I would sit on my mom’s lap and fidget with her cross necklace trying to turn down the volume of the booming voice in the sanctuary. The pastor of my early youth was a product of the Billy-Graham-tent-revival-altar-calling era. He used boldfaced words, exclamation points, and dramatic gestures to preach the word of God. It was mainly out of fear of burning forever in hell that I knelt between my parents on my 5-year-old, skinned-up knees and confessed my faith in God. Dodged that bullet, I thought.
After my scare into faith, I soaked in memory verses in Sunday school and pondered messages in youth group. Our evangelical church taught us to have our testimony at the ready … to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. On graduation Sunday, I stood in front of the church along with my fellow graduates and was commissioned to “go and make disciples of all nations”. With a smile on my face and a Bible in my arms, I felt prepared. I had been given the tools – the words – to share my faith. Scripture was memorized. My testimony was written. A verbal explanation of the Gospel was mastered.
However, I quickly learned that words are empty unless backed by deeds.
Some people have a way with verbal communication. They can engage strangers and somehow manage to segue from a light-hearted conversation about the day’s weather to a deep theological discussion on the Trinity. I have not found a way to do this, nor do I have any desire to do so. Another way suits me better.
His faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. – James 2:22
The book of James points to two people of the Old Testament whose faith and actions worked together. Abraham’s faith was made complete by what he did – being willing to sacrifice his own son. And Rahab was made right with God by her actions – hiding away two Jewish spies whose lives were in danger.
Our very lives are our testimony. Hardly any words need to be spoken.
This was made apparent to me recently by a comment of a friend who saw a picture of me holding our medical foster child, Christ. She said, “I love how you carry around with you your beautiful testimony.” My eyes immediately began to well up with warm tears after I read her comment. I needed to hear those words on a day that wasn’t going all that great. Christ was not happy and not taking to his new prosthetic legs very kindly … the very reason he traveled to the States. I was hot and cranky. Yet, even in my failures, my faith was showing through my actions. And with that, God can work wonders.
Though faith alone can make one perfect, faith is only perfected by action.
Maybe you too are carrying and gently caring for a child who needs to be fed and clothed and bathed and loved. God sees you in your house. Other parents see you at preschool, at doctor appointments, at the grocery store. Hear these words: Well done, good and faithful servant.
Maybe you are a reliable employee, showing integrity and perseverance in a difficult work environment. God notices. And so do your co-workers. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Maybe you donate your time to fight legal battles of the oppressed, weed the gardens of the disabled, ladle soup into the bowls of the hungry. Your work does not go unnoticed. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Maybe you are choosing light over dark, honesty over lies, justice over injustice, courage over fear. Your light shines bright. Well done, good and faithful servant.
But now, my God, strengthen my hands. – Nehemiah 6:9
Faith is not stationary. As a body is dead without air, so is faith without action. Keep up the good work.