Action is Always the Result of Faith: If You Have Faith, You Will Take Action

There’s a law of spiritual physics: for every smidgen of faith, there is a corresponding action. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV)

The story of Abraham is central to the story of the Bible. It is also, coincidentally, central to your story and mine. We don’t know much about Abram before he encountered God; he was a competent citizen of Ur, and he was descended from Shem. What we do know is that is that he settled with his father Terah in Haran, and that his wife Sarai was barren. (Because that seems so close to a rhyme, I couldn’t make myself write it any other way.) In Genesis 12:1, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.” The amazing thing is that Abram heard and immediately obeyed God, and went out to start a new life at age 75.

action and faith

He had faith in what God promised, and it motivated him to do what God instructed. I think that one of the consistent hallmarks of faith is obedience. If you believe that God has given you something to do, then you do it. The next logical step is that obedience always results in DOING something!

True faith is never passive, because it obeys; and obedience always results in ACTION. Let me repeat that: true faith ALWAYS results in ACTION. This is basically what James says about faith when he connects it to works; he never says that works produce faith, but that faith always produces works: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 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.” (James 2:17-18, NIV)

A faithful life is a life of obedience that leads to adventure! Abram’s life and story illustrated that a man of 75 could follow God’s call to new places, new horizons, and new adventures! So, what does the call of a Chaldean nomad from the pages of ancient history have to do with us?

There is a direct connection between the way the God of relationships worked with Abram and the way He still works with us. Every single one of us is called to go out, not knowing our destination or the surety of the outcome. A quick glance through Matthew serves to remind us that Jesus said “Follow me” in 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, and 19:21. You really can’t explore the Bible very much at all without being confronted by a call from the Lord of the universe.

God asks every single one of us to leave the earthly things which make us feel secure and to follow where He calls us to go. We have several options: 1) we can refuse to hear that call; 2) we can ignore the call; 3) we have the option to disobey and go our own way; or 4) we can place all of our trust in the Lord’s leadership and travel in obedience with the God of action and adventure.

Based on his decision to obey, Abram’s name ended up of the roll call of the heroes of the faith. If you are wondering, God is still calling, and that list is still being written. Have faith. Obey. Take action.

Abram, son of Terah, was comfortably settled in Haran.
His life was good, and he did what he should,
Though his lovely wife Sarai was barren.
But then there was that conversation
When God told him, “Leave your relations,
Obey my command and go find a new land
And I’ll turn you into a great nation.”
Well Abram believed this command he received;
And though he could have stayed, he went out and obeyed!
He changed his whole life, took his goods and his wife
And achieved satisfaction because he took action.
If you believe God, then get to it,
Since faith isn’t faith ’til you DO it.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Substance of Hope, Or How Faith Changed the World

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

The writer of Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If you dissect the syllables and break that down, substance comes from sub (under) and stance (from stand), or that which stands under a thing. Knowing what stands under a thing will often help our understanding OF a thing. The Greek word used for substance is hypostasis, which referred to the underlying state or condition of a thing. It was also a legal term used in real estate transactions because it indicated that there was an underlying legal document (the title-deed) that provided proof of ownership and possession.

Faith is basically our deed of trust, giving us ownership of hope, and a reasonable expectation that God will do what He promised to do. The things which we CAN see are a down payment towards the things we CAN’T see. Creation points us towards faith and proves God’s reliability, because it demonstrates that all visible things were made by the One who is not visible. God does what He does. You can believe or not believe. You can choose to ignore the evidence He placed about himself into creation—the vastness of the universe, the delicate balance of the earth hung in orbit, the intricacy of a cell, the seasons, a flower, and the canvas of the sky every day—or you can allow it to stimulate faith.

substance

If you follow God by faith, the writer of Hebrews says, it will change your life. The elders obtained a good testimony by their faith, and Hebrews 11 goes on to discuss the stories of those who believed, and changed not only their own lives but human history as well… Faith is a big deal, ya’ll, but here’s the thing: God will never MAKE you believe.

It’s an interesting intellectual conundrum, but God did not make himself provable because He has given us a choice. An empirical God (one with substance that could be proven physically) would remove our will from the equation; we’d have no choice but to accept Him and worship Him. So the loving God preserved our choice by withholding PROOF and giving us EVIDENCE. That way we can decide how we feel about Him.

