by: FCC Staff
In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Talk, talk, talk. Whether it is an unproductive employee or coworker, someone we are in a close relationship with, a politician, contractor, or service provider… listening to long drawn out plans, excuses and empty rhetoric while nothing happens can be frustrating.
The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we are all talk, and have no action, we frustrate ourselves and others. While it is certainly true our salvation is based on our faith in Christ, merely saying Jesus is our Master, but failing to really do anything with our faith leads to a poor spiritual life. James and this to say in these situations,
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So 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 apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:14-26
Now, we can try to explain away what James says, deftly making theological arguments to prove a point. But what is the end result of such an exercise? More words. Or we can take the opposite approach, simply doing what WE think is good, and giving ourselves a pat on the back. “Look at all I’ve done!” Then we have works without faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So which is it then, works, faith… what are we supposed to do?
Faith, and the works of faith, require a spiritual focus, over a physical one. Led by the Holy Spirit, we can live lives of growth in Christ, so our love for him is more than just words. But we love guidelines, and checklists, so we can have something by which to measure ourselves. Oh if scripture just provided a list of things we can focus on in our lives to know we are not just paying lip service to our faith!
Thankfully there is, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) These are the things we can ask God to teach us each day. To allow the Holy Spirit to guide is in, grow us in, and provide for us. To learn to step aside and allow Christ to work in and through us, so that his nature can become our own.
Sometimes we like to look at that list of the fruit of the Spirit and say, “Oh, well, patience, that’s not one of my spiritual gifts.” Or “Kindness is not something that comes naturally to me.” That may be true, but those are just words. We can be aware of our spiritual limitations, and then ask God to grow us in these areas. Then we aren’t just speaking mere words, we are praying to the almighty God of the universe to grow our faith, to transform our hearts, to mold us more in the image of his son.
“Father, help me to show the Love of Christ to everyone I meet today.” “Jesus, increase my joy today that I can be thankful for all you have done for me.”
“Send your Holy Spirit to grant me peace, so I can share that peace with others.”
When we pray for these things with a sincere heart, they are more than words. When we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” we can be assured that “all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) When we stop just intellectually digesting the contents of scripture, debating, ad nauseum, the finer points of our faith, we can humbly ask God to transform our hearts and teach us his ways.
There is a simple, yet profound promise found in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
That is how our faith becomes more than just idle words. That is how our daily lives become more than just our 9-5 grind. That is how our relationships can transcend simple companionship.
We all have a lot of spiritual “heavy lifting” to do to grow in Christ. There is much toil, as our proverb tells us, but also much profit. We can all acknowledge that hard work in physical things can bring about gain, why then do we hesitate to apply that same “work ethic” to our faith? So today, let’s all look at that list of the fruit of the Spirit, and ask God to show us how we can really grow spiritually. Not just say the words. Do the work.
Prayer for Today
Father, I know that there is much work to be done in my spiritual life. Grow me by your Holy Spirit in the image of your perfect Son. Where I am lacking, teach me your ways, Lord. Let my heart sincerely seek after you and your kingdom. Help me to trust you more today, that I can be committed to you in not just words, but in all I do. I can’t do this alone Jesus. Be with me today, guide me and protect me as my trust is in you. Amen.