Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? Perhaps you had training wheels and a bike that was just your size. Maybe your dad steadied you as you wobbled down the street. With some practice, some falls, and some tears we overcame the fears and learned to ride. Then came the next challenges, how do you turn? How do you stop? Soon we were buzzing all over on our bikes without even thinking about what we were doing. Keep that in mind as we consider our next ABCs of faith: Doing Faith.
James sums up his examination of faith by saying, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26, NASB95) Sounds like our bicycle. For a more fuller understanding take the time to read his whole thought in James 2:14-26. In it, he shows how faith and works must both exist if either is to be authentic. Just like a bicycle needs to be pedaled for it to go anywhere.
Over the years folks have seen a Biblical contradiction between Paul and James. Paul seems to show that only faith matters and nothing else, while James declared that faith without works is dead. Lets put this to rest. Paul’s writings are more theological than James. Paul considers the grand and enormous themes of righteousness, justification, and salvation. We truly are saved by faith and nothing else. We don’t work our way into God’s graces or into heaven.
James writes practically instead of theologically. As a practical matter, if faith is real it will do something. The whole of James is loaded with practical wisdom and understanding about what it means to authentically follow Jesus. So, while we are saved by faith “doing” follows.
Faith is like being given a bicycle. We didn’t earn it, work towards it, or save up to get it; we simply receive it. Faith comes by hearing. But faith isn’t meant to stay in the garage tucked away in the back corner for safe keeping or put on display like a trophy. Faith, like the bicycle, does something.
Describing what that something is would be like trying to describe everywhere a bicycle could go. James uses the examples of physical help in the form of food and clothes, obedience to God’s command as shown by Abraham, and acting on hope as shown by Rahab.
It’s common to think that going to church, doing regular devotions, tithing, and trying not to sin are the ultimate expressions of faith. I’d call them training wheels, but they never come off. Those are the beginning wobbles of a doing faith. If we stop there we’ll never ride around the block, never ride to the store, or across town. If we stop there, we’ll never be the light and salt to the world Jesus calls us to be.
Authentic, real, vital faith is a doing faith. What has God been asking you to do that fear has kept you from? How has the Holy Spirit been tugging at your heart? It’s time to take that next step of faith knowing that Jesus is right there, ready to grab the seat if we start to fall.