Preparing to Put Faith Into Action
As part of my ministry training, I took the basic lay servant course for the United Methodist Church. The course is designed to provide leaders in the church some basic knowledge and tools to help them in their ministry. As I got to spend time with other amazing leaders, I was inspired to do more with our congregation to turn our faith into action. How do we do more outside of the church walls to show our faith?
Consider the disciples after receiving their commission. The disciples didn’t have a church building to hold on to. A common place for people to gather regularly. A place to feel safe and know that everyone believed the same thing. The disciples had to go out into the world. They needed to face people who wouldn’t believe. Jesus’s ministry would only be able to continue through them and they needed to convince people that the scriptures were true. How scary that must have been. Think about it, the further the disciples traveled the fewer people knew who Jesus was. The less likely they were to know what message he delivered. It was up to the disciples, to not only remember the message but to demonstrate acts of faith. I can’t even begin to imagine, where would you start?
So fast forward a few thousand years to today. The disciples must have done their job well. The name of Jesus is known throughout the world, whether or not you believe, you know who he is and know about some of his works. So wouldn’t you think that this situation would make it easier for us to make disciples of Christ? Why do we now find it so much easier to have faith than to act on that faith? What stands in our way?
What stands in our way?
Some of the reasons that came to mind were:
- lack of time
- a fear of how people might react
Time is so precious to us. As a mother of two young kids with a full-time job and volunteer work, I’m never sure where the 24 hours in every day actually goes. I still can’t figure out how to fit in friends and family most of the time, let alone time for someone I don’t know.
And even if I did find the time, we are all so focused on ourselves that I wonder if anyone would even notice if I tried to reach them. Have you ever really noticed how many people keep their heads buried in their phones? Have you noticed how many people either don’t hold open a door or don’t acknowledge those that do, simply because they don’t pay attention to what is going on around them? We have so many ways to block out the world, to ensure that we don’t have to make a connection with another living soul…even when you are in a room of 100 people.
And then, let’s say I found the time and another soul that wanted to connect…what on earth would I then do or say? How do I demonstrate my faith? Do I simply state it “Hi I’m a Christian” .. or do I start quoting scripture…”For God so loved the world that he gave his only son. John 3:16”….or maybe I just out and invite them to church….how would they react if I did that? Would they even hear me? And if it wasn’t so obvious, would another action be recognized as an act of faith?
How I missed putting faith into action
Let me give you an example from my own life, where I can show you how all three roadblocks stopped me.
I believe I am a woman of faith and when the Holy Spirit calls me to take action within the church I am all over that! Start a new program, create this event, put us out on the web and social media…no problem! But when the Holy Spirit calls me to take action outside of our congregation I have a hard time listening.
As some of you might know, I work from home and my office window faces the street. So I have become the world’s noisiest neighbor. This past Halloween my neighbor put out a teal pumpkin. I thought it was interesting so I did some research and found that the teal pumpkin is a signal to parents that the home offers non-candy treats (for kids with severe allergies). I thought, wow this is really cool…until one day I noticed a second pumpkin with a teal cancer ribbon on it.
As the weeks began to pass I noticed more and more activity at the house. People dropping in to walk their dog, flowers being delivered, food being dropped off. So my next conclusion was that someone had recently passed in their family. But the activity continued for a lot longer than a passing would have typically warranted. Eventually, I saw my neighbor and it began to make sense. She had lost weight and her head was wrapped in a cloth to keep her head warm after she lost her hair. She was suffering from cancer and was undergoing treatments.
Once I put it all together I did a little more research to find that teal was the color for ovarian cancer. It occurred to me that as a neighbor I wanted to provide her with some kind of support so I went to the prayer shawls at church and found one in the teal color.
I’m sorry to say that it still sits in my house.
I was not been able to put my faith into action and why? Out of fear? How she would react? What would she think since she didn’t actually share this very private news with me? What if I was wrong??
