Part Three: Faith in Action
This is the third in a three-part series on understanding true faith by Arianne Benedetto.
We all want true faith, trusting God whole-heartedly. Yet, having faith does not mean adopting a “Jesus Take the Wheel” attitude that abandons action. In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I focused on clarifying God’s actions with regards to our faith—how he is not forced into action if we have so-called “good faith” and also is not rendered impotent if we struggle with doubt. Today, I’ll take a closer look at what true faith indicates about our actions.
Part Three: Having faith does not (usually) mean that you sit back and do nothing.
Putting your faith in God means handing over the reins to him and acknowledging that he calls the shots. This very attitude of submission means acting when God makes it clear that he requires some skin in the game from us.
Let me show you what I mean.
After 40 years of wandering in the desert, only the Jordan River stood between the Israelites and the Promised Land. The priests, carrying the ark of the covenant, led the people. These were God’s instructions: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river” (Joshua 3:8, emphasis mine).
Now, the river was in flood stage during this time, and if those priests were anything like me, they would have much preferred that God part the river while they were a safe, comfortable (and dry) distance away. But their steps of faith were a required part of the process. What happened next must have been mind-blowing to see:
…as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…while the water flowing down…was completely cut off (Exodus 3:15-16, emphasis and ellipses mine).
See? Skin in the game.
The Pattern in Scripture
This reflects a pattern found in much of Scripture. Namaan washed in the river seven times before being healed of leprosy. The Israelites marched around Jericho while blowing trumpets and shouting before taking the city. Gideon and his men had to jump through increasingly perplexing hoops before winning victory over the Midianites in the unlikeliest of ways.
Throughout Scripture, we see God telling his people to carry out strange—even counter-intuitive—tasks before seeing his express promises fulfilled. This is often the case for us today as well.
The Pattern in Your Life
Maybe, like Abraham, God has told you to pack your bags before telling you where to go. Or as with Gideon, perhaps he’s called you to do something that you feel strongly ill-equipped to do. Or, if you’re a control freak like me, maybe the crazy thing you’re called to do is to actively take your hands off, stop problem-solving above your pay grade, and watch for God to handle things.
Truthfully, often God doesn’t part the water until after we’ve gotten our feet wet.
Our faith isn’t fully formed until we have acted on it.
But why? It’s not like God needs our actions to bring about his will, right? No, but there’s another purpose for these actions—they complete our faith. In James 2:14-26, James points out that faith must be more than just what we believe in our heads and speak with our mouths. In order to be true faith, it demands that our actions match what we say we believe. Our faith isn’t fully formed until we have acted on it. Once we have, it is complete—proven to be genuine faith that is alive. Acting on our faith in God will produce obedience to his words, which includes things like serving your church, caring for the needy, and sometimes, taking a risk.
Let me be clear. Our active response is essential, but not because our actions somehow earn us a right standing with God. Jesus is the one whose faith and actions were perfect and he accomplished our right standing with God. His sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection are accounted to us as if our faith and actions were perfect, too. And it is faith in what he has done that is the foundation from which we act.
Our active obedience is not a necessary supplement to our belief in Christ, but the natural result of it.
Art Azurdia explains this well in his sermon series on Hebrews 11, called The Animation Principal. He stresses that we are saved, not by faith plus works, but by a faith that works. Our active obedience is not a necessary supplement to our belief in Christ, but the natural result of it. If you trust in God’s grace for salvation and eternal life, then you can also trust him when he asks you to put your faith in action in another area of life. If he gave you his only Son, you can trust him to give you everything else you need to live a life of faith in action.
So when you are faced with a clear call of God to action, you can boldly take those steps of faith. It is simply another outworking of the gospel in your life.
Wrapping It Up
In this series, some basic truths about faith have been fleshed out. Though seemingly obvious, they are truths I’ve had to remind myself of over and over again. I find myself acting contrary to what I’ve learned all the time, and I have to review these truths, re-read the scriptures that made them clear to me, and meditate on them in order to move them out of my head and into my life. I know that this will be a lifelong process of learning and growing, both for me and for you. May Jesus grant you greater faith today!