Encounter: Slowly read through James chapter 2 verses 14-26 in two different translations such as the NIV and The New Living Translation.
I don’t remember her name, but I remember her words. While I was serving as a missionary in the southern part of the Baja of California I met a woman while visiting migrant farm workers in a seasonal camp. She was living in her car and had made a small fire to get warm and cook some lunch when I walked up offering to play her a gospel recording in her Indigenous dialect.
I was more than excited that this woman would hear the gospel maybe for the first time in her own love language. I could tell I had her correct dialect because she began to nod her head and it appeared that she was understanding every word.
After the recording was finished, I asked her if she had any questions, ready to lead her in a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord when in broken Spanish, she asked, “I understand, but do you have any shoes? I need some shoes.”
As she asked me, I looked down and noticed the worn-out pair of shoes on her feet. At that moment, it was like James was whispering in my ear, “…if a brother or sister in the faith is poorly clothed and hungry and you leave them saying, “Good-bye. I hope you stay warm and have plenty to eat,” but you don’t provide them with a coat or even a cup of soup, what good is your faith? So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phony.
With compassion ministries, there is always this tension between sharing the gospel and serving the physical needs of people but with James there doesn’t seem to be a line that separates our beliefs and are actions. Like helping the poor, James tells us, what we believe will be expressed in how we live in relationship with those around us and even those across the globe.
Bruce DeMarest writes in Seasons of the Soul, “Grace that remains undispensed becomes stale. In the divine economy disciples who have experienced a transforming inner journey are propelled outward by the Spirit in compassionate service to others…We who have been healed and repatterned serve with fresh purpose so that others might enter the circle of blessing. Having been deeply graced in the core of our beings, we tell the good news of new life in Jesus. Our Lord himself is our model for this others-centered phase of life’s journey: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We don’t have to serve as missionaries to walk out faithful obedience in the same direction. Every day provides plenty of opportunities to express the very characteristics of Jesus to those around us beginning in our homes, church, work places and community.
It may be adding a serving opportunity to your calendar or it may be praying instead of gossiping. It may be investing in a local church like Eden so new ministries can be developed that will transform lives or getting involved in foster care. The possibilities are endless as together we express to those around us, “I will show you faith by my works as proof that I believe,” and this means we never have to make a choice between Jesus and shoes.
With you in faith that works,
Reflect: Think about your life in the past two weeks. When could you say that your faith was expressed through your works. What does living your faith produce in others?
Encourage: Ask God to give you an opportunity to live out the message of Jesus Christ in tangible ways in the next week. Think about who in your circle of influence needs encouragement and how that would best be shown to them.
Gather: In your Triad, Life Group or with a friend, talk about the tension between faith and works. What is necessary as part of living life with God? How do you feel led to express Jesus to those around you. Pray for one another to be inspired by Holy Spirit for new ministries in our community. What are the needs in our city, region and world?