I’m sure you can come up with a few of your own roadblocks. But Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook for those reasons:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me.”Matthew 25:45.
So now am I denying Jesus because I did not reach out to provide comfort to my neighbor? But I believe and I have faith….I don’t want to deny Jesus.
How do we overcome this?
The scripture from James is so brutally honest about this (after all he was Jesus’s half-brother)
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.James 2:26
In other words, one cannot exist without the other. So if we want to make it to the kingdom of heaven then we better find ways to combat all those excuses we have. Thankfully the Bible can help us with that and can provide us with some amazing examples along the way.
Lack of Time
When faced with the issue of time we can turn to Paul’s word in Ephesians:
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.Ephesians 5: 15 – 17
Because that’s the heart of it isn’t it? We need to live our lives in accordance with God’s will. And if we listen and understand what God’s will is for us, even how it relates to what we do for other people, we will always have the time to do what is asked of us and we will be rewarded for doing so. After all we can look to the example of the five talents to show us what happens when we wisely invest in God’s will.
When facing the world’s selfishness we need only look to Matthew for guidance:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:12
Could you only imagine it? A world where everyone followed this rule all the time! How much nicer of a world could it be? If it started with each of us I’d like to believe an onlooker would see it and do the same. There is a whole commercial series out there that does just that. I cry every time I see it because when it starts the deeds are small. But by the time we get to the last person the momentum has grown to the point that he actually saves someone’s life. Of course, we have the greatest of all selfless examples provided to us in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37).
Facing our fears
We have now faced down two of our biggest obstacles. But this last one is the hardest. I know I’m the kind of person who puts a high value on how others perceive me. Trying to get over my fear of the unknown (how will they react, what should I say/do, what will they think of me) is almost impossible. I have found inspiration in the scripture from Isaiah:
I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10 – 13
“All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
I realize this passage goes well beyond just facing my fears of showing an act of kindness to another person. But if God can remove my enemies he can certainly help to open the mind of a person that he has sent me to show his love to.
There are so many biblical examples that we can turn to when it comes to fear, but what about the real world examples? What about the young man who is teaching a homeless women to read and get back on her feet in Florida, all because she wished him a good day. Then there is the gate agent at the airport who noticed an older couple and moved their reservations so they would have more time at the next airport (also knowing that later flights were starting to be delayed)? The couple asked for nothing, the gate agent simply put himself in their shoes. Or what about someone like me, who noticed a crippled woman at the book sale and offered her the extra canvas bag I was carrying around to help make her journey easier?
The truth is every act done in faith is enough. We don’t need to shout it from the rooftop or be able to quote scripture. If you go back to look at Jesus’ time in ministry you will find that often times he left his actions to speak for themselves. He didn’t continue to preach to the families after he healed. The act alone let them know who he was and those he touched went on to tell about him to others. We too can have that same impact.
Now it’s your turn to turn faith into action
Be inspired by the scripture in James that said:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?James 2:15-16
Clearly, it is of no good, but what can you do? Today upon the alter I have placed blessing bags. These small bags are filled with essentials for someone on the street that might be in need. Please feel free to take one and keep it in your car in case you come across someone who could use the blessings found within.
This song has inspired me and I hope it can inspire you to find more ways to put your faith into action. Pray about how you can put your faith into action this week and make a few notes for yourself.
As the lyrics said:
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
We are all called. Every day the Holy Spirit touches our hearts and calls us to action. It could be a big action or it could be something small. But every action will demonstrate your faith to the world. All we need to do is listen and believe. Know that God is with you in whatever you are called to do and he will open up the pathways for you to accomplish that goal.
I invite you to share a story of how you put your faith into action so that we might all inspire each other to find more ways to reach out into the world and show them that we are Christians, not just tell them.
This was my very first sermon. This was the one that started it all. I delivered this message on Mother’s Day in 2016 at Rotterdam United Methodist Church.