“Rejoice Anyhow!”

 

Walking through life, sometimes it is hard to find joy in the midst of all we are going through.  When our eyes take in all that is around us, it is so easy for despair to take over and leave us with the feeling of dread for the days ahead.

But, as a child of God, we don’t have to dread what we see or what’s ahead.  Our Lord is always in charge even when our circumstances seem awry.  And, He is always our reason to rejoice when we see nothing better and when we can’t figure how all this will turn out.

The Bible is replete with the stories of real-life characters who faced challenging times and still had a praise on their lips and worship in their hearts.  People who found it in themselves to still rejoice in spite of.  Job, a man who’s suffering we are well acquainted with, after finding out he lost everything, still found it within him to bless the name of the Lord, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord, ” (Job 1:21).  When David’s son died, he rose from that heart-wrenching circumstance, went into the house of the LORD, and worshipped (2 Samuel 12:20).   When Paul and Silas found themselves beaten and put into prison for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rather than sulk about all they were going through, at midnight, the Bible tells us, they “prayed, and sang praises unto God,” (Acts 16:25).  

We may, at times, feel down, but our circumstances do not determine our praise.  We can still rejoice regardless of what we are experiencing and what we see before us.

Beginning in chapter 3 of Habakkuk, we find him praying, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2), regarding deserved judgment and yet, praying for mercy in the midst of it all.  As he continues to pray he also notes God’s greatness and His mighty deeds; stating everything from “His glory covered the heavens,” (Hab” 3:3) to “The mountains saw thee, and they trembled,” (Hab. 3:10).  He also prayed and noted, “Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.  Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed…” (Hab. 3:12-13a).

As Habakkuk prayed, he noted all the greatness of God, not only in what He does in the earth but also in what He does for His people and their salvation and deliverance.

With that, he settled in his soul, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation,” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

In other words, “I may not see the fruit of it right now, but I will rejoice anyhow!” The situation may look like a failure according to human standards, “But, I still find a reason to praise!”  When there seems to be no profit coming from the work and the land seems barren before me, they are not my source.  God is my source and I say,  “Yet, I still glory in my God!”  When my house seems empty and without,  as long and I have Him, I have everything my soul and my life needs, therefore, “I will rejoice!”

I still have to lift His name on high!  I still stand in awe of who He is in my life.  I can still “joy in the God of my salvation!”  My situation may not look right, but my God does! He is the same today, yesterday and forevermore, (Heb. 13:8).  His Word declares, “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure… But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee,” (Psalm 102:26-28, emphasis mine).  Man may change.  Circumstances may change.  This world may change, but God never changes.  He is from everlasting to everlasting and He has His children in the palm of His hands!

So yes, we have a reason to rejoice.   Each of us has a reason to joy in the God of our salvation!  God is for His people! He establishes His people.  He is keeping His people.  Even if it doesn’t look like we think it should look, we know that He has us and we can rejoice!

Put a praise on it! Show your confidence in God through your praise!  Though it may look messed up, get with the psalmist and say, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth,” (Ps. 34:1).  Rejoice anyhow!

If they’re talking about you, scorning you, and treating you bad because you live the just lifestyle, because you are determined to go with God until the end, that’s okay!  Jesus said, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Lk. 6:23).  Rejoice anyhow!

If it seems your world is spinning out of control, rejoice anyhow!

If things aren’t working the way you planned, rejoice anyhow!

If contentions seem to be too common in your day, rejoice anyhow!

God is not blind to what His people are going through.  He is faithful, and He is our confidence in the midst of it all.  As long as God is on the throne (and He always will be), His people will always have a reason to find joy regardless of everything they are going through.  Our circumstances are never the last word of authority when it comes to the child of God.  It’s His greatness and His glory that we praised earlier.  It’s because of Him that mountains tremble and enemies are subdued.  He is our trust, even in the hardest times.  He is our hope, even if all looks hopeless.  He is our source of all the joy we feel on the inside because, by Him, we are saved.  Through Him, we are held forevermore and our salvation is secured.  And He is ALWAYS for His people!

Therefore, Rejoice anyhow!

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

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“Spotlighting God!”

The construction of the temple had been completed. Years of preparation and work have finally seen the fruit of its success. The dedicated things were brought in. The ark of the covenant of the LORD is put in its proper place. And, the trumpets and singers are making one joyful sound of praise and thanksgiving.

King Solomon then turns to the people and says, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David,” (2 Chronicles 6:4).

