"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Faith Without Works???

One restless afternoon, I sat on my sofa with the television remote grasped in my hands. As I flipped through the channels filled with re-runs of reality shows, I paused for a few minutes on one of the most popular reality shows to date, Fear Factor.

On the show Fear Factor, a group of people, who I personally thought had lost their natural minds, would eat things that were not fitting to eat and accomplish tasks that were death defying. I literally thought these people were crazy! Apparently other people did also, as the show's rating reached into the upper millions, and the world tuned in to watch each new episode, and some re-runs also, to see what adventures would await the new risk takers. The best part of the show, however, was to see if they could accomplish all that was set before them to make it to the end. If they did, a great lump of prize money awaited them. What a reward!

As I watched the show on this particular day, I noticed the faith in these people. They kept pressing through each stage of the game, harder and harder. None of these tasks were particularly comfortable or pleasing. You could hear them hyping themselves up mentally, as they prepared to accomplish the next phase of the game. Most constantly reminded themselves of the great prize that would await them if they could make it just one more step. Then they would begin to work through that phase, excited when it was over, and ready to conquer the next one that lie ahead. They had faith in themselves, and followed through by working towards their goal.

I began to think about the tenacity of these people. The strength that they exhibited to obtain something that was only going to bring them short term joy amazed me. Then I began to think about my faith as a Christian. I wondered if I had the faith plus the works to reach the goals that my Father had set before me. Many times, we have the vision, or the knowledge of what God wants us to do, we just don't follow through to work for it. We want God to lay it all in our laps and give it to us. We want Him to make us someone, but we don't put in the work it takes to make the changes to become that person.

The book of James speaks in depth about the many aspects of faith. The Bible tells me that God is not pleased if I do not have faith in Him. That shows that I do not believe in Him and all the power that He holds. But what if I have faith, but I don't actively seek out and work towards what God has placed within me?

James 2:14-17 states, What doth it profit my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Having faith alone is not enough to accomplish our goals and dreams. My mind wonders to Joseph and his dream from last night's post. What if, when Joseph was sold into slavery, he just simply gave up? What if he did not work hard and press through this difficult time? What if the contestants on Fear Factor wanted the money so badly, but did not accomplish the tasks that lie ahead of them in order to reach the reward? Neither would have reached the end result! Joseph, like the contestants on Fear Factor kept their eyes ahead to the end result, while also working towards what they wanted.

Think about it this way; you want a new job. You are praying for a new job, and believe in all your heart that God is going to bless you with a new job. You are getting discouraged because you have not even had an interview in the past six months. You are wondering if God is really going to give you the job that you have been praying in faith for. The only problem is....you haven't filled out any applications! Sounds silly, doesn't it? Now, think about our faith in our Christian walk.

We think; Lord, I know you have blessed me with a certain talent, but I feel like I am not receiving the opportunities to utilize it. You must ask yourself; does anyone know that I am spiritually talented in a certain area? Do those around you know that you are talented, or do you sit and wait for God to reveal it to them? Do you put work into your gift and passion?

There is a popular gospel song in which the lyrics echo,
"All I have to do is take one step, and He will do the rest, the rest, the rest."

Yes, my friend, God has placed passions within you, and has a purpose and a plan for your life. Also know, that He expects you to put in the work required to reach and sustain your purpose. Faith without works is dead!!! Let us work harder toward our high calling in Christ. Ministers and deacons are not the only Christians with a calling. God is calling you too! We all have a purpose in the business of Kingdom building! Whether your job is viewed by others as large or small; leader over many, just a few, or none at all, God has something for all of us to do! Let us exercise our faith and work toward our destiny too!

Lord, I come to You right now, thanking You for Your word. Thank You Lord for revealing to us that faith without works is dead. Faith is nothing without utilizing the skills that you have placed within us to help reach our Kingdom purpose. Help us to keep our eyes on You, for spending eternity with You is our ultimate reward. Thank You Father for continuing to reveal to us how we can continue to grow in Your word. As we exercise our faith by working for You, please continue to order our steps each day. Show us the path that You will have us to take, and continue to prepare us for the day we reach Your Kingdom. Forgive us God for times in which we have had faith with no works. Forgive us for expecting you to lay everything that we should be working towards in our laps. We realize that You have placed within us exactly what we need to become what You desire us to be. Thank You Lord!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Dream Like Joseph's

Like many of us, Joseph's testimony begins when he was just a young boy. Joseph was the youngest son of Jacob, who had eleven sons total. Not only was Joseph the youngest, but he was also his father's favorite son. Jacob showed his favor towards Joseph by presenting him with gifts. The most famous of these is Joseph's amazing technicolor coat. This coat made Joseph unique amongst everyone else, as clothing in this day was mostly solid in color. Many people who know of Joseph's story mostly remember Joseph for this coat. It is my thought that it was not the coat at all that made Joseph special, yet it was his dreams and the source of them.