You can be skeptical about a God who painted portions of His self-portrait into a chosen people, an Exodus, the Pentateuch, a shepherd-king, the Psalms, the prophets, history (His Story), His Son, the Word, and into relationships throughout every generation… You can dismiss the people of faith as irrational, and you can live your entire life ignoring God. You don’t have to seek God or engage Him in any way. You don’t ever have to have faith in God…

But if you decide that faith in God is not for you, there are things you will never understand about God. You will never know about the substance of His character, His generosity, His wisdom, or His love. You won’t discover the presence of a loving Father who provides comfort to those who mourn and a home to those who wander. And, oh yeah, your world will never change; it will never stretch beyond the boundaries of what you see or know empirically.

But if you search for God, Hebrews 11:6 gives makes this awesome claim: “whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

Wherever you come from, wherever you’ve been, whatever you believe or think: if you seek God in faith, He will be pleased and He will respond to you. Seek in faith today. Be rewarded forever.

Faith is what we hope for based on what we cannot see–
Like holding grapes, anticipating wine.
We see the universe and wonder how it came to be,
Inferring a Designer from design.
God is not empirical, or a theorem you can prove,
His substance is much more than what is taught;
He says that faith will find Him, and the mountain can be moved,
But it’s your choice to live by faith, or not.
You can live by intellect, observe God and critique Him;
Or You can get to know Him, if by faith you truly seek Him.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Contend! Don’t be that Guy Who Says: “I Coulda Been a Contender.”

In the movie “On the Waterfront”, Marlon Brando’s character laments that he didn’t contend as well as he should have. “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender.”

contend

In Jude’s letter, he urges us not to make the same mistake: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3, NIV)

Jude identifies himself as “the brother of James”, which is unusual for a Hebrew writer, who normally would have referred to a father or patriarch instead. He also separates himself from the Apostles (v 17), so in all likelihood this is Jude (a form of Judah, who was sometimes called Judas), the brother of Jesus. (Jesus had 4 younger brothers born to Mary and Joseph according to Matthew 13:55—James, Joseph, Simon and Jude). Interestingly, neither James nor Jude identified themselves as Jesus’ brothers directly, probably out of humility or a desire to avoid being given special consideration as members of Joseph and Mary’s household.

Jude encourages us to “contend for the faith”. Contend comes from the Greek word, ἐπαγωνίζομαι,(epagonizomai) which means to struggle with; to argue earnestly, debate. The agon (agon) was an assembly location where people watched athletic contests. Paul uses a form of it to refer to “fighting the good fight.” In either case, it can refer to several things, and it would seem fitting that if you are called upon to contend:
1) you should prepare. You wouldn’t go into an athletic contest without training, or a debate without mastering your subject. And yet many people who call themselves Christians do little or no training in order to understand and defend their faith. How’s YOUR training going?

2) It implies belief and passion, since competition requires commitment and effort. Athletes who compete at the highest levels all started as a kid from somewhere, but gained a belief in themselves that encouraged them to pursue their talents with passion.

3) It assumes competition. We live in a world that doesn’t automatically accept the claims of Jesus Christ, and is in fact increasingly hostile to it. While we are told to do so with gentleness and respect, we are encouraged to be able to give answers to those who oppose us. How ready are you to answer questions about your faith? If you want to know more about how to do that, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and Tim Keller’s books are great resources. In the meantime, get out there and contend today! Fight for your faith! You don’t want to reach the end of your life, and look back with regret to say “I coulda been a contender!”

Jude had friends and family who died a martyr’s death,
Who proudly shared their faith until they drew their final breath.
No one knows exactly what may lie around the bend,
But each of us can make a choice of how we reach our end.
Faith is not some made-up thing we play with to pretend;
Take hold of yours and join the fight: Believe! Engage! Contend!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If You Get Call From God, Make Sure You Answer the Phone!

Have you ever gotten “that call”? The one which required an answer from you that could change your whole future? I once received a phone call about a job offer in Chicago, which I decided not to take; I often thought, in later years, that the simple yes or no answer literally affected the direction our family ended up going. Perhaps Abraham felt the same way: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should receive after for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Hebrews 11:8 KJV)

I wonder if Abram had ever really dreamed of leaving Ur? He was a family man who may have had roots and obligations in his community. As a nomad herdsman, he may not have had a big house, but answering God’s call represented a big change for him. Even if you only have a few possessions, we all know it’s a pain in the neck to move. And did Abram really WANT to move? Was God’s call the fulfillment of his dreams, or an interruption to his status quo? I wonder what the people in his household thought, and whether anybody complained. Were all of them as sold on God’s call as Abram was?

