“I’m living by faith. If God wants it to happen, it will. ” This sounds so spiritual. It can also deceptively hide an unwillingness to risk failure or to work hard. Sometimes we unknowingly deceive ourselves. We actually are struggling with having faith in God’s ability to reward those who take steps of obedient action.
This issue shows up in many different areas of our lives as disciple makers. It shows up in our evangelism. We see it in our fundraising and finances. We see it in how we set goals. We see it when we are discouraged in the discipleship process as we help new believers grow and change.
God designed faith and works to go together. It is both/and, not either/or. We live by faith and we work hard too. We devote ourselves to the work of the ministry while trusting with all our hearts that God will do what we can’t.
I met a church planter in a closed country some years ago. He was a good guy. Deeply committed to Christ, he had given up a great deal to come and serve the Lord in this unreached place. He had been working on learning the language, and had built a few local friendships. I immediately liked him and felt drawn to his obvious love for God. At the same time, he seemed discouraged. As we talked about what he had hoped to see happen, he said something like “This place (name of country he was in) is hard and I guess it is just not God’s time here yet. When God wants to save people in ________, He will do it. I just need to wait and keep living by faith.”
I wish I had asked him how it was going as far as sharing the gospel. Had he shared his testimony with anyone that past week or month? What was the response? I suspect he might have admitted to me that he had not shared a clear gospel message with anyone since he had arrived there several years before. I may have been able to help him more, had I kindly asked these questions.
It says in James 2:18, 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. (NIV)
Faith doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play. Faith that God will save people in our community must be reflected by our active witness. Faith that God will provide for our needs is reflected by our willingness to approach potential supporters, share about our vision and work, inviting them to be a part. Faith that God is going to bring transformation to a community means rolling up our sleeves to rake leaves, pick up trash, or counsel a couple in marriage trouble who live near us. Faith and action go together. They are not opposites, they are deeply connected!
Is it possible to move into empty works of the flesh? To start trying to do things in our own strength? Placing too much confidence in our own ability and past experience? Absolutely. We must careful not to do this.
That means I need to keep allowing God to fill me with His dreams, which always are bigger than my own. When I do that, I’m stretched to a place where I always know that no matter what I do, He has to come through with His part, or whatever I’m attempting will fail.
We live in utter dependence on God to work (convict someone of sin, bring them to repentance, speak to them to support us, help them see their need for transformation, etc.) We also faithfully do our job (share the gospel, lovingly confront and train disciples, share our needs, etc.)
Disciple making movements among the unreached are a miracle of God. They can never happen through our own strength or activities. They require us to be people of faith, continuing to hold tightly to God’s character and the promises of His Word. Whether it is one person being saved, healed, delivered, one group started, or finances for one need being met, it is all because God was good and because He acted that these things become reality.
What area of action have you allowed yourself to stop pursuing? Where have you convinced yourself what you were doing was “trusting God”? Maybe the Lord would have you take action in that area once again. He will be there with His help and strength.