Friends, in all that we do from day to day. In our grand successes, or daily, mundane jobs, it is so important to recognize that it is God’s hands, it is His moving in our lives that allow us to do what we do.

The Bible tells us, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In everything He has privileged us to do and be, we are to be magnifiers of His glory. We are to make sure the spotlight is on our Heavenly Father. All the activities of our lives are to bring glory to God.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him,” (Colossians 3:17). Bless God. In all your works and deeds, say, “Lord, I thank You!” Recognize that He has honored us with the privilege, power, and strength to do what we do, taking no glory for our own.

King Solomon could have erroneously made the dreadful mistake of many in great authority, and he could have attributed the success of building the temple, and all that he performed and acquired to his own glory. He could have praised himself and pumped up his own name for a job well done.  But, he didn’t.

In all the trumpeting. In all the singing. In all the celebrating, he celebrated God. He knew that it was God’s hands on his life that allowed him to do what he did. He knew it was nothing he could have accomplished on his own.

In everything we do, the greatest thing we can do is bring the focus where it rightfully belongs: on God the Father. Make His praises known. Acknowledge His hand and work in what you do. Bless His name for He is the one who has allowed to us do what we do, whether it be of meager beginnings or great successes.

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“Yet Again!”

There is something special about the word again.  It can be a word that adds to your life or takes away.  It can be a word of blessing, or it can also become annoying and tiresome when used in a certain way.  For instance, pushing a child on a swing or giving them a horsey-back ride.   While it is all fun and games, and as parents and grandparents we love the joy filled with their pleas for “again”, after so many times of hearing it, that child has more energy than you do and you are tired and don’t want to hear the word “again”, again.  The repetition of the plea wears you down.

In other areas of our lives, there are repetitions of “again” that wear us down as well.  Unwelcoming feelings of disappointment and hurt keep invading your life like waves crashing on the seashore.  Coming again and again – like the very erosion you witness on beaches because of the constant pounding of waves – we feel that eat away at us and we are bewildered, scratching our heads and questioning “again?”.

The year 2020 has left many people scratching their heads, wondering in their minds “again?”  It seemed like every month that went by some new tragedy or national, and even global event was transpiring that shook the foundation of many people, making them question, “What now?” and “Where do we go from here?”

If you have ever seen those demonstrations of a mouse in a maze you get a sense of how frustrating it is for the animal.  It feels like it is going through all these different channels and passageways only to come to another blocked exit, another place that says you are not getting out of this.  That’s a trapped feeling.  One of hopelessness. 

Many today are dealing with those same feelings.  Feelings that make it seem no matter which way one turns, there is a hand held up, signaling for you to stop, suggesting you are not allowed beyond this point.  Turning toward another path or another decision, and there’s another sign saying access denied.  Over and over again, running into these blockades is frustrating, feeling there’s no way out, and left wondering “again?”.

In 2 Kings 19 and its parallel chapter located in 2 Chronicles 32, we see King Hezekiah dealing with some of these “again?” moments when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes against Jerusalem to besiege it. 

Being besieged is when you are trapped on all sides.  It is being totally surrounded, and like that mouse in a maze, there is no way out.

This was a part of warfare.  They would totally enclose a city giving little to no options of recuperating on their own.  Either the people could stay walled up in the city and eventually starve because there’s no way in and no way out for goods to be transported.  They could be killed in the city when the enemy broke through.  Or they could come out with their hands up and accept a life of captivity in the enemy’s land. 

None of these options were very appealing.  And for Hezekiah, after initiating great spiritual reforms for his people, after demolishing all the evil practices in the land, after re-establishing true worship of the one and only true God – this all must have been very confusing of why this?  Why now?  Why him?  Why again?

Did you know that even when you do right, sometimes things can still go wrong (at least according to how we see it)?  There are too many Bible verses that let us know that we, as God’s people, are not exempt from trouble.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).  1 Peter says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (4:12). 

What was happening with Hezekiah wasn’t strange either.  When you work to detach your life and people from the enemy’s clutches, there is always going to be resistance. 

What do you do when you’ve done all that you know to be right and the enemy is still persisting?

Hezekiah did what we all should do.  When faced with the challenge before him, he sought the LORD for help (2 Kings 19:1, 14-19; 2 Chronicles 32:20).

God’s response is recorded in 2 Kings 19:29-34.  What the enemy put his hands on to destroy, God was bringing a “yet again” moment.  2 Kings 19:30 records, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (bold emphasis added).  This “remnant” had current, future, and future, future inspirations attached to it.  

