In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
- James 2:25-26
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
- 1 John 3:18
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
- 2 Peter 1:5
“Add means that we have to do something. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must ‘work out’ our ‘own salvation’ which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12). Add means that we must get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages that is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning— to instruct yourself in the way you must go.
“Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step. Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. If you hesitate when God tells you to do something, you are being careless, spurning the grace in which you stand. Take the initiative yourself, make a decision of your will right now, and make it impossible to go back. Burn your bridges behind you, saying, ‘I will write that letter,’ or ‘I will pay that debt’; and then do it! Make it irrevocable.
“We have to get into the habit of carefully listening to God about everything, forming the habit of finding out what He says and heeding it. If, when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we will know that the habit has been formed in us. We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we have not yet been.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Having been in a “doing” church before, you see those workers that have no clue, spiritually or intellectually, why they do what they do. They just do. They cram James 2 down your throats, because you are not doing as much as they are doing. And most of their doing is to glorify themselves. Most of the workers could not quote John 3:16 and many are proud of the fact that they have no personal testimony, but I am in danger of going to Hell because I do not volunteer for every work crew that goes into Appalachia to build wheelchair ramps to remote mountain cabins, for example.
So, this is a topic that I avoid in my writing, usually. It is just that this topic has been slapping me in the face lately. I worked on a 1 John 3 Bible study recently, published four days ago. The Apostle John talks about your actions being more important than the words “I love you.” James speaks of faith being dead if not accompanied by good deeds, which 1 John 3 also gives examples. But then, I randomly looked through the Oswald Chambers book and found this devotion, based on 2 Peter 1:5, adding to our faith. Put these together, and you get a call to action.
But in some aspects, the action is not building a wheelchair ramp to a remote mountain cabin, for example. It could be giving more to the church to the point of being sacrificial because you are trusting that God will provide instead of relying upon the nest egg you are storing away. That gets those rich people back to the point of camels passing through eyes of needles territory. Can you really rely on God when you have seven digits in your bank account?
No, maybe God wants you to study the Bible more, pray more, grow your faith in baby steps before getting to a spiritual level of a young adult. Maybe, as I wrote in the discussion on 1 John 3, you need to establish the habit of obedience. Maybe you have unresolved sin that needs dealing with. Maybe you have passed by the panhandler at the exit off the interstate highway to the shopping center so many times that you do not notice him any longer. Have you ever rolled down your window, handed him a five-dollar bill, and said, “God loves you and I do too?” Okay, if I handed him a twenty-dollar bill, my wife would tell me that I will be eating rice and beans for the next week, since I gave the man a third of our grocery money.
As you see, I am just throwing out things that are actions, steps of faith, that have nothing to do with building wheelchair ramps … mountain cabins… Yes, I heard a few say, “for example.”
Maybe some of the mountain cabin construction people should be working on those other aspects of growing their faith, too. When someone asks you why you are giving of your time, you need to have your answer, not the answer that the church does this kind of thing and it seems like a good thing to do. That glorifies you and the church, but not necessarily God. That is why Oswald Chambers went down the path he went down in this devotion.
We are not building a wheelchair ramp, we are working out our own individual faith. We are not being hesitant; we are using our initiative. We are relying on God, rather than relying on our own strength. When we dig into what our heart’s desire really is, we might just wipe the sweat from our brow and wonder, “Where did this wheelchair ramp come from?” We might have been so absorbed in our glorifying and worshipping God that the physical work was secondary. But maybe the doing churches need to have Bible studies ahead of the mission trip to start people on the journey of testing their faith long before they pack a hammer into their suitcase.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.