Faith is a gift from God so that He can bless the chosen ones with al that He has destined for them already. A father desires to give the best to his family members and God the Father has given us His best gift of His only begotten Son as our Savior. Our sins are forgiven through faith in Lord Jesus Christ but there is more to salvation that this. God is please with us to make us part of His Divine family but our responsibility is to reach out to others with the message of the Gospel. This is not to please God but as an act of rejoicing and thanksgiving.
Relationship of faith and works in our life – ‘Thus faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead’ and also ‘For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also’ (James 2:17 & 26). Faith has been defined as ‘substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’. Faith gives hope and to fulfill that hope some action is required, for without that this hope cannot bear fruit. If God has given a revelation to someone about a job in some place, then the individual must apply, give interview, while all along thanking God for what He has done, to receive the job offer.
The Israelites asked Prophet Samuel to appoint a king over them so that ‘he may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles’ (1 Samuel 8:20). There was a very handsome man and he was taller than all others and Saul, being people’s choice was chosen to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:2). On the other hand, David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and was not even considered to be called to meet Prophet Samuel, yet he was anointed as king (1 Samuel 16:13). But David went back to tending to sheep without getting puffed up and waited for God to establish him at the right time.
1 Samuel 17 has the details of the Philistines gathering together to fight the Israelites and Goliath, the giant taunted the forces of Israel for forty days challenging them to send someone to fight him. The right choice to fight him was Saul, being the tallest as also being the king, chosen for this very purpose but he was fearful. David despite his young age, not yet being twenty, the age for joining the army, volunteered to fight Goliath but King Saul discouraged him due to his age. David’s reply to King Saul was filled with faith, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine’. This is David’s statement of faith before the king and this resulted in a blessing, ‘And Saul said, ‘Go and the LORD be with you’.
The king had his personal armor and clothed David with that but David took it off, being not used to it. God was still training David to become the king and his day of wearing the king’s armor had not yet come. He went forward to fight Goliath as a shepherd and with the shepherd’s weapons, a rod and a sling, while picking up five stones from the brook.
Goliath cursed David in the name of his gods and David responded, ‘You come with a sword, a javelin and a spear….I come to you in the name of LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand’. The aim of his faith in his victory was, ‘that all the earth may know that there is God in Israel’ and second, ‘That all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and He will give you into our hands’. David ran towards the Philistine, filled with faith in God to act on His behalf. He had faith and he acted in that faith to use his sling to shoot a stone at Goliath and God gave tremendous speed, direction and exact point accuracy to the stone to hit him ‘in the forehead and he (Goliath) died’.
Saul and all the Israelite believed in the promise of God that , ‘the LORD your God is HE who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you’ (Deuteronomy 20:4). They had the faith but since they did not act on that, it was dead faith and of no use. The working of faith in our lives is to step out to take on the life challenges and we have been given the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us and we should seek His help. The closer is the relationship with the LORD the better is our tuning to hear His voice. Lord Jesus walked on water to help the disciples struggling to reach the other side and Apostle Peter called out to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water’ (Matthew 14:28-29). After receiving permission he walked on water, in faith in the Lord.
The Philistines attacked Keilah, a Jewish town, to rob them of the crop that they had harvested. King Saul would have known about this but he did nothing but when David came to know, he inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go and attack those Philistines’ (1 Samuel 23:2-4). The LORD did permit him to go and save Keilah but his companions objected for fear of leaving the safety of their hideout. David again sought the LORD’s permission and received the answer, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand’ and he ‘struck them with a mighty blow’. Abraham’s offering of Isaac, his son, on the altar was an act of faith and with that action his faith was made perfect (James 2:21-22). God’s Holy Spirit was present but action only started when ‘God said’, thus completing an action of faith (Genesis 1). How much more do we need to act like this in faith!
