Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Meditations: I Believe

For as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is dead also.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve read this passage or heard it quoted. I know this passage. But with each year of my life, I’m beginning to notice how dangerous “knowing” scripture has become. This is not the “I’ve written you word in my heart so I might not sin against you” type of knowing. It’s when scripture becomes so causal that the impact is lost.

It has come to my attention that I sometimes have a habit of “knowing” scripture like learning my multiplication tables. Once I’ve learned them, there’s no need to go back and review them. But like I said before, this is dangerous. God’s word “is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Romans 4:12). And alarm bells should ring if we can read the word and not get cut.

Lately, I’ve been studying the book of James and, praise the Lord, I got sliced deep from a seemingly dull passage, a passage I know like my multiplication tables. Namely, the portion of James 2 that describes how Abraham was justified by how he acted on what he believed. He was prepared to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that God’s promise would come to past. His works, or actions, made his faith perfect (James 2:22).

After I read this passage, (and in an attempt to stop the bleeding), I asked myself, if someone looked at what I did and had to guess what I believed, what answer would they give. What would they say I believed? Not that my actions are somehow creating faith, but everyone acts out of what they believe. Let me give you two extremely different examples.

Mother Theresa spent years of her life helping the poor and unloved in Cambodia. She lived among them, cared for them and was a walking example of Jesus’ compassion in the world. She believed that God loved all people and He wanted his followers to show compassion on the “least of these.” From what she did, it is clear what she believed. She was willing to give up everything, even things that others would consider basic necessities, to care for the sick and disenfranchised.

On the other hand, Andrea Yates, a mentally ill mother of five, believed that she should be punished for being a bad mother. Her belief drove her to drown all five of her children because she believed that she had somehow damaged them beyond repair. She, like Mother Theresa, acted on what she believed.

Both these women solidify the principal that actions come from belief, now comes the hard question: What do I actually believe? In taking a short inventory of my life, I don’t like what my actions are saying about my faith. I had to question lots of my actions and try and find their origin in my faith. Sadly, as I did this, it was easier to see what I didn’t believe than it was to see what I did.

So here is my short (but painful) list:
• I don’t believe Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If I believed this, I would be worried about so many situations in my life. If I believed all things works for my good, I would embrace both the good things in life and the bad with hopeful expectation.
• I don’t believe Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I don’t know if I don’t believe the strength part or the doing part. If I did, I do more of what I know He’s strengthened me to do.
• I don’t believe Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” If I believed that, then maybe I wouldn’t fight against His will so much and I would complain less.

I could go on, but in the interest of time (and pain), I’ll stop. And if this post cut you, add pressure until you figure out what you really believe.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to list one more thing that I beleive: I believe that God is greater than any problem I'll ever have and He is still working on me.

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