Faith and Works- Opposites or Equally Important?

faith and works

“I’m living by faith. If God wants it to happen, it will. ” This sounds so spiritual.  It can, however,  deceptively hide an unwillingness to risk failure or work hard.  Sometimes we unknowingly deceive ourselves. We remain passive instead of stepping out to do something new or difficult. We struggle to believe that God will reward our actions of faith.  Faith and works are not opposites. They are both equally important if we want to release a movement.

The problem of speaking about our faith without taking necessary actions to demonstrate it appears in many different areas of our lives as disciple makers.  It shows up in our evangelism.  We see it in our fundraising and finances.   How we set goals says a lot about our faith as well.   Our feelings of discouragement in the discipleship process as we help new believers grow and change is another area where this issue of faith and works arises.

God designed faith and works to go together.  It is both/and, not either/or.  We live by faith and we work hard too.  We devote ourselves to the work of the ministry while trusting with all our hearts that God will do what we can’t.

faith and works
Taking risks is when our faith becomes action!

“This Place Is Hard!”

I met a church planter in a closed country some years ago.  He was a good guy.  Deeply committed to Christ, he had given up a great deal to serve the Lord in this unreached place.  Language learning was a priority for him, and he had built a few local friendships.  I immediately liked him and felt drawn to his obvious love for God.  It was easy to see though that he was discouraged.

As we talked about what he had hoped to see happen, he said something like “This place (name of country he was in) is hard. I guess it is just not God’s time here yet.  When God wants to save people in ________, He will do it.  I just need to wait and keep living by faith.”

I wish I had asked him how it was going as far as sharing the gospel.  Had he shared his testimony with anyone that past week or month?  What was the response? I suspect he might have admitted to me that he had not shared a clear gospel message with anyone since he had arrived there several years before. I may have been able to help him more, had I kindly asked these questions.

It says in James 2:18,  “But someone will say,’You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (NIV)

Faith Requires Action

Faith doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play.  That is a misunderstanding of faith. Faith that God will save people in our community must be reflected by our active witness.  Believing that God will provide for our needs is shown by our willingness to approach potential supporters, share about our vision and work and invite them to be a part.  Faith that God is going to bring transformation to a community means rolling up our sleeves to rake leaves, pick up trash, or counsel a couple in marriage trouble who live near us.  Faith and action go together.  They are not opposites, they are deeply connected!

Is it possible to move into empty works of the flesh?  To start trying to do things in our own strength? Placing too much confidence in our own ability and past experience? Absolutely.  We must be careful not to do this.  At the same time, we need to carefully guard against passivity that we call faith.

Faith Means Living In A Place of Dependence

I need to keep allowing God to fill me with His dreams, which always are bigger than my own.  When I do that, I’m stretched to where I always know that no matter what I do, He has to come through with His part, or what I’m attempting will fail.  So I do my part, and I absolutely rely on God to do His part in response.

Disciple making among the unreached requires us to live in utter dependence on God to work.  Only God can convict someone of sin and bring them to repentance.  He is the one who can speak to people to support us financially and in prayer.  God is the one who transforms people, communities and nations. But somehow, in His wisdom, He has chosen to do these things through us. As we faithfully do our job (share the gospel, lovingly confront and train disciples, share our needs, etc.) God will do His part as well.

Get Active In Your Faith to Release God’s Miracles

Disciple making movements among the unreached are a miracle of God.  They can never happen through our own strength or activities.  They require us to be people of faith, continuing to hold tightly to God’s character and the promises of His Word.  They demand that we put that faith into risky and regular action. This will release the miracle God is longing to bring.  Whether it is one person being saved, healed, delivered, one group started, or finances for one need being met, those things will happen because God will be good and because He acts.

What area of action have you allowed yourself to stop pursuing? Where have you convinced yourself what you were doing was “trusting God”?

  • evangelism
  • fundraising
  • finding the person of peace
  • praying for healing
  • finding a team to join you
  • something else?

Maybe the Lord would have you take an action in that area once again. Pray now and ask Him to show you what He wants you to do to move forward.

God has the answers.  He doesn’t want you to be stuck. He promises that He will be there with His help and strength as you step out in faith and action once again.

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