It’s always easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk, isn’t it? But when it comes down to the wire, I find I often allow myself to hesitate, second guess or to step back. Sometimes out of timidity, other times out of fear. In a recent Bible study, the topic of faith versus deeds was brought up as we were studying a passage from James 2. Let me share with you these verses:
Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
As you can see from this passage, faith is nothing without deeds – the two go hand-in-hand. And I understand why James emphasizes on this, because our faith truly becomes powerful when we follow through with what we believe. In other words, our words are more meaningful when they are reinforced by our actions. And that goes for anything else, doesn’t it? For example, if I told my students to walk, not run down the hallway and then I sprint down the hallway everyday – those instructions I gave to my students become useless. So it is with our faith.
In our Bible study, we were then prompted to examine our own lives: How have we exemplified our faith through our actions? Would our non-Christian friends see a difference in us from the rest of the world? Well, obviously I don’t rob banks, I don’t murder people, nor do I lead hate crimes. I don’t even litter, swear or get speeding tickets. I follow the rules. If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years, it is that I am a very obedient person. But following bylaws are not that difficult. What is difficult is when our faith is tested. When our obedience to God is tested.
So let me share with you a story that happened to me about six or seven years ago. It was autumn, around late October (and where I live, people put on their winter coats in late October because it is absolutely frigid) and I was walking on the pedestrian overpass making my way towards the mall. Just as I had reached the end of the overpass, I saw walking in my direction a woman in her late fifties or early sixties carrying bags in each arm. I saw right away that she was in pain and I guessed that it was probably from the cold or from the weight of the bags. But then I looked at her feet. You couldn’t even call them shoes anymore, because what she was wearing were old sneakers that were so worn that her toes on both feet were showing. It looked more like strips of shoe material strewn together made to stay on her feet. I remember that I was shocked and seeing this saddened me. For a split second, I wanted to stop her, ask if she wouldn’t mind going back to the mall with me and allowing me to buy her a new pair of shoes. If she would decline, I would ask if she would like to switch shoes with me because I could always buy myself another pair. And suddenly, these “what-ifs” stormed my mind. “What if she thinks you’re trying to steal from her?” “What if she’s mean to you and doesn’t trust you?” “What if…” I had stopped walking and I watched her continue up the icy overpass in those broken shoes, but by this time she was too far away. In the end, I did nothing. I let my thoughts get the better of me and I forgot the God I served. I forgot what my faith required me to do – to reach out and help those in need and thus exemplifying Christ’s love. I listened to fear and timidity and chose to turn a blind eye. This still stays with me today. I really wish that I had done something.
Back to our Bible study, we began to take turns going around the table and sharing one thing that we would like to start doing to show our faith. It wasn’t until someone shared a story about reaching out to someone else in need and wishing they had done more that I had remembered in an instant that story about the woman and her shoes. It dawned on me then that I too often let myself succumb to fear and the “what-ifs”. I realized that I can no more allow fear, timidity or passivity be in control because these things have hidden my faith in other aspects in my life as well, such as sharing the gospel with my non-Christian friends. So you see, actually acting on your faith takes courage, strength and compassion from God. It’s much more than just will-power or obedience. Faith and deeds really do go hand-in-hand, and when synchronized, we see the beauty of God.
So my prayer is this. That God would grant me courage and compassion and that I would not hesitate to serve Him and to serve those in need. And through my humble actions, I pray that God would reveal His love and mercy to those who do not know Him. Through all this, my desire is that He would be honoured and glorified. Our God is good and forever faithful.