When we begin talking about “living a life of faith”, we often believe that doing so requires no action. Faith, it is assumed, is all about trust and confidence and therefore has nothing to do with actual effort. But here’s the truth: Faith Works!
I know that combining faith and work seems to contradict the entire concept of faith, but the Bible is clear that true faith actually DEMANDS work. I wrote about this in the post “Do The Work“, but want to develop this important truth.
As a place to begin, let’s look at what we know. The Bible helps us to understand, in no uncertain terms, that we must live by faith if we want to be obedient to God.
Look at this great verse from Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Faith is not optional if we are going to please God. We must put our confidence in Him and His plan even when we don’t understand it or see how it will all come together. That’s faith. Taking God at His word and then living your life according to it! Where we get this wrong is concluding that “living by faith” requires no action. But living, by faith or not, is action!
In case your are still not sure, look at this verse from James 2:17:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Dead! That’s pretty strong. Faith, if it is real, propels us to do more than we would do on our own because our trust is in God and not ourselves or our circumstances. We work BECAUSE of what we believe!
There is a great story in the New Testament book of John that I think does such a great job of illustrating this point. I would like to share the the summary version with you but encourage you to go and read the whole passage. The story can be found in the Gospel of John 6:1-13. This story is often referred to as the “Feeding of the 5,000”.
The story begins by sharing with us that a large crowd followed Jesus and His disciples into a mountain. It appears that the goal was to get away from the crowds for a little while, but here they were. Many of these people had seen the miracles of Jesus in other places and followed Him so that they could see it again. Others had heard what He did and wanted to see it for themselves. Whatever their reasons, a huge crowd, we are told there where at least 5,000 men present, were gathered without the means to take care of themselves.
That leads us to the first point in the story (if you were outlining it):
There was a Problem
I can imagine there were quite a few problems with a giant crowd and no facilities (where did they all go to the bathroom?), but the problem pointed out in the story is that they had nothing to eat! This is where faith always begins. There is a need. A problem. Something too big to solve on your own but also too big to ignore. Something had to be done to help these people but that help was beyond the ability of the disciples. Maybe you can relate!
There was a Command
We have to be careful not to miss this. Jesus asked a question, “how are we going to feed everyone”, but that question was really a command-“We need to feed everyone.” As a parent I often ask my kids questions to strongly imply that something needs to be done. When I ask, “who is going to clean up the dinner dishes,” I’m actually saying, “one of you needs to clean up the dinner dishes!” The same thing is happening here. Jesus wasn’t curious, He was telling the disciples that something needed to be done to feed the crowd.
We’ll see this play out later, but Jesus was asking them to do something they couldn’t do. He was putting them in a position where they had to trust Him. They knew that, but still did everything they could while waiting on Him to do what only He could!
John 6:6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
I think this verse is crazy because Jesus, knowing that He would provide what was needed, still wanted to see what the disciples would do. And what did they do? The disciples responded to His command by gathering all of the resources they had. Again, this is important. They did what they could. There is no record that they said the command was impossible to fulfill. As far as we know, they didn’t even complain about what they were being asked to do. They counted their money and borrowed lunch from a little boy. They worked.
There was still a Problem
Unfortunately, the money was not enough and the one lunch, borrowed from a little boy, would never feed the crowd. The disciples did what they could to be obedient to Jesus but came up short. So what did they do next? They went back to Jesus, told Him what they had done, and acknowledged that it wasn’t going to be enough. This was not a surprise to Him. From verse 6 of our passage we know that Jesus did not expect the disciples to solve this problem. What He wanted from them was obedience! I cannot explain this because I’m not God, but that is all He wants from any of us. God will tell us what to do know that He is the only one who can bring the thing to pass.
But He always waits for us to respond to His word in faith by doing all that we can do. It is in the doing that we are able to express both our obedience to and dependence on Him. Hebrews chapter 11 is filled with stories of great people of faith. What is common in these stories? Each person worked to the point they could not longer work and then experienced the miraculous working of God.
The end of the story is Jesus miraculously providing enough food for the entire crowd. He provided so much, in fact, that there was a whole lot left over. I love this part of the story because it reveals a characteristic of God that I need to daily hold on to. God will not tell me to do anything that He has not made provision for. I need to respond to His word in faith understanding that when I have done all that I can do, if it is really from God, He will then do what He had planned all along. An impossible command fulfilled by the provision of the one who gave it.
Are you living by faith? A life of faith is a life that works. Not for the approval of God, but in obedience that reveals dependence. Hear from God. Understand what He says. Do the work because faith always works. Watch Him provide.
Photo by Hillie Chan on Unsplash