(Summary of the sermon: 22 Nov 2015)
A couple of weeks ago, we started studying about the topic of ‘Faith’. We studied that ‘faith’ is ‘not calling those things that exist as though they don’t exist’. Instead it is ‘calling those things that do not exist as though they do’.
Therefore, when there is an illness or a problem we don’t turn a blind eye and say that everything is fine. That’s not faith. Faith is acknowledging that there is an illness or a problem but we believe that we are healed by the stripes of Jesus.
We see multiple demonstrations of this faith in the Bible too. Take for example the time when God spoke light into darkness at Creation or when Jesus spoke healing into the lives of sick people or even when the Red Sea was parted when Moses obeyed God and stretched out his rod.
Today, let us study another aspect of this faith.
FAITH AND WORKS
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
The Bible says that our faith might be good but it is pointless if it is not accompanied by works. Of course, it is true that works have no place in our Salvation. We are saved only by grace. But the faith that we profess to have in Christ Jesus is perfected by the works that are birthed forth of us.
So, that raises a couple of questions. Why are works so important for our faith? For that matter, what are the works that James is talking about in the above passage?
Let us clarify them right away.
- Significance of works and faith
Even demons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Therefore there would be no difference between them and us, if our faith in Jesus as God is not accompanied by corresponding actions.
- Kinds of works
James is not talking about the work that we do in our offices or homes. He is talking about those actions that we must do to corroborate what we believe in. For e.g., suppose we believe that our marriages are going to be blessed or that our children can achieve something. But if we go home and get anxious about them and are upset with our spouse and children and speak harshly with them, we are not acting in a manner corresponding to our faith or belief.
Let me give you a real life incident from my life to explain more about faith and the corresponding works.
Sometime after Anjali and I got married, the doctors told us that because of Anjali’s thyroid problem we couldn’t have a child. We were sad but we decided to trust in God. Friends rallied around us and encouraged us. So, I decided to fast and pray with the specific request of a child from God. Days passed by. Guess what happened? On the 40th day, Anjali discovered that she was pregnant!
Dear ones, faith is not just a positive spirit or confidence or bragging. It is total dependence on and obedience in God demonstrated by a corresponding action from our side.
Let us now look at an incident in the Bible that showcases this faith beautifully.
THE BLEEDING WOMAN
Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”
Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”
And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
There are some precious truths about faith that we can learn from the life of this bleeding woman.
- FAITH COMES FROM HEARING THE WORD
Mark introduces this lady as someone who had been ailing for a long time. Then one day she hears about Jesus. When she heard that Jesus Christ, the Living Word was going to pass through her neighborhood, faith arose in her.
Where does our faith come from? It is important for us to hear, meditate and study God’s Word regularly because the source of our faith comes from God’s Word.
- FAITH PROMPTS US TO ACT
Mark continues to paint her story and says that she decided in her heart that she would touch the hem of Jesus’ garment for healing. Now, let’s pause for just a moment. Scripture does not teach us anywhere of a list of appropriate things-to-do for healing. Touching the hem of Jesus’ garment or touching the eyes of a blind man were not part of any prepared ‘healing methods’ list. In fact, the Bible says that many in the thronging crowd were touching Jesus. But ‘only’ this woman was healed. It was not the garment that healed her, but it was her faith that led her to reach out and touch Jesus’ garment. It is not the method that heals us, but the Word of God that we believe in and that causes us to act.
- FAITH LEADS US TO FOCUS
In those days, a Jewish woman with such an ailment would be kept aside from mainstream society. For about long twelve years, this woman was sick and alone. But one day she decided that she would do anything to just touch Jesus’ garment. She believed strongly in her heart that He could heal her.
Our faith leads us to focus and complete assignments despite all odds. Instead of running in multiple directions, faith enables us to focus on our assignment.
Our new church building is a testimony to that truth. In 2009, we drew out a vision map for our Church. We decided that by 2015 we would have a church building. It was not an easy task. We faced many challenges. But we believed that it was God’s plan for us and so we forged ahead with a determined focus on doing everything possible to make it true. We started Petras and many other ministries. By the grace of God, we were able to accomplish our goal.
- FAITH ENABLES US TO DECLARE THE TRUTH
The bleeding woman had the assurance that Jesus could heal her. So she spoke what would happen in the present. She said, ‘If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well’. It is important for us to declare what God can do for us in the future. Now, let us be clear to not confuse it with naming and claiming. No. Faith is more than that. It is declaring the truth and accompanying it with a work that will help us claim it.
- FAITH ENABLES US TO FINISH OUR TASK
The woman determined that she needed to touch Jesus’ garment in order to be healed. But she did not waiver or give up because of the crowd. She pressed on and touched his garment. Her faith led her to stay put on the course and complete her action.
Often we start out many things with good intentions. It’s like deciding to train for a sport or run a marathon or learn music. We go all out and buy the gear, show up for a couple of days and stay driven for a while. But soon fear of not being to finish, lack of stamina, laziness or just plain disinterest kills our interest. Let us remember that our faith is accomplished only when we finish it. Let us model Jesus Christ who said in John 17, ‘I have finished the work and I have glorified your name’. Let us stay on the course and complete our plans.
- FAITH TESTIFIES OF GOD’S GOODNESS
The moment she acted in faith she received healing. But Jesus didn’t let her walk away unnoticed. He turned around and sought the person who had touched Him. His disciples asked how He could even such a question when they were being pressed on all sides by a large crowd. But Jesus kept searching. Trembling, the woman approached Him and owned up that it was she who had touched His garment and that she was healed now!
You see, our faith is complete only when we testify to God acknowledging what He did for us. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in telling others about what God did in our lives. But first, let us remember to testify to God.
A few days back Chennai city was under the grip of a devastating flood. One morning, Anjali and I stood at the balcony of our apartment looking at the rising water level. Anjali remarked something that I realized was very true. She said, ‘At the end of the day, if not for God’s mercy none of us will survive’. Dear ones, let us remember that God alone is our help. Let us continue to place our trust in Him alone. At the same time let us back our faith in Him by our corresponding actions.
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