By: Staci Stallings
One of the really, totally cool things about hanging out with God is how often He brings multiple pieces from varying places together so that you KNOW He’s talking right to you. That actually happens to me a lot. I think many times people don’t “hear” God talking because they seem to think that He’s supposed to have a voice that speaks to you. Yes, sometimes that happens too, but far more often (for me at least) it’s a series of pieces that fit too well together for it to be anything but God trying to tell me something.
That was the case this weekend.
The theme of the pieces could be summed up in three words: faith and works.
Now we all know there is great discussion in the church about those two words—one without the other, the other without the one, in what order, how much, which is more important, which first and which second? I’ve felt for a long time that I understood the proper relationship, but I could never put it into words that expressed it very well. And then God started putting the pieces into place.
First came a short talk that I gave on Luke 8:48. Then Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” I pointed out that in this verse, there are four words that crystallize the message. Faith, more specifically YOUR faith. To begin the process, God requires a very small amount of faith on your part. That faith may only be the size of a mustard seed, but YOU have to act on it. You have to take the first step to Him by applying that faith.
The next word is healed. When we come to Jesus through our miniscule amount of faith, He will bring us healing—emotional, mental, spiritual, and sometimes physical healing. When the healing has come, we are then at peace. Peace and healing go together. You do not have one without the other. If you are still in pain, it is nearly impossible to be at total peace. However, once you are completely healed, peace is the natural bi-product of that healing.
Finally, “Go.” When we find God’s healing and peace, it is natural for us to want to go out to our world and tell everyone about this wonderful thing He has done for us.
So that was the first piece.
Then at Mass this morning, the sermon centered around “stewardship” or how are you giving back to your Church and your world? The priest said this, “The loudest testimony we have is not spoken but LIVED!”
Too often we know the talk backward and forward, but our walk is stumbling and hesitant. We proclaim one thing at the altar, but live something diametrically different when we walk out the door. In short, we have the faith part down, but our actions don’t follow the faith we profess.
Add to these pieces Dr. Lee A. Simpson this morning. He said that our Christian works should never be defined by “and”; our works should be defined by “because.”
We are not saved by Jesus dying on the cross AND our reading the Bible AND our good works AND our prayer life. We are saved by Jesus dying on the cross, and BECAUSE of that, we read the Bible and do good works and have a strong prayer life. Our works are a result of what Jesus did, not somehow a necessary addition to what He did.
This is a point I could really have used when I was younger. Back then, I was firmly in the AND column. I was doing, doing, doing because I had heard, “A tree is known by the fruit it produces” and “if a vine does not produce, it shall be cut away and thrown into the fire.” Man, I wanted to be known as a GOOD tree, and I did not want to be thrown into the fire. So I put A LOT of effort into producing good fruit so that I could prove to God I was worthy of Heaven.
Oh, how wrong I was. Wrong and EXHAUSTED.
I worked, and I worked, and I worked, and mostly all I felt was frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. I was trying to live the testimony of my Christian walk based on “and” not based on “because.”
I’m guessing by now, you’re starting to see the pieces fit together the way I did. This is not some random thing. No, God is showing me something truly incredible and meaningful, and He’s allowing me to pass what I’m learning on to you. Through this process, God is speaking to directly to me from many different sources—all with a unique angle on the same topic and then producing that fruit in my life so it can be used in yours.
All of this was great. Then my sister called. (You’ve really got to love God!) She was reading this book about leadership in the church, and one part she read to me said, “When our lives are all talk and no action, what our world hears from us is: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” (Maybe it’s me, but I think that’s another way to say: “The loudest testimony we have is not spoken but LIVED!”)
And then she finished with this question: “What would the world be like if we really lived the Gospel instead of just talking about it?”
Huh. Good question.
Maybe if we did learn to orient our works around because rather than and, and start living the Gospel we say we believe in… Maybe, just maybe, our world would hear more than blah, blah, blah, blah.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2008