When God is involved, “again” doesn’t come with anxiety attached to it.  “Again” wasn’t coming with heartache involved in it.  “Again” wasn’t a signal for more despair and a more wearing out of His people.

“Again” was coming with promise!  Again, was coming, telling you what you see today is not how your story will end.  Again, was coming to let you know that not only are you coming out of this siege – not only is the trap that has been holding you in going to let you go – but there is also going to be some re-rooting and regrowing taking place among God’s people (2 Kings 19:30).

“Yet again.”  God saw past the circumstances that currently surrounded His people.  Not only did and does He see past the current stuff, but He sees past the future stuff.  He knew everything they were dealing with and would deal with in the future, and what He spoke over them and to them was for a time of restoration.  A time of being re-rooted.  And a time of new growth upwards.

Although we can sometimes associate the word “again” in some of those tiresome ways previously discussed, with God, “again” brings with it a breath of new hope.

As we begin this new year many need to hear that breath of new hope breathing “yet again.”  We have crossed over into 2021, and that means not only are we in a new day, but we are in a new year.  And while we are here, we have hope for a new “again”. 

I have recognized in my own life areas where I need to be re-rooted that so that new growth can begin growing upwards.  As with the beginning of any new year, the idea of new and restoration and beginning again speaks something special to me personally.  I feel new energy, a new awakening within me to do more, to reinitiate some stuff in some areas, and to seek new growth in other areas.  To, all in all, do more and do better in the year to come.

I thank God for His “again” moments He has given me.  With His new graces and mercies, and with this new year, we can begin again right where we are.  Our circumstances may not be perfect according to some, but as long as we are walking with Him, and His Spirit is guiding our life, our “yet again” can be something unbelievably beautiful to behold.

Ultimately, these moments we take to walk with Him and realign our lives to His purposes will lead us to live in eternity with God forever.  Until then, let your “yet again” work something beautiful in the time He has given us today, and for this year. 

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“Have A Warmer Heart Than Usual!”

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,” Luke 10:33

I live a good distance from the church I attend which means lots of driving and observing time.  Often times, on my way to church I look out my window and I stare.  Some may think I’m being rude, but it’s the exact opposite.  I look at that person sitting on the stoop or the one standing on the corner, and I wonder.  I wonder about what they may have gone through that day.  I wonder what it is that made that person look so sad.  I wonder about the mom on the bus stop struggling to get the stroller, baby, and bags onto the bus.  I wonder.

How often have we really taken the time to see beyond the people to see the person, to really try to imagine you walking in the shoes of another?  To see what’s going on inside the person without judging the outside?  To show a tender heart instead of a wagging head, disapproving eyes, and a simple tsk-tsk-tsk?

When it’s all said and done, it is the “royal law” of love that wins out every single time (James 2:8).  Thinking beyond oneself will go farther and make more of a difference in the world we live in.  Why?  Because that’s what Christ did for us!  He looked beyond Himself, beyond His own needs and hurts, and saw what the world needed.  The world needed a Savior.

Even during His earthly ministry, it has been noted in the Bible, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion…” (Matthew 9:36).  To the leper: “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him…” (Mark 1:41).  To the mom who just lost her son: “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her…” (Luke 7:13).  To the world: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42).  To His enemies: “Father, forgive them;  for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).

That’s how warm Jesus’ heart was toward people.  He had a genuine concern to look at people from the inside out instead of the outside in.  He saw the person beyond the people.  So did the Good Samaritan.  Despite the rejection and animosity he had faced down through the years at the hand of the Jews, the wounded man lying before him needed his help.  He was not going to let those years of bitterness or even indifference change his resolve to help the one that needed him now.

Paul taught the church in Ephesus to “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…” (Eph. 4:32-5:2).

Followers of God are concerned with the person on the inside.  A child of God is warmed to the plight of the human in humanity and sees them for who they are.  They are someone that God is concerned enough about to allow His Son to die.  Shouldn’t we then have that same compassion for one another?

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“You Have to Work It!”

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough,” Proverbs 28:19, NKJV

“Something for nothing!”  It seems to be the way of the world.  Many are searching for the next big thing that is going to push them toward success yet when the face of work peeps around the corner they run in the opposite direction.   The truth is, life takes work and a lot of it.  Anything worth having is going to take work.  Something will never come out of nothing,  It takes an effort of heart and mind, strength, and endurance to see the results we may desire for our futures.

