You Didn’t Know There Was A Test
Recently, my wife asked me to do something and I didn’t do it. A little later, I asked my son to do something and he didn’t do it either. Where do they get this from?
Faith and works are closely related. I can say I believe a person, but the real test is whether or not I am willing to act on the basis of that person’s word. If, for example, my wife says the car hasn’t been handling right, I can have a conversation about that. But whether I really believe her or not will be decided when I take the car into the shop (or not, as the case may be).
As Protestants, we believe in a doctrine called sola fide, or “faith alone.” This is the idea that a person can be accepted by God on the basis of his faith, even when faith has not had the chance to express itself in works. It’s a good idea, in part because it is biblical, and in part because it protects us from the self-righteousness and meritoriousness that so often creeps into religious life.
But like any idea, it is subject to abuse when we carry it out to the letter without paying attention to the spirit in which it was uttered. Noah is said to have had faith, but I wonder what would have happened if he said to himself, “I don’t want any works righteousness, so I’m not going to build an ark”? Abraham is said to have had faith, but what if he said, “I’m believing God’s going to make me into a great nation no matter what, so I’m not going to leave Ur”? The thief on the cross is often held up as a cardinal example of faith without works, but we forget that his faith prompted him to say, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What if he had remained silent?
You and I have been given what the Scriptures refer to as “God’s great and precious promises.” But it can be very easy to deny with our actions what we acknowledge with our lips. For example, do we really believe that we are blessed when we are humbled, when we show forgiveness to those who have hurt us, when we give gifts to those who don’t deserve it, or when we are persecuted for simply trying to do the right thing or allowing ourselves to be associated with the name of Jesus? Life will test the authenticity of our faith in the fires of adversity. Not that we should create artificial situations in order to test our faith—I doubt very much God would be impressed with our building a boat when there is no storm coming. But when the storms of life come unbidden, that is the time when it will become apparent whether we have been building on sand or rock.
How can we prepare? In the little things, no doubt. Does not each day offer a wonderful variety of petty challenges and frustrations? Yet we scorn being faithful in the day-to-day, not realizing that it is precisely here where God trains men and women for the exceptional.
How have you been doing with your training?
Pastor Chad LewisMarch 7, 2018