When I was a new Christian, my focus was on the doing. Because James 2:26 really tripped me up. When I first heard, “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” I panicked. Because in the beginning, I had no works to accompany my faith. And quite honestly, a time or two, I doubted my salvation for this very reason. Because my thought process went something like this… Why, oh why, if I am a Christian, do I not feel like everyone else? Why don’t I burn inside with a fire for the cause of Christ? Why don’t I burn because there are souls separated from Him? Why don’t I go out daily to feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit orphans and widows, and evangelize on every street corner? Where is the love? Why, oh why, don’t I exhibit the works that should accompany faith? Because James 2:18 states, “I will show you my faith by my works.” Quite clearly, if there were no works evident, then I wasn’t really His, right? These are the thoughts that have plagued me off and on for years. Even as recently as this past year. But today, I am beginning to understand the truth. And the truth is, we don’t know what we should do. At least not by our own power.
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28, 29
First comes belief. We simply must believe God, and everything that He says through His word. But after the belief is where so many of us mess up. I’m saying so many because I cannot believe that I am the only one who has lived in this manner. I first believed in 1997. But then, I got busy. I volunteered for something before I even knew His word because I thought I had to. And then I moved away. In 2004, when I found a good church, my faith was deepened… but I got busy. I volunteered for some stuff because I thought I should. In 2008, upon moving back and rejoining this good church, my faith was established and my prayer life took off. But then, I got busy. I volunteered for more than I should have. I do not say this to deter anyone from volunteering… certainly not. But, I do wish to caution those new to the Christian faith. Because we must get to know God before we will know what His work is. If we don’t take the time to know Him, then our works will crumble away and leave behind an embittered, angry soul. I am proof of that.
But here’s the good news. We don’t have to do anything that we don’t feel moved to do. When we are ready, God will move our hearts. We will know when we are supposed to do something, because Jesus will call. Just like with the apostles as they were fishing along the banks of the sea. He said, “Follow Me…” and they heard Him and followed. Just like Moses who was tending sheep. God appeared to him, and Moses heard and was used by God. And just like the apostle Paul, who was formerly known as Saul. Saul persecuted the early Christians and he consented to their deaths. He was actually breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, when Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus. And there was Saul, an anti-Christ, but he heard Jesus. Because Jesus selected him. He said, “for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15, 16. Jesus chose Saul, and Saul heard Him when Jesus appeared. Jesus said, “I will show him…”
Later in his life, Paul proclaimed the gospel. It’s what Jesus had appointed him to do. Paul said, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…” I just love what he said. “I am what I am.” And that is the best news for me today. “I am what I am.” I am what He created me to be. I will do what He created me to do. And I will know when He so moves me. As long as I am spending time with Him, and soaking up His word… and as long as I have an intimate relationship with Him, I’ll know. There will no longer be the question, “To be, or not to be,” or “To do, or not to do,” because I’ll just know. I now see that not every work is for me. Because I am a chosen vessel, and I bear His name. And at the right time, He will call me for what He has planned for me to do.
There’s no question about it. If we are His, then there should be works. Just not forced ones. And the good news is, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Bear with me… just one more visit to the dictionary… workmanship means, 1) that which has been made 2) a work a) of the works of God as creator. He made us for a purpose… His purpose. We’re His handiwork. And as we are transformed daily, we begin to naturally walk in the works He created just for us. We will fulfill our purpose here on His earth as we walk in Him.
So for now, I will rest in that knowledge. I’ll stop beating myself up when I don’t feel moved like the next person. Because whatever it is that person is doing may not be for me to do. Rather, I will embrace what I am today… a child of God, created by Him and for Him, and created for those works I shall walk in… in Christ Jesus. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring. Who knows who I will be tomorrow. Because every day is a new day with God. And every tomorrow holds promise.
… and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2