For example, the farmer will not dare to go out into the field hoping to reap that which he has not sown for.  If no seeds were put into the ground and the field had not been tended to – if the work has not been done, he knows that when the time of harvest comes there will be no produce, no benefits to reap from.  Yet, many still go out into the field seeking to reap when they have not planted.

“He who tills his land!”  He who works it!  He who puts forth an honest effort knowing that if he keeps persevering and keeps pushing forward eventually he will reach the point of plenty, of being able to reap off of the goodness he put into it.  Your land is what God gave you.  It is your gift, your ability, your talents, and skills.

Many put a lot of faith in things that will not produce a harvest.  Work what God gave you!  Guard what you do with your time and efforts.  Are they leading you to where you want to be?  Is what you’re doing sowing into your future?  Will you be able to reap “plenty” from the seeds you have planted today?  We only have one life to live, by the grace of God, make it count!  Work it today!  God bless you in all your endeavors today 🙂

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God is our very present help!

Dear Friends, are you in a present time crisis?  Has trouble found you when you least expected it and at the very wrong time possible?  The wonderful thing about being connected to the wonderful, heavenly Father is that no time is an inconvenient time for Him to come and help – even right now, presently.

God is never bound by the limits we experience or others we may run to for a source of hope and strength.  God is also the only One who not only knows us completely through and through, but He knows more about the details of our struggles, hurts, and pains than any other.  In His omniscience, there is no part of us – no part of anything we endure or go through that He is not aware of.  As such, there is no other place, person, or thing where we can truly find the satisfaction of help where we need it the most.

Please, do not misunderstand me.  God is not to be beckoned and treated as if He is an imaginary genie to grant our every wish on a whim.  No, but He is a promise keeper and so much more, who invites us to come to Him and seek His face – seek what He has to offer and trust His will and His timing – trust Him alone and above all during the times of conflict and uncertainty.

He, in His perfect love, is concerned about you and the things that are presently before you.  And, He knows that you are concerned about them too, and thus, He has allowed these assurances of His love and willingness to be available for help to be declared over and over in His holy Word, such as what the psalmist wrote when he said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Psalm 46:1).

There are times when I need Him in all those areas.  I need to find that in my weakest moments, in Him I can obtain strength.  When the storms are angry and blowing tempestuously in my life, He is my refuge and safety.  And yes, when troubles in any shape and form rear its ugly head, that God is our very present help – our right now source through it all.

Oh, if only every day were sunshine and rainbows, but alas, we know that there will be times when things and situations stir that makes us uncomfortable, shake us a bit, or cause some unsure feelings to arise.  But, the truth of what the psalmist wrote still stands just as sure today as it did when it was originally written, and the summation of that verse states that God cares deeply and lovingly for you.  Why else would He concern Himself with your present circumstances?  It is His love for you that compels Him.  It is His concern for you that causes His eye and heart to see what you are dealing with and moves Him to come to your aid.

Come, and take comfort in these blessed words that speak of His help and care for His people, and for you:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” (Psalm 46:1-7)

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“Regrowth!”

There are so many times the Lord could have taken away from us, but instead, He gave.  Our daily steps before the Lord probably have not been the picture of perfection.  I know I personally have had many ashes during my lifetime that needed beautifying.  And yet, every day when I wake up, every day when I open my eyes, I am blessed with the gift of new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23), as are you.

Those mercies are much needed, as anyone can easily testify to.  Because, as I am walking forward, I can easily take a look back and cringe at the litter my previous pathways left behind.  But that renewed mercy smiles at me and encourages me in the newness of this day before me.  It helps to push me to walk where my feet may have previously felt unworthy to walk.  It draws me to step out of the door into what is presently before me, bidding me try again.  Believe again.  Make the effort to do better again.  It draws me to see God is still in the business of using me for His works, for His kingdom, and for His glory.

Reading Judges 16, I see how Samson broke away from the stipulations God placed on him through the Nazarite vow of not cutting his hair and the suffering that came because of it.

But then, there is this one verse out of his whole story that jumped out at me: “Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven,” (Judges 16:22), which was the symbol of his Nazarite vow.  It was by grace that God allowed for regrowth.  He could have just washed His hands of Samson and kept away what he had lost, but God is the one that allowed for the grace and mercy of regrowth.

Every day we are given is another chance for us to experience that same kind of regrowth.  It may not be our hair, but maybe there was something we let go of, something we didn’t guard or tend to as we should have, something we may have neglected, and as a result, we didn’t end up where we were supposed to be.

But with the new mercy of today, we have a chance for regrowth.  We have been given the grace to plant again and work in the fields God has given us.  Samson used his regrowth period to go out with a bang.  What can you do with yours?  If we are here today, that means our story is not over.  The grace for God’s regrowth is real and very present for us today.