The right mix of faith and works – Bethany, presently called Al- Eizariya, is located near Jerusalem and Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, friends of Lord Jesus, lived there. On one visit there, Mary ‘sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word’ while ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (Luke 10:38-42). Lord Jesus always traveled with the twelve disciples and a few others and Martha as a good host was busy preparing a good meal for them. She felt that Mary should help her and probably her calls to Mary were not heeded, to lead her to seek Lord Jesus help, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’. The Lord told her about her worrying ‘about many things’ for He was not that concerned about food as about teaching the message of the Gospel. When the disciples returned from Sychar, the Samaritan village after getting food for the Lord, they offered it to Him to receive His answer, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Our Lord appreciated Mary for choosing the ‘one thing’ that is needed, ‘that good part, which will not be taken away from her’.
Apostle Paul repeated what the Holy Spirit had already confirmed to the prophet (Jeremiah 31:33), ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD; I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them’ (Hebrews 10:16). Lord Jesus did this through His teachings and now the Holy Spirit does, since His role as defined by the Lord is, ‘He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you’ (John 14:26). Mary had chosen that part and since it was written in her mind and heart it could not be taken away.
Apostle Paul teaches that ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). True faith can then be seen in action in both sisters after their brother Lazarus’ death, when Lord Jesus reached after four days (John 11:21-22 & 32). Martha was the first to reach the Lord somewhere near the grave, to say, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You’. However, ‘When Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him’ exactly the same twelve words but nothing more and made no demands. Mary surrendered to His will recognizing Him as God and left the next step to Him. Martha confirmed her belief in resurrection when told by Lord Jeus, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ but the Lord wept with Mary sharing her grief for she recognized His Divine status by worshipping Him. Martha still doubted the work of the Lord asking Him to reconsider the command to remove the stone saying, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days’.
On another occasion, Lord Jesus was again in their house and ‘Martha served’. Mary had learnt about His crucifixion and resurrection and anointed His feet with ‘very costly oil of spikenard’ the value of which was equal to one year wages of a man (John 12:2-3). She wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair, which is her God given glory. Action of faith is always to honor God and not for personal glory for otherwise it will always fail and this is learnt only at His feet since only then does He raise us to a higher level of exaltation.
Why do we fail – The command to Adam is invariably seen as a restriction but in actual fact freedom is given to him do all he wants to do except that one thing (Genesis 2:17). God had provided them with everything they needed right there in the Garden of Eden and they had His company daily to worship and learn from Him. People decided to ‘build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4). We want to make a name for ourselves through our deeds, even through works that we claim to do for the heavenly kingdom.
The Pharisees, Sadducees and the Jewish leaders were always present around Lord Jesus to hear Him and find fault in His teachings. God gave Ten Commandments to Moses to guide the Israelites about their daily living but the Jewish leaders elaborated these and other commands into 613 necessary commands for all to follow, which nobody can. The teaching of every religion is to please God with our good works but God sent His Son into the world for He loves us and for a normal human being it is impossible to understand. Apostle Paul expressed his and every human being’s inability to understand the way of God, ‘the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God’ (Romans 11:33). God chooses us in whatever sinful state we are and then cleanses us of all the filth of our sins with the blood of His Son to make us worthy of standing in His presence.
The Prodigal son after losing everything through his sinful living returned to his father in hope and was forgiven and accepted (Luke 15:28-32). The elder son complained, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you, I never transgressed your commandments at any time, and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends’. Like Martha and the elder brother we also want to make God obliged to us by doing good deeds and then answer our prayers. The Savior Lord told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying at the Temple. The Pharisee prayed, ‘God I thank You that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess’ (Luke 18:11-13). The tax collector, beat his breast in repentance and surrender, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner’ and pleased God with his surrender.
We all are born with a sinful nature and even after our new birth in Christ, need Him for we still sin and need forgiveness and mercy. We need to surrender to His control everyday and worship Him to be saved from doing evil. This is the only way to remain in His Divine shadow to get strengthened, led in His righteousness and be transformed into the image of becoming a real child of God.
Our actions in life must be governed with the knowledge that God is not angry with a believer and there is no need to please Him in this manner. God’s pleasure is in our developing a close relationship with Him in love and surrender to His Divine authority. Once we do this, our life and all our works will be in accordance with His will!