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A Discussion on Faith & Works

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Let’s have a discussion about faith. If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase that “faith without works is dead”. This is scripture from the book of James in which the author is telling people that faith, if not accompanied by works, or deeds, is useless. I think his meaning has gotten twisted. Let me explain.

I believe we make a mistake when we equate this verse with salvation. People hear this and think “salvation without works is lost”. James isn’t saying that we are not saved if we don’t have the works to back it up. We know that salvation is a gift. Ephesians 2: 8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” So why do people continue to believe that they have to work to be right with God?

When you search the gospels for the word faith, what you see is Jesus using the word faith almost interchangeably for the word trust or belief. Jesus frequently talks about our lack of faith, in regards to trusting God to provide for our needs in the forms of material goods, healing, safety, etc. He is also amazed when people do trust and believe.

In fact, Jesus comments on “great” faith when talking with the centurion and with the Canaanite woman, and I find it fascinating that both of the miracles Jesus performed in this case were at a distance. Both of the healings were for people who were not in the physical presence of Jesus, because of the great faith (belief, trust) of the people that sought him.

It’s this point I want to camp on for a bit. Our works are living out the trust and confidence we have in Jesus to do what we cannot.

Our works are living out the trust and confidence we have in Jesus to do what we cannot.

He is no longer a physical man walking on the earth to heal those with whom he came into contact. This, I believe, is the reason Jesus made such a point of calling this kind of faith great. So that we would KNOW that this is available for us here and now. It is the Hebrews definition of faith, the conviction of things unseen. And this is precisely how God chooses to move on the earth. It is Holy Spirit who lives in us, who lives Jesus’ life through us, that our works are completed through faith. Through the releasing of heaven here on earth with our spoken words (prayer).

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do practical things for people in need. These types of actions are a given, but I think we as a church have camped out here for too long. It is very easy to rely on ourselves to fundraise, to pack a pantry full of food, to work physical care ministries. We do a great job of being first responders in a crisis, of building wells and houses for those in need. We do a great job with the things we can see. We should not stop being a light to the world with such actions.

I’m simply agreeing with A.W. Tozer in that these things can be accomplished in our own power. Well, I'm extrapolating a meaning here, but you get it. He says,

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, ninety-five percent of what we do would go on and no-one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, ninety-five percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”

Again, our programs are good, and God is in them, I’m sure of it. I know many of our programs are in existence today because of the faith of the people that began them. I am simply pointing out that we cannot stop here. We have what the world does not, and it is up to us to release what only God can do. My former pastor said, “We are Plan A. There is no Plan B.”

Who among us is doing “greater works than these?” Who is on the streets, or in their homes, praying for healing, completely relying on God for the outcome (exercising faith, I dare say?) Who is praying for the resurrection of the dead? Who is attempting to move mountains by faith? Who is praying for the multiplication of resources? Who is casting out demons in people, strongholds over cities? I'm calling myself here on some of these, for sure!

These are the things for which we must have faith as defined in Hebrews. These are the types of works that, if we don’t have full confidence in God, can make us feel foolish. Trust me, I’ve had to deal with the internal struggle of looking like a zealot, of praying for healing for a stranger, in person, and watching as “nothing” happens. It can be hard to not rely on our physical sight! But we are called to do it.

Last Sunday, Rob and I were worshiping in our car to a song called "Too Good to Not Believe" Click the name of the song if you want to hear it. Several minutes in I began to feel an old, familiar frustration. This song talks about some pretty amazing healings and I grumbled to Rob that I have prayed for hundreds of people and can count on one hand how many in-person healings I've seen. I was complaining that God is giving Himself a bad name when I pray and nothing happens. Rob talked me down with some good points about God being wiser than me (shocking! ha!) and I was at peace by the time we arrived at church.

In between services, a man came up to me and asked if I remembered praying for him. I told him I did not, and asked him what was up. He told me that he had suffered from several gastrointestinal issues for seven years, and that he was completely healed after he received prayer. If I would have received his update at any other time, I would have been just as excited, but here is our Father reminding me the very same hour I was complaining that He is absolutely working through the things we pray, even when we don't see them immediately.

No one, no thing, no program could do for this man what Jesus did here. We loosed on earth the healing that we loosed in heaven with our words.

Our works are a privilege, an overflow of love because of the inheritance we have already received. They are not a must do for salvation, but an exciting act of participation with what God wants to do in the world through us. But the best part about this participation is that EVERY BELIEVER can take part. These actions are not reserved for the “spiritual elite” whoever that would be. They are for us all.

What are you waiting for? Partner with Daddy right now and ask Him how He wants to use you today, perhaps in a way that has you totally dependent on His move. Make room for knowing that you will feel awkward and foolish. That’s just the enemy wanting to stifle God’s power, and you are not going to let it stop you. Remember that even the small faith of a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain. When God tells you what to do, in His still small voice, He will be faithful to do His part, even those times we cannot see it immediately. With the exception of the times I’m crabby about it and need to focus on Jesus to get my heart right, I fully believe I will see a miracle each and every time I pray. That’s the kind of God we serve.

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