The Rest of the Story on Doing and Being

Welcome to Real Life.  Last week, I wrote that God was calling me to shift priorities from doing things for him to being with him.  This week, God has been stressing the importance of "doing" in the book of James. “Faith without works is dead.”[1]
Really, God?  I thought work was not supposed to be my priority.  After wrestling with him over these seemingly opposite directives, I get it.  I needed the whole story.  James completes my picture of faith, doing, and being.

I am a doer.  Therefore God is consistently reining me in, pulling me back from my inclination to overload my days with work.  However, this doesn’t mean I stop doing.  It means my work must be balanced by rest and quietness and trust (last week’s blog).  It also means my work should be the natural result of being with God.  This is the crux of the message in James.

When I fill life with work, I don’t have time to spend with God. My soul is cut off from its supply of Living Water.  My faith dries up.  Work becomes drudgery.  Every responsibility feels like “just one more thing I have to do" today.

On the other hand, when I restrict work and spend quality time with God, my soul is well-watered.  My faith is alive and healthy.  God directs and inspires my actions and so my faith is naturally revealed through my actions.  Work becomes rich, productive, and meaningful.  Every responsibility feels like “one more thing I get to do” in Jesus' name today.

Still, salvation is never the result of good works.[2]  The thief on the cross next to Jesus did not do anything to earn eternal life.  His salvation, like ours, is a gift that is received by faith.  However, the natural result of his faith was an action.[3]  He said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  That simple act:

1.       Revealed his faith.  Not only did this man believe, he spoke his belief. 
2.       Encouraged Jesus, King of the Universe, in his suffering.
3.       Has comforted multitudes of sinners, knowing that we too can be forgiven, saved, and welcomed into heaven.   (Jesus responded, “… today you will be with me in paradise.”)
4.       Proved that salvation is a gift of grace.[4]  It is not earned by a lifetime of good works.
 Being with God is more important than doing for God.  And yet, my faith is made complete by my actions.[5]  Though I don’t consider it work, even spending time alone with God is an action that reveals my faith.

The words of James do not contradict God’s directives for rest and quietness found in Isaiah.  Rather, they complete the picture.  Isaiah says, “Work without faith is dead.”  James says, “Faith without work is dead.”  The two are inseparable.  That’s Real Life.

Lord Jesus, teach how to live a healthy life of faith. Amen.

[1] James 2:26
[2] Ephesians 2:8,9
[3] Luke 23:39-43
[4] Ephesians 2:8,9


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