But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
To find an excellent example of faith, one only has to look at a seed and the astonishing miracle of germination and growth. It’s one of God’s daily miracles, one which contains incredible wisdom and a living testimony to God’s grace and provision if we only take the time to consider it. Our creator God has provided so much in the simplest of things for our example.
Firstly, a seed contains all that it needs within itself to germinate. Yes, it requires water, soil and sunshine, but the initial resources required for growth are contained within the seed itself. Faith is a lot like that. The Bible tells us that we are each given a measure of faith. It’s all there within us, waiting for the moment of growth.
Secondly, seeds don’t wait to find out if rain is expected, or wonder if there will be sufficient sun, or even question the soil they are in. They germinate. They simply get on with it. There’s no deliberation, debate or procrastination. Their purpose is to germinate and grow into whatever they’re destined to be, an they don’t look for optimum conditions, perfect circumstances or validation by other seeds. Would that we could all be that simplistic in our faith!
Thirdly, the first thing a seed does is put down roots. They instinctively do first what they need to survive. Again, we should learn from this. No roots means no stability, and no stability leads to insecurity and, ultimately, withering. Our first task as Christians should be to dig deep into the rich soil of the Word and tap into the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. This is the only way to ensure strong roots and fruitful growth.
And this is where true faith comes in – the kind of faith demonstrated by that simply little seed. Real faith involves both expectation and action. A seed reacts to it’s innate purpose. There’s an expectation that all it needs will be provided. That expectation prompts the action of germination. There’s an expectation that pushing roots will provide the other resources it needs. That expectation prompts the action of pushing down roots. There’s an expectation that growth is inevitable. That prompts the action of pushing out the first new leaves.
James tells us clearly that we should be doers as well as hearers of the Word. He is telling us that faith involves expectation and action. Expectation comes from the hearing, which must always prompt a response of action. Jesus is a perfect example for us. He heard the Word – the will – of the Father and in faith believed that His sacrifice would be the salvation of mankind. But His simply believing it – having the expectation of it – would be meaningless if He didn’t take action.
It was His action – His coming to earth, His ministry, His suffering, His death on the cross and His resurrection – that made the expectation a reality. Faith that is only heard, no matter how much we may believe it, is worthless. It’s only when we act on our faith that what we are believing for happens. Of course, we need to take care that it’s real faith and not presumption. This is where the root comes in – we need to be firmly rooted in the Word and tapped in to the Holy Spirit. That is the only way that we can discern the will of God, which is the basis of faith.
Yes, we should learn to wait upon the Lord. That is Scriptural. But it’s not the passive kind of waiting displayed by so many believers. Sometimes action may require that we continue to pray with praise and thanksgiving. Sometimes God may need us to speak to someone, to give to someone, to do something specific – as always, this is by God’s direction alone, and requires that we be surely rooted in Him through fellowship with Him and worship. It may be that sometimes our only action is to wait, if that is what He tells us to do. Sometimes, though, we imagine that faith is simply sitting around waiting for God to do something and ignoring or not hearing our part of the process.
The real truth is that faith requires action of some kind. Always. I have yet to find a single instance in the Bible where this didn’t apply. None of the biblical characters, either in the Old Testament or the New, ever relied on expectation alone. Abraham was told to leave his home and family, to wait for a son and to sacrifice Isaac. All these required an action to complete the faith. Moses was told to speak to Pharoah. Joshua was told to march around Jericho, and Paul was told to preach to the gentiles.
Interestingly enough, the action was seldom what was anticipated. Think of Gideon, who ended up with a paltry handful of men to defeat a mighty army. Think of David who was told to serve King Saul, and then to hide from him, even though Saul was mad and David was anointed to succeed him. Our action, like that of a tiny seed, is by the will of God. He decides what the action is. He gives us the faith, which provides the expectation, and then requires that we take the necessary action.
Simple ‘expectation faith’ is all well and good and may sound very spiritual – ‘oh, I have faith and I’m waiting on the Lord.’ The sad truth is that many times God may well be waiting on us to take the required action. It is acting on our faith that demonstrates it to God, to ourselves, and to others. The action God gives us may even be strange to our logic and reasoning – poor Noah must have had some sleepless nights, thinking about the ark – but it’s the culmination of our faith. It involves obedience, something God values highly. Jesus said: If you love Me you will follow My commands. Obedience is faith in action, and faith in action is faith made manifest.
Of course, rushing off to ‘do’ before we’re sure of what to do is foolish. Always, without exception, we should seek God for answers. He will graciously confirm His Word if we need it, but we need to ask Him. That’s the first part of the action of faith – asking and believing that He will answer. The second part is the outworking of it. God will do the work, because He has always done what He has promised to do, but we need to do our part. It is in the doing of what we are hearing that we allow His grace to enable the outworking of our faith.
Thank You for Your Word, Lord, and for the sure and certain knowledge that You provide all that is needed in every situation. Teach us to turn to You, to seek Your wisdom in all things, to seek Your will in all situations, and give us the grace to add action to our expectation in obedience to You.