Genesis 12:5 says “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.” It doesn’t say whether they were enthusiastic or happy about it. But they all answered the call and went with Abram to an unknown promised land. Abram was seventy-five years old and he received a call from God, and he believed it was legitimate enough to bet the house on it.

There are a couple of things about Abram’s call and response that stand out to me. The well-spring of faith is not in being successful, or even in knowing the direction; it is in hearing the call, and knowing who is calling. Since your faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed, it really helps to have faith in something or someone who is reliable. You can have all the faith in the world that a chair with two broken legs will hold you up, but when you sit down you will still crash to the floor. Abram put his faith in a reliable God, and we are still reading his story thousands of years later.

Secondly, Abram was obedient, and he followed God without knowing where he would end up. Are you obedient to God? (Which begs the question, are you having enough dialog with Him so that you know what He wants you to do?) Faith is never passive, and it always results in obedience. Abram didn’t say, “I’ll follow God if He gives me a sign, or a clear direction.” He just packed up and set out, not really knowing where he was going. If God had called him to stay right where he was, I am sure he would have done that, too—but He gave up his presumptions and assumptions and did what God wanted him to do.

There’s a subtle twist to that as well. Have you ever said, “I’m available!”? I will do what God wants (as long as it fits my plans, as long as He uses me the way I always hoped He would…) I will follow God’s call (if it involves doing what I want, going somewhere I have always dreamed of going, or using my gifts the way I always wanted…) I will definitely follow God (as long as He keeps me in my comfort zone). God didn’t guarantee that to Abram, and He doesn’t guarantee that to us. But he does guarantee Himself, which ultimately should be a better promise, don’t you think?

Picture this: from out of the blue, 
A call from God just comes to you,
And tells you that it's time to roam--
To take your family, leave your home,
And everything you've ever known,
And move away to somewhere new,
Just because God told you to!
Well, Abraham got up and went--
He took his wife, he took his tent--
Not questioning why he was sent,
Believing that God's promise would
Result in something very good.
The call, you see, was Abram's test,
So he left Ur and all the rest:
And somehow all the world was blessed
Because he gave the Lord his best.
So if you get a call from God when you are all alone,
Remember Abraham's results, and please, pick up the phone!

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Why Doesn’t God Offer Indisputable Proof? Why Does He Require Faith Instead?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks more about FAITH than about PROOF?? “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.” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV)

Faith doesn’t require proof, validation, satisfaction, victory or blessing. It is in ITSELF these things, and offers complete comfort and peace to those who exercise it. But I have always thought Christianity would be a lot easier if there was “God-in-a-box”. I’m talking about empirical proof that you could carry around and just show people. Think about how easy evangelism would be. You’re sharing the good news with someone, and they say, “I’m just not sure I believe all that stuff”. Well, you open up “God-in-a-box” and SHOW them, and they’d have to say, “Oh, I see now. You’ve got God, right there. I guess I have to believe.” Scientists could analyze it and find conclusively that yes, indeed, God exists. No more arguments about who God is, or what God is like. No more atheists. If we just had “God-in-a-box”, the world would be 100% converted in whatever time it took for everybody to see the proof.

Kind of a silly thought, I know, but also a fascinating one. Why is it that we can’t just PROVE the existence and nature of God in an irrefutable way? How come the Lord of the universe set things up in a way that allows for so much interpretation and ambiguity? Put simply, I look at it like this: God requires faith so that we have a choice. God could have given us undeniable proof and created us as automatons who are programmed to follow His every whim, but He didn’t. He created a universe in which we have free will to the fullest extent possible, where we could even choose to perceive him or believe him—or not.

By definition, if you could PROVE the existence of God, there would be no need for faith, and no real possibility for us to love Him of our own accord. Only by allowing us to reject Him did he give us the power to accept Him. He grants us the ability to have faith so that we can truly experience love.

Second, God allows faith so that we have a journey. As God has revealed himself and men have responded, there are thousands and thousands of stories about changed lives and new directions. Abram left Ur to go to the place God would show him; Moses led a nation out of slavery; Paul did a 180 on the road to Damascus; and more recently, Brian Welch, Albert Pujols, Eric Metaxas, and many others speak movingly about their faith in God and their new direction on the website I AM SECOND (iamsecond.com). The changes in these many lives are fueled by faith which provided a platform from which to embark on a new journey in life.