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Sunday School Lesson – “Faith Without Works is Dead” James 2:14-26

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 2:14-26 (KJV, Public Domain)

Remember the days of “Show and Tell” at school?  It was an opportunity for one to not just talk about what they do or have, but to display visible evidence before their classmates of a possession or skill.

Jesus was a “Show and Tell” Savior.  He drew many crowds to Himself through the many miracles that He performed: feeding 5,000, healing the sick, raising the dead, and so on.  People would often marvel at what He could do.  He did more than just talk the talk or preach and lecture, He demonstrated the power of the Kingdom of God through Himself.

While you and I may not be multiplying a boy’s lunch to feed 5,000, we can through our actions and service toward one another, volunteer to feed some.  We may not be raising the dead or healing the sick (although, miracles really do still happen), we can volunteer to comfort and help those around us in need.  What this does is it shows that we are more than just talk; rather our faith is manifested in what we do.

James knew that people needed to see the church displaying tangible evidence of what they say they believe, especially when it comes down to how we treat one another.  Jesus, along with many others in the Bible, let their works speak for them.  And, how they worked showed what the real measure of their concern and faith was on the inside.

No Actions. No Proof.

 James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

This section of verses picks up right where James left off his teaching against having respect of persons and dealing with how we treat people.

In my opinion, right at the beginning of this lesson, James seems to be questioning the validity of someone’s faith without works, without evidence.  He said, “What doth it profit?”  What does it profit you?  What does it profit for others around you?

For a man or woman to say they have faith or are in the faith without evidence to back it up is like saying one is a doctor without a degree to prove it.  When I go into a doctor’s office, I am one of those people who will read the accreditations on the wall.  This is proof that they can take care of me.  What I see before me is speaking up on behalf of the individual to whom I am submitting myself for care.  Those papers hanging on the walls are little, personal testimonies.

Faith that is worked out operates in the same manner.  Faith is not silent.  Faith is full of action.  Faith is alive.  Faith is shared through works to testify of its genuineness and sincerity.  Faith does more than move mountains.  If it is lived out in the lives of the men and women of God, it can help move hearts toward salvation!

When one is living a life of faith people should be able to look at their life, their actions, as signs of accreditation that we belong to God.  They should be able to tell by how we operate and carry ourselves through our display of service, that we live what we talk.

Where is the profit if there is no proof?  What can you and I show to a hurting world that we have their best interest in mind; that we genuinely care about them as a person?

James 2:15-16 “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

Is this one’s faith real or not?  Words without supplying to the physical, emotional, or spiritual comfort and support of another in distress are what these two verses speak of.  But, all too often, how many times have we heard or spoken of what should be done to help others without putting in some work to help society move toward that goal?

All that talking becomes useless speech.  Unless we move past the act of just talking and show that we care through the act of doing; unless we put some backbone and muscle behind our mouths, the world will never see the true love of Jesus Christ in action.

That is what it’s all about, isn’t it?  It is going beyond pulpits and church walls to work at meeting the needs of the communities that we are in, to put the love of Christ on display through our actions and not just our words.  Obviously, some people, churches, and communities can do more than others.  That is not what James is after here.  He just wants us to get up, move past complacency, and just do something.

James saw no positive effect for others in just words alone.  Speaking “peace” without lifting a finger to physically help satisfy the present need, to him it was not true faith.  True faith believes and then allows that belief to be put to work.  True faith has heavenly aspirations that work out to show good on earth.  So, he asked, “What doth it profit” without it?  What is each of us doing now that is benefiting his fellow man and the kingdom of heaven?

James 2:17-18 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

What you profess and what you do together should match up to display a well-rounded Christian.  People cannot claim they are heaven bound and yet show no heavenly fruit in their lives.  Such claims to faith are “dead,” meaning there is nothing in it to prove it is alive and real.

Don’t you know, you can start today to make a difference?  You can start where you are and with what you have.  You do not need a personal invitation to love and serve others.  What are you waiting for?  Show the world that God is alive in you!  Put some action behind those words you speak!

One may say, “Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  Our faith, which comes through hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17) should compel us to actively participate in the things that are written of or spoken through that Word; it should get us involved in the things that God is concerned about.  The faith that shows that the Word is working in us is the faith that can do more.  Therefore, faith and works do not go against each other, rather, they support one another in proving that Christ is alive and active on the inside of the believer (compare with James 2:22 notes below).