As a young lad, Joseph dreamed dreams in which he was a leader over his brothers. Joseph knew that these dreams were from God, but he did not know what God was speaking to him. Again, like many of us, Joseph shared his dream with his brothers. You see, Joseph's brothers already despised him because of the favor he had with their father, so this dream that Joseph had in which they were bowing down to him did not settle well with them at all. Joseph's own brothers being to plot and plan on how they would destroy him. They planned on killing him, but one brother objected. After stripping Joseph of his special garment, they tossed him into a deep pit. They decided to take the precious gift of the technicolor coat soaked in blood to their father. The clever sons convinced Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Jacob was heartbroken! Meanwhile, Joseph was sold into slavery for twenty measly pieces of silver.

Can you imagine God has shown you that you are going to be a ruler over many; God has shown you that your own family that hates you now is going to bow down to you; but somehow, you have become a slave? Your dream now seems impossible! The picture appears that what you know God has shown you will not come to pass. (At least that is how we think.) Joseph did not lose his faith in God. He was confident and solidified in what God had shown him in his dreams. It was this confidence and faith that made Joseph work as hard as he could as a slave. Joseph slaved day in and day out to please his master, Potiphar. With every day, Joseph remembered the dream that God had shown him years before.

Many events occurred between Joseph's dream and the fruition of it. Joseph was lied on and thrown into prison while a slave. It was in this difficult situation that God begin to make Joseph's sprout of a dream blossom into reality. Joseph told a man in prison what his dream meant, and after the man’s release it did come to pass. Soon, the word about Joseph's gift spread. Pharaoh called for Joseph to be fetched from prison, because he had a dream that troubled him and he was unable to make sense of it. God used Joseph, a slave, to warn Pharaoh about a famine that was going to hit the land for seven years. Pharaoh then used Joseph to store food for the famine. When Pharaoh saw that Joseph's interpretation of his dream was correct, he made Joseph his right hand man and ruler over the land of Egypt. It was in the famine when Joseph's brothers arrived in Egypt to ask for food. They stood before Joseph, oblivious of the fact that he was their own brother. Joseph tested them to see if their hearts had changed. When he discovered that it had, he revealed himself to them. They bowed in disbelief that this ruler of the land was indeed their brother whom they had sold and sent away many years ago.

Joseph’s life story is one of complexity. There were many twists and turns on Joseph's road to his destiny of becoming the ruler that God had shown him as a young lad. Many of us would have gotten lost in the twists and turns, thinking that God had forsaken us, or lied to us. We, unlike Joseph, forget that God has a path for each of us to travel that leads to the place where He wants us to be.

I love Joseph's testimony! I admire Joseph's tenacity and determination. I admire that fact that Joseph believed the intangible visions that God had shown him in his dreams, instead of the concrete situations that lay in his physical eyesight. Joseph understood his destiny, and accepted the path that he had to take in order to reach it. And, even in his trials, Joseph kept his focus on what he knew his end result would be.

I want to strive to be more like Joseph! I want to keep my focus on what I know the end result will be for this life God has blessed me with. When test and trials come before me, I want to not allow them to become so enormous that I allow them to overshadow my God and His plan for my life. I want to keep my thoughts focused on what God has shown me and what God says, rather than allow my thoughts to flow into negative status and distract me from what God is preparing me for.

When our thoughts become negative because of our situations, we begin to second guess what God has called us to do and we fall from the faith that keeps us working towards our purpose. Our thoughts go from:

With God, I can do all things....to.....I don't have the skills needed to do.....

I know what God wants me to do with my life...to...What in the world was God thinking when He created me?

I am blessed....to.... Why does it feel like everyone else is getting blessed but me?

God has given me the talent of____and I will use it for Him....to....I wish I could_____ like him/her?

What is your dream? Is it a dream like Joseph's? Is it a dream that God has shown you and placed the passion within you? Sometimes God's dreams can be intimidating, because we don't see ourselves the way He does. We often feel that we are ill equipped to accomplish what He has set out for us to do. And, when we experience rough trails on the road to our destiny, we take those rocky roads not as a sign that God is preparing us for what lies ahead, but as a personal attack that confirms our hidden thoughts that we are and never will be good enough for the high calling that God has on our life.

We must dare to dream like Joseph! It was not Joseph's dream that was even important, but it was Joseph's commitment and faith to becoming what God had declared him to be that is the essential component of his testimony. I want to be committed like Joseph, even when the road seems like it’s taking me somewhere that God hasn't shown me just yet!

Lord, I thank you this moment for showing your will for my life to me. I confess now that this journey is rough, and sometimes I find myself looking for you and I often forget that you are traveling right with me. I lose sight of the final destination and the process I must endure to reach it. Lord, please give me strength to wait on you. Give me strength to stay in your will, even when I feel like I am not getting where I should be fast enough. Lord, I thank you for giving me Joseph's testimony of dedication and determination. I realize that it is You that I should work to please and not other people. Lord, I thank you for your grace and mercy that you shower over me when I am disobedient to Your instructions and Your word. And, when I chose to take my own path and not the one You chose for me to travel, I thank you for getting me right back on track. Father, I love you, and I worship and praise Your name!