about your faith? Tell me all about how strong your faith is.
I fail at letting God strengthen my faith. God points to someone on the street and says “go talk to that guy, he needs someone to be kind to him”, and I run away like a chicken. But that doesn’t nullify the consistent words of scripture: Faith. Without. Works. Is. DEAD. Dead means not alive, nonexistent, unresponsive. That’s where we get the power of being “dead to sin” (Romans 6). When we are dead to something, it’s a bit hard to respond to it’s call isn’t it? So do we want our faith to be dead?
Let’s take a challenge together: Pray with me “God, please strengthen my faith today. Whatever it takes, I want to be closer to You by the end of the day.”
That’s a scary prayer, my friends. I haven’t even prayed it yet, I just typed it. I guess I need faith to ask God for faith.
Let’s stop merely acknowledging God’s reality and start having real faith: Faith that isn’t free, isn’t easy, isn’t comfortable, isn’t always fun, but is always worth it.