When that happens, this, in turn, shines a light to the world reflecting Him.  Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” (emphasis mine).  This light shines by what it is doing; by “good works.”  This kind of faith can make a bigger impact in this world and draw more people to God.

James 2:19-20 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

One’s claim to faith goes beyond just believing in the very real fact that there is a one and only true living God.  It is living out that belief in one’s daily life.  It’s working His works.  James opened our perspective this way by saying that’s good; that’s a start, that’s right, “thou doest well” to believe.  Everything in our faith walk begins with believing.  But, where does it go from there?    

He goes on to say, “The devils also believe, and tremble,” but they’re still “devils.”  They know there is a God.  They believe He exists, but they are not bowing their selves to working His works.  They are not obeying Him.  They are not working His will.  They are not in a relationship with God; rather, they work against everything God is, loves, and stands for.

But, what of those who claim they are in a relationship with God through faith?  Where is the fruit of their faith?

Faith without fruit is not an operational faith.  It is stale.  It’s stagnated.  It does no good.  Real faith must act out what it is experiencing on the inside.  Real, genuine faith will not just be content in a life of mediocrity – never accomplishing or making a difference for His kingdom.  Real faith wants to see better in and for people’s lives.  Real faith shows itself and overflows to those around him or her.

Therefore, if faith is meant to be alive and active and shown to the world through works, then “faith without works is dead.”  The one who claims they believe without any evidence to support that proclamation is “vain,” useless, hollow, in other words, no good.

Rather, when we come to that great and glorious day, Jesus wants to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” (Matthew 25:23, emphasis mine).  Those who have put their faith into action and have “done” something with what He has given them can make a difference.  God can use people like this in the world.  But He cannot do that unless you work what He has given you.

If it is not working – it’s “dead.”  It’s lifeless with no functioning activities.  It is useless!

Much Action. Much Proof.

James 2:21-24 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

Genesis 15:6 declares of Abram, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  This was after God told him to count the stars and see if he could number them.  God then told him, “So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).

At another point, Abraham was forced to send Hagar and Ishmael away, but God gave him this promise: “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Genesis 21:12).

Then there came the day when Abraham’s faith was tested to see if he still believed in the God of those promises that were spoken unto him; to see if the faith and righteousness that was attributed to him was true on the inside and not just an outward, surface claim to faith.  By taking action to obey God in going forth with the procedure to offer “Isaac his son upon the altar,” he manifested through his works the very realness of his faith.  His faith, in turn, became a testimony before the whole world.  Abraham’s story does not just talk about faith, it shows how his faith was worked out (compare Hebrews 11:17-19).

His actions demonstrated his heart.  “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect.”  Pay attention to that word “with” (compare this to the notes above in James 2:18) which speaks to the accompanying factor of each coming alongside one another as agents together to show what he was really made of; to show his true belief in God alone, regardless of the way things outwardly appeared.  Jointly, they showed his true faith nature, and jointly, “by works was faith made perfect,” or complete.

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.”  Referencing the above verse quote I noted earlier from Genesis 15:6, James saw a fulfilling of that verse through the actions of Abraham, through his obedience.  Abraham’s faith was real, and it was shown by what he did (compare Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6).

“And he was called a friend of God.”  Abraham’s experiences with God drew his heart closer to God in obedience and in turn, he was considered a friend of God (compare 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8), in such a way that God was even able to reveal to Abraham what His plans were for the destruction of Sodom (see Genesis 18:17-18).

Jesus once taught, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” (John 15:14-15).  As His Father revealed to Abraham, His friend, of His plans, so too does Jesus reveal the will of God to those disciples, to those who obey Him, for they are His friends, too.

James put the two together as in a great summation: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”  James was calling his readers to put their faith on display.  To show they had a lively faith.  To show the world that you are not just all talk, but the love of Christ is in you and manifesting through you to touch a world in need.  Put Him on display that when eyes see you, they might see Him.

The Apostle Paul put it like this, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  In the chapter before, he left off saying he was not seeking his own profit.  But in all that he did, he was seeking the “profit of many, that they might be saved,” (1 Corinthians 10:33).

While works cannot save us they show that we are saved, they are telling proof that we are “justified” and moving in the same direction as our Christ.  And, what we do, can, in fact, profit others (compare to Paul’s statement above from 1 Corinthians 10:33 regarding what he was doing was for the “profit of many” and James asking in the above verses (James 2:14-16), about what does it profit when the works are missing from the faith).