Finally, God gives faith so that we can live out a dream. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith enables us to take evidence and convert it to hope. It empowers us to take hope and convert it to action. True faith ALWAYS results in action (see James Chapter 2). There is no such thing as passive faith. It’s like the old expression, “put your money where your mouth is.” If you really believe something you won’t just talk about it, you’ll invest in it with your time and resources.

A person of faith will think differently, act differently, and dream differently. It might be surprising, but I’ve never really been a big “pie in the sky when you die by-and-by” kind of guy. I have always thought that the greatest thing about eternal life is how it performs TODAY. You may say, “This God stuff is silly. We die and that’s it.” You might be right. So then, even if I’m 100% wrong, and we both end up in the grave, what did I lose? I still gained comfort, wisdom, and a quality of life I never dreamed possible. But if the faith I place in God is justified, and I’m right, then, WOW! What did I gain? If you ever stop and think of what heaven could be like, it is mind–bending. And it would be a shame to miss an eternity filled with God’s glory just because you were waiting for more evidence.

Somewhere, sometime along the way, God has revealed Himself to you. He has given you glimpses of His creativity, his character, his Word, and his impact on others. But He will never PROVE himself to you. He is waiting for you to step out in faith, and Hebrews says He is waiting to reward you if you diligently seek Him. Believe it. Bet on it.

 

God did not make robots who could not think on their own,
But men who had to find their way to Him by faith alone...
Sure, He could have forced mankind to find Him and accept Him;
He could have offered iron-clad proof so no one could reject Him.
Instead of proof, He gave us all the privilege to believe,
To come to him by Faith, based on the evidence we receive.
Many may ignore Him; there are times when no one sees Him;
Just don't forget: without Faith, it's impossible to please Him.

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sf=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Who had Faith so Powerful that it Amazed Jesus? You? Or This Guy?

I am amazed at this story in Luke about something amazing. Jesus had been asked to heal a centurion’s servant, and before he even got to the house, this happened: “[Jesus] was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (Luke 7:6-10, NIV)

Luke tells us about a centurion who was sympathetic to the Jews, and had apparently earned their respect (at least in part because he had built them a synagogue). His servant was deathly sick, and he heard about Jesus and sent elders from the synagogue to ask him to consider healing the servant. Luke describes how the centurion acknowledged Jesus’ power, had faith in His ability to heal, and how Jesus then healed the servant from far away, a fairly astonishing event.

The gospels tell us over and over that Jesus did things that were amazing, and that people were astonished by him. Have you ever been amazed by Jesus? Consider what Matthew 7:28 said about him. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching”. In Luke 5:8-9, he gets this reaction: “Simon Peter…fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…” I’m sure professional fishermen had large catches before, but apparently Jesus helped them to accomplish something remarkable.

Again, in Mark 6:51, the disciples were desperately caught in a deadly storm when Jesus “climbed into the boat with them, and the wind just died down. They were completely amazed…” We pretty much expect Jesus to affect people that way, because, after all, he was God. He did amazing things.

But I love this story about the centurion not because of what Jesus DID, but because of what happened when he heard what the centurion requested: “When Jesus heard this, he was AMAZED at him.” It is one thing for us to be amazed at God; but I had never thought about what it might take for God to be amazed at ME. Do you really have faith? Do you believe God enough to depend on Him without reservation? Do you trust that He has your best interests at heart, and can do what He promised even if you can’t see him? The centurion was so confident in the Lord that Jesus was amazed at his faith. Have you amazed him with YOUR faith lately?

Get up, go look in the mirror, and ask: Who has amazing faith? And say:

 

Jesus did amazing things that crowds turned out to see;
He healed the sick and lame, he even calmed the raging sea!
A Roman soldier asked for help, but didn't ask for proof;
He felt unworthy asking Christ to step beneath his roof.
When Jesus heard the man's request, he turned, the crowd to tell,
"I haven't seen a faith like this in all of Israel!"
With that, the centurion's servant left his sickbed, and was well!
Perhaps we all should ask with faith, and have our faith be raised;
Believing God is gracious and is worthy to be praised!
Have faith in Jesus; maybe BOTH of you will be amazed!

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread