Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Faith and Works Walk Hand-in-Hand

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works."  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe-and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  And he was called the friend of God.  You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.  Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.            James 2:14-26 (NKJ)

Don and Maxine Simpson met when they were teenagers in Bakersfield, CA and had been married for 62 years.  They were both in poor health and knew they were dying.  Wanting to be together, they set up hospital beds side by side in their home where they could be close to each other and hold hands.  In July, 2014, while they were holding hands Maxine died.  Four hours later Don passed away as well.  His grief and loss were too much to bear.

It's that way with faith and works.  I understand completely that works can't save me.  Ephesians 2:8,9 makes that quite clear.  However, once I am saved there is a joining of faith and works that takes place in my spirit.  Even Abraham's faith centuries ago resulted in works, which according to the Word, "was accounted to him for righteousness."

Just like the husband died four hours after his wife, faith will quickly die without works.  Faith and works walk hand-in-hand together.  Works is the evidence of the inward working of the Holy Spirit.  It doesn't boast, brag or want to be recognized.  It does flow from a heart of love and compassion and accomplishes the purposes and plan of God.

I like what my NKJ Bible's footnote for James 2:22 says about faith and works abiding together.  "This is a practical harmony or synergism between vertical faith in God and horizontal works to a needy world.  Faith is both spiritual and practical."  Even Moses acknowledged the power of synergism in Deuteronomy 32:30 when he stated, "How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight..."  When faith and works are united they become a powerful force which can move mountains.  And feed the hungry.  And give water to the thirsty.  And clothe the naked.  And visit the sick.  And visit the one in prison.  (See Matthew 25:31-46)

Application of God's Word:

Okay, the truth is I can't visit every criminal in prison or feed every person who is hungry or give
water to every person who is thirsty; well, you get the picture.  I may not be able to have an affect on the world but how about the guy rummaging through the trash bin behind the grocery store?  How about the little girl who has holes in her shoes that is in my Sunday School class?  How about the neighbor who just found out the devastating news that he has an incurable cancer?  Here's the bottom line...faith tells me I can trust God to direct my steps.  Works tells me He has directed my steps to give my neighbor a hug and a prayer.  Works tells me He has directed my steps to the shoe store.  Works tells me I can take the guy into the grocery store and buy him a drink and sandwich.

I remember when my son was about 14 years old he wanted me to take him to the store to buy some snacks with money he earned mowing lawns.  As we were leaving the store's parking lot there was a man pan-handling.  He was in bad shape and we could tell he had been on the streets for a long time.  Mike started yelling at me to stop.  He rolled down his window and handed the man his bag of goodies.  I don't know what the man thought about getting Gatorade, beef jerky, chips, candy, and whatever else Mike had in the bag but I do know his eyes were filled with tears when my son gave it to him.  My son warned him that it wasn't much but to that man it was everything.  Yeh, that's faith and works walking hand-in-hand. 

Personal Matters:

I hate to admit it, but I'd be more likely to turn away than to give that man my bag of goodies.  In fact, I wrote a poem several years ago about a family I saw on the corner by one of the local malls and my reaction to their plight.  I'm not much of a poet but hope this helps bring the point home.

Those Were My Children
Yesterday on the corner by the mall
I saw a sight that ought not to be.
A father, mother, and two children
Raggedly dressed were begging pitifully.
A little child held up a cardboard sign:
"Homeless - Children hungry today
Can you help me, I'm willing to work
And we have another little one on the way."
No one stopped to help those folks
Instead they stared in utter disgust.
I looked away so that I couldn't see
Pleading eyes searching for someone to trust.
"How do I know they're for real?
This might be a gimmick, a trick.
They won't get a cent of my money
Unless I can research to see if they're legit."
I drove on past to the renewal service
That was being held at church that day.
But I could not feel God's presence
Or find comfort when I worshiped and prayed.
I heard my Lord's saddened voice
As He disciplined me from above.
"Those were My children on that corner
Who needed someone to show them My great love."
Then He took me back in the past
To a difficult time when I was about ten.
 Our Thanksgiving came from a giving church
And our Christmas depended on the generosity of men.
I had forgotten how unfair things could be
And how disaster can change your life.
I had forgotten the kindness of others
Which helped us through the hardship and strife.
And then my Lord gently reminded me
That faith without works is dead.
Faith and works walk together
Hand-in-hand when by the Spirit I'm led.   

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