James 2:25 “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”

Here is another example of WHAT YOU DO MATTERS!  I cannot overemphasize those words enough.  Rahab could have lost her life if she had been found helping the enemy of her people.  But she heard about all God had done in delivering His people against their enemies (Joshua 2:10) and it made the people of Jericho’s hearts melt (Joshua 2:11).  But Rahab believed for more. She said, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us,” (Joshua 2:9). Not only did she express belief in all that God has done and was still doing, but she also went as far as to take these men in her home and personally sought for their care and safety.  That was a bold step for her.  Her faith was put into action.  To make a long story short, for those in her house, their lives were spared in the fall of Jericho because of her active, working faith which landed her in the hall of fame of faith (Hebrews 11:31).

James 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

The body is a physical shell, so to speak, that houses the spirit.  At the time of death, the spirit departs and goes back to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7) leaving behind the lifeless shell that remains.  When we attend funerals and view our dearly departed all we see is what is left, the outer man, the shell.  “So faith without works is dead also.”  Faith, without the outward workings of tangible evidence, is just as dead as a body without a spirit.  Life is not represented there.

Our actions testify to the faith that we say we have in us.  What we do or how we live out our faith matters.  Jesus taught, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” (Matthew 25:40; read Matthew 25:31-46 for further explanation).

Let us remember, we are not saved by works: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Rather, works give proof to the faith living on the inside of you: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” (James 2:17).

No action.  No proof.  Much action.  Much proof.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Faith Without Works is Dead

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Faith Without Works is Dead

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Faith Without Works is Dead

Blank Journal Pages: These pages, one designed for adults and one for children, can be used to bring out, remember, or write a particular part of the lesson you wish for you and/or your class to focus on.  Click>>Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages to access the journal pages.

Draw the Scene: Faith Without Works is Dead Draw the Scene

In getting across the idea of “Faith Without Works is Dead” I used crafts incorporating the hands (as seen in previous lessons) since that’s what we use the most to show other’s love to and help them (see below). Enjoy!

LACE IT UP HANDPRINT:

One craft idea is to simply have students trace their handprint on cardstock or use this Handprint Craft Cutout printed on cardstock for this project because it’s sturdier, and then cut it out.   Using a hole punch, go around the outer edges of the picture of the hand (these will be for lacing).  Students can then decorate and lace with ribbon, colorful shoelaces, or yarn (note: if you use ribbon like I did, you may want to wrap the ends in tape to make a little aglet like on a shoelace to make it easier to navigate through the holes).  You or your students can even write a memory verse reference directly on your project. (Example pictured below)

 

HANDPRINT NECKLACE:

Continuing with our hand theme, students can make a Handprint Necklace (example pictured below – I used construction paper with tracing).  Students can trace their handprint onto construction paper or cardstock or use this Handprint Craft Cutout and cut out.  Punch one hole in the top.  Using ribbon or yarn and cut up straws, beads, or whatever you have laying around (even loop cereal).  Let them have fun and decorate it as they see fit. You or your students can even write a memory verse reference directly on your project.

Charades: To bring home the idea of “doing”, have students play a game of Charades.  But, for this game of charades, have ideas in the bucket that people can do to help others, make them feel loved, and show your faith (ex. Sweep the floor for someone, pick flowers to show love, wash the dishes to be helpful, visit the sick, welcome everyone, etc.)  Emphasize there are a lot of ways we can show our faith through our “doings”.  You can even have students come up with ideas to throw in the bucket and see if others can figure out what they wrote.

Card Match: Play any card matching game (or make your own using ideas from the lesson) to highlight the idea of how our actions should “match” the faith we say we have.  If you do not want to do a “Show and Tell” as a lesson opener (as listed in the PDF lesson packet), this activity would work well in its place as an object lesson.

Word Search: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Search  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Search Answers

Crossword: Faith Without Works is Dead Crossword  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Scramble  Answers: Faith Without Works is Dead Word Scramble Answers

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“Remain Strong in God!”

One morning as I was making a cup of coffee I ran out of creamer and had to open a new container.  I unscrewed the top and picked and picked at the protective seal underneath to no avail.  I couldn’t get it to rip off for anything.  Finally, out of frustration, I reached into the dishwasher and grabbed a knife and punctured a small hole in the top of the seal.  After that, it was easy for me to put my finger in the hole and manipulate the seal for its ultimate removal.  Coffee time!

