Let It Do Its Work: Faith Has Its Own Goal

What if I told you that FAITH, has its own goal?  James, the brother of Jesus has this curious idea about faith, he says, we have to LET IT do its work.  There is a war going on within us.  It is a war between what we want, and what our faith wants.  That’s why James says, Let it do its work.

What we want, gets in the way of what our faith wants.  It’s things like convenience that war against our faith.  It’s things like “What we’ve always been used to,” that war against our faith.  It’s things like the good life that war against our faith.  Because those are the things that we want. But faith has its own goal.

Let me make an admission, it is people like me, pastors and teachers who have reinforced these ideas of the good life, when we are supposed to call you into, as Paul calls it, the good warfare.  How have we done this?  We have called you to the Savior, that’s GREAT, but we haven’t called you to the STRUGGLE.  Philippians 1:29 reads, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”  TODAY, I want to invite us into the blessed struggle. James 1:1-12 begins, 

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

If you have read the book of Acts.  This letter is written regarding the scene of Acts 8 which begins at Acts 6.  It includes the persecution of Stephen.  At this time Nero was literally burning Christians alive on poles and feeding them alive to lions.  By the time we get to chapter 8, Saul is included in the persecution of the Christians.  This is the situation in which they were called to “count it all joy.”  Acts 8:4 states, Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”  The persecution did not minimize the mission!

Although God’s people were scattered, they were not lost.  God had a messenger to deliver to them this message.  My brothers and sisters, this global pandemic, this economic crisis, and the racial division may be making you feel scattered as well, let me assure you Child of God, you are not lost.  God knows exactly where we are and He has a message for us too.  That message is found here in verse 3.

3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Brothers and sisters, God’s desire is not to make us HAPPY, God’s desire is to make us HOLY.  God gives us this gift of faith, but faith has a purpose, and we have to let that gift do its work.  My prayer is that you will vacate this message with… 

  1. Two things to do (Count & Ask) and;
  2. Two things to be (Tested & Blessed).

The first thing for us to do, is to count.

2 Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

This initial encouragement is cognitive.  It means to calculate, to reckon, it means to think about trials in God’s way, rather than to think about trials in our own more natural way.  Through James, God is offering us the mind of Christ!  THIS IS THE KIND OF MIND THAT WOULD LEAVE HEAVEN AND COME TO EARTH.  In other words, prior to holy speaking, and prior to holy acting, we must first have holy thinking.  The primary obstacle to holiness is