Action alone does not mean there is faith; however, faith without action is “dead and useless.” If you have faith, it should result in some fruit. People should see your good deeds. People should see something different in you, something that will point them to the One with whom you have faith.
The fruit isn’t going to come if you don’t have action. If you say you have faith, but no one can tell, you may need to reevaluate this thing you call faith. James notes knowing that your brother and sister are without and simply telling them to have a good day, appearing oblivious to their needs, does no good. To know something and not act upon it makes no sense at all.
Today, test your faith. When was the last time you demonstrated your faith? When was the last time your faith was challenged?
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” – James 2:14-17 [NLT]
We often get absorbed in things. Before you know it you were online for an hour. Before it was realized, you played the video game half the night. When you had planned to get work done, something else grabbed your attention. While at work, you became so focused on a task, that you stayed late at the office and did not take note until long after. We all get absorbed.
Today’s passage talks about being absorbed with God projects. The people were so absorbed with the God projects “that they didn’t notice God right in front of them.” He was right there but they were so busy taking over their lives, focusing on what they were doing. What happened? “They stumbled into Him and went sprawling.”
Are you taking on a lot of God projects disregarding what James said about works, trying to earn your way into the Kingdom? Remember there’s a stumbling block—God is right in front of you. If you are missing Him, if you are not trusting Him and thinking you can earn your way, you’ve missed it all—and you too will go sprawling. There was a time in my life that I thought the more good I did, the better chance I had. But there’s only one way to Heaven, through Jesus Christ, through the blood of Jesus. There is no other way. If you are focused on God projects, you’re missing the boat.
“How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling.” – Romans 9:30-32 [MSG]
Recently my son had a problem with his gaming system. I decided to reveal my tech geek side and began to look deeper into the issue. I realized that the disc drive was malfunctioning and had another drive ordered. When it arrived, the sticker on the box said, “new.” I quickly learned that it was anything but new. It had a padded wrapper over it but inside told another story. I found things broken and a stripped screw.
The people who sold me the disc drive can easily slap a sticker on a box and say the merchandise is new even though it is anything but new. With us, we can pretend to be a particular way; however, if we have the Spirit, if we accepted Jesus into our lives and were baptized, then there should be a sign of fruit—fruit from our lives.
You cannot fake a relationship with Christ. You cannot slap on a label (ex: “Christian”) and think it makes the reality change. There’s a song that says, “You’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Today, are you a box with a deceptive sticker or are you the real deal? If people look around will they see the fruits of your labor or will they get lost and confused from the image you try to uphold?
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:16-18 [ESV]
There will always be some things that we are very good at and some things that are not very easy to undertake. We have weaknesses. Some of us are uncoordinated. Some of us do not do well speaking in front of crowds. Some of us are not good with math. We all have something we can consider as a weakness, something that isn’t our strong suit.
When Moses was commanded to go speak to Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was not so eager to go right away. He made excuse after excuse, and one of those excuses related to his problem with speech. Eventually his brother Aaron is mentioned to assist and off Moses went after a bit of dragging of the feet.
But what do we read in Acts? Luke wrote that Moses “was powerful in speech and action.” He wasn’t so weak after all. Why? When we are weak, the strength of Christ is able to step in because of our humility to recognize we cannot do it alone. Moses was powerful in words and deeds because it was through God’s power that he spoke, and he followed through on those words. He acted. If it wasn’t for the action, the words wouldn’t have meant so much. If it wasn’t for God, he wouldn’t have been able to speak at all.
“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.” – Acts 7:22 [NIV]
Last night I was watching this television show that just began for what I believe is a week long program. Although I am not much of a television buff, I tuned in to this NBC show because of the title, “Take It All.” The show has contestants selecting unknown prizes from a screen or deciding to “steal” a gift from one of their fellow contestants. Whoever has selected the most valuable of the prizes moves on to the next round of play. The last round has the two final contestants facing off in a last standoff. Each contestant selects one small container which has some cash amount listed inside. Each contestant must make a selection which will determine if they keep the prizes they earned earlier, the cash that is in the container they just selected, and possibly even the other contestant’s prizes.
I sat and watched as the older gentleman the host called “Santa” told his opponent that he could be trusted, that because he believe God placed them both there for a reason and that they both could be blessed, that he would select to “keep mine.” If both contestants selected “keep mine” they would both take home what they had earned. If she decided to select “take it all,” but “Santa” said he would only “keep mine,” she would take it all. The contestant said she didn’t know if she could trust him. Earlier in the game he tried to take items from other contestants. She didn’t trust him. The last move of the game, she picked to “Take it All.” It could have been an issue of greed; however, she again and again said she did not trust this man because of what his actions showed earlier in the game.
I thought about what she said and also what he had proclaimed before the big decision was made by both contestants. He did stick with his word and selected to “keep mine.” And yet, this lady did not trust him because of his actions before, something I think happens with a lot of Christians. Whether we like it or not, as a Christian, we are a representative of Christ. If we spend some time doing things that are not well representing Christ, and then later try to say that we are to be trusted, people may not see the true Christ. I am not saying that this man was falsely representing Christ. What I am talking about here is trust. If we are to be witnessing to people, there is a relationship that is involved. If we show people two different parts of us, the true us and then a different us, how could a person trust us? How can a person be brought to Christ when shown such a difference?
The lady in the show won everything—the money and prizes she had, plus everything that the other man had earned. She truly did “take it all.” Although we are taught to not take everything, to be generous, we are also taught to be truthful, to be faithful, to be like Christ. If we are not real with people, when we finally tell them about Jesus, about what He did for our lives, for how good He is, people may have already decided long before by your actions that you were a dishonest person and your words will have little meaning.
Verses to consider:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” – Ephesians 4:25 [ESV]
“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.” – Titus 1:16a [NASB]
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18 [NIV]