This had me thinking about how the enemy works in our lives.  As long as we stay sealed up in Christ the enemy can pick and pick but our packaging in Him remains strong.  No wonder Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-3) felt such a compelling urge to get the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt to their full strength once again.  Wherever there is a hole or a breach in any structure it allows an opportunity for an enemy to poke his nose into and gaining access to manipulate the circumstances of life.  It makes his job easier.

Paul encourages us, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Our diligence will pay off after a while.  We must be like a wall without a breach.  We must take our cue from Nehemiah to patch up any deficiencies in our spiritual walls.  We are the ones who have to be “steadfast and unmovable” to have our work count in the end.  If we stop building and maintaining our walls then they will fall to utter ruin and we will have nothing to show for our work.

We must work at the upkeep of all that God has given us.  “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” (Galatians 6:9).  Our press matters.  Our work matters.  Our walls matter.  We must continue forth with the mentality of Nehemiah when he stated, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…” (Nehemiah 6:3).  The enemy wants to thwart your work so that holes and weaknesses can be left for him to poke and manipulate.  But, if we want to “reap” then we must not “faint.”  We must push forth in doing good and leave the benefits to God.

Obtaining coffee creamer that morning was a struggle until I broke the seal.  Don’t let the enemy break your seal.  Stay covered in Christ and push forth until the end for your reward is coming.  Now is not the time to give in or give up.  If necessary, ask God to help you repair what is broken that you may be whole once again.  Remain strong in God!  You can do this!

Be blessed.

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“Before there was Egypt, there was a promise!”

Many times when we discuss the land of Egypt within the confines of the Bible, our minds automatically trackback to the time when the children of Israel were in bondage there.  We see them under the weight of the taskmasters, dealing with oppressive circumstances that are beyond their control.  They stand by and watch as some are beaten, others are killed; lack and degrading situations run rampant throughout their time there.  Fear, hatred, and jealousy by others drove them to the place where they are residing; a place where tough days seem like they will never come to an end.

Often times, when people find themselves in a hard spot of life, or when they find themselves coming up short and just not happy with the way things are turning out at this particular time, they refer to that circumstance as their place of “Egypt.”  This is where heartbreak and troubling times lie.  This is the place where it seems everything is fighting against them and no matter what one does it just doesn’t appear that they will ever come out on top.  People may not have taskmaster’s whips to deal with, but other things just lash and lash out at them, making it hard to get back up again.

As hard as this may be to believe, I assure you your Egypt will not last forever.  I’m sure the children of Israel had doubts about this.  After all, their time there lasted about four hundred years.  Yet, even before this family of seventy ventured into the land and grew to the astronomical numbers we see in Exodus, God knew all about their time there before they were even there.

In Genesis 15:13 God told Abram, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”  Outside of that prophecy God also said, “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance,” (Genesis 15:14).  In this we see, there was a promise before they even set one foot in Egypt; before they even encountered a problem, God already had a blessing lined up for when they came out.

Today, we fight against so many unknowns.  We deal with all the this and that’s of life that it simply just weighs one down.  One might not find themselves in a literal state of captivity, but something just sits on them heavy, becoming an almost unbearable burden, that they just don’t know what to do.  With a feeling of exasperation, some just give up, content just to go through the motions of life, without grabbing hold of the feeling of hope because of the fear of being let down again, just to drift back into that state of uncertainty once more.

But, I am here to tell you today, continue hoping and never give up.  Your “Egypt” is not lost on God.  God knows what you are facing.  He knows every disappointment you are dealing with.  He knows every struggle you are battling.  He knows everything that you are fighting through and that’s fighting against you.

It may be hard to see the proverbial silver lining in a dark cloud at times or the light at the end of the tunnel, but we have something better.  We have a promise!  God told Abram when his people came out, they were coming out better than when they went in.  God was going to judge those who did them wrong, and God was going to bless them greatly.

Another promise Abram received was in a few verses prior to those noted above.  God told him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).  Not only were they going to be blessed, but they were going to come out increased in the people they were.  To go from one individual to the millions they would come out to be, they were going to grow not only in number but in experience through their troubling times.  They would have to learn to endure some stuff in order to be the people who would eventually be fit to take on the Promised Land.

While it may at times seem like the hard times are breaking you, they may be actually making you.  So remember, before there was Egypt, there was a promise.  And, I don’t know about you, but I will take a promise of God over a so-called silver lining any day.  The promises of God are sure.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are told, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

In other words, no matter what you are facing today, Jesus has you covered.  No matter the obstacles or hard places that make you feel like you are in Egypt and you just want to give up, God has an unfailing promise of His love, grace, mercy, peace, and deliverance through even the most difficult circumstances.

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