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Faith Without Works

stacynewell —  October 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

In our modern-day Christianity, we seem to have created a gospel around Jesus’ love and believing in Him as the sole proprietor of being a Christian. Yet, all too common problems in the church today are lack of attendance, a lack of commitment, a lack of finances…all signs that we are spending our time and resources outside of our Christianity and relying on our faith alone to be our source.

Our actions and our deeds are often that which is lacking in our reverence towards Christ.  While His love and our belief is essential to our foundation as a Christian, I am also compelled by the weight of the fact that we will become unsettled in our Christianity if there is not an accompanying lifestyle to go along with our title of “Christian”.  In James it reads:

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

 

I talk to many Christians who feel they have a dead faith and my line of questioning is always the same…how is your Bible reading?, your prayer life?, are you fasting?, are you tithing?, are you serving?, who are you discipling?, what are you DOING?…Bottom line, the word Christian is simultaneously a NOUN and a VERB.  There is no life in faith without works, just as works without faith gets you little more than gold stars.

If you are finding yourself bored in your faith, I have awesome news for you…You’re doing it wrong.  If you truly live according to His Word, both in faith and in action, you will be soaring in a life of adventure, living on the edge of your seat at every moment.

Start with simple obedience to what you know you need to be doing and it will grow into opportunities beyond your wildest dreams.

Buckle up.

 

My daughter has recently moved up to gymnastics team, so I spend a great deal of time watching girls flip themselves precariously through the air and somehow land without incident most of the time.  Without any history of gymnastics in my own life, I have learned more since we started than I probably ever needed to know.

One of the most fascinating (and also tedious) aspects of the last year was how much time the coaches spend on strength training.  I have watched so many different workout sessions that my head could explode.  It felt like I waited for months to see my daughter do anything that even remotely looked like gymnastics.  With 12 hours a week in the gym, I was amazed in the beginning at how little was outside of the realm of muscle-building.

But now I get it.  I’ve watched Kennedy’s body begin to move differently.  Her legs, arms, and abs all function together because they have been trained to.  Where she used to struggle with a back bend, she can now easily fold in half, flip, and turn upright again.  And it wasn’t just because she learned the skill, it’s because she earned the skill.  Her body didn’t need to be told to do it; it needed to be prepared to do it.

I think faith is the same way.  If you stretch your faith muscles and work them out in what seems like the smaller things, then the larger challenges in life come easier.  We didn’t plant a church in our first step of faith…that would have been insurmountable.  We had stepped out in multiple avenues for many years to build our strength and trust in God.  When it came time to launch an entire church, we used the reserves of God’s proven reliability from years of experiences.  In seasons of dark doubt, we looked back on those moments to keep us on the right path.

Just like muscles, faith can be gained or lost in any series of habits.  There is never down time to your faith.  The best thing you can do is constantly be finding ways to push yourself in areas of trust in God.

Here’s a couple of thoughts on how to stretch your faith muscles:

1.  Speak what is Biblically true instead of what your flesh feels.  Trust God through your own voice!  When you are tempted to speak negatively, allow God’s Word to be your only outlet expressing your faith.  You will find yourself challenged in your thinking all the time!

2.  Spend time every day in the Bible and prayer.  As you read something or feel like God is telling you something, act on it.  For example, if you read the story about the Good Samaritan, find a way to bless a neighbor that day.  Give your faith time and effort to apply.

3.  Tell people about your relationship with Jesus.  There is nothing that will grow your faith more than making Jesus a part of your conversation.

The good news for my daughter’s gymnastics career is that she will continuously get stronger.  The better news is that there will always be a new and greater challenge in front of her.  That may sound like a bad thing on certain days, but it’s not.  It’s thrilling!  It’s exhilarating!  It’s what keeps us motivated in life.

So, go head, be brave and ask God to grow your faith today…but get ready…it will be the ride of your life!

What It’s Gonna Take

stacynewell —  May 24, 2013 — 4 Comments

When we started a church, we began a journey of tumultuous ups and downs of personal growth.  While stepping out into what seems like complete darkness over and over and over again has molded and shaped us in astounding ways, I also think there are several character traits that we needed to develop ahead of time in order to succeed.  Maybe as you read this, you are just beginning a step of faith that seems monumental.  Read on…it’s good stuff for your future!

A necessary attribute to stepping out in faith is perseverance.  Not to discourage upcoming faith-steppers, but our story has not gotten easier over the last seven years.  In fact, each day has gotten exponentially more difficult.  I can vividly remembering closing my eyes during those first exhausting months of starting North Creek Church and saying to myself, “This is the hard part, it will get easier.”  And then I realized the most horrifying thing: The only way it will get easier is if we fail.  Success will bring more people, more responsibility, more problems, bigger leaps of faith, and more complications.  And that is good news, whether it feels that way or not!  We had to quickly get over the negative parts to that reality and embrace the fact that anything worth doing comes with work…lots of work.  The good news:  Even though this is not an easy job, we continue to see the fruit of persevering.  The hard work is continually sprinkled with changed lives and miraculous stories.  Don’t search for simple, search for significant. 

Another one of the telling of the attributes that is needed to lead a charge of faith is optimism.  Mark and I run pretty high on the optimistic scale, so when the lows come (and they will come), we are able to pull through.  We have met with multiple church planters (and other people taking giant leaps of faith) and I can tell you that the ones that tended to be more on the “Glass is Half Empty” side, all shut the doors of their churches…and it didn’t take long.  I don’t say that lightly because it was heartbreaking to watch.  The levels of discouragement in people we loved was concerning to the core of our being.  In fact, I think that if you tend to lean toward the negative, you should probably run from being the main leader of a church until you resolve that issue in your life.  The last thing God wants for your life is to hate ministry.  You’ve got to believe and hope deep within your heart.

A third attribute that we’ve needed to sustain our lives is rest.  There is an ebb and flow to ministry (and life).  Sometimes it’s just crazy and you’ve got to keep moving, but other times it feels like the calm before the storm.  Enjoy that calm and rest!  We do our best to honor the Sabbath and we take vacations.  We also sit down nearly every morning on the couch and drink a cup of coffee together.  We talk about the kids, the church, what we are doing for the day…it’s time to think, laugh, and connect.  We stop and enjoy life when we can because it keeps us healthy.  Resting also reminds us that God is in control, not us. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t take any time to think, you think too highly of yourself.”

So, that’s a good start to some things to keep in mind as you follow God’s path for your own life.  Many blessings as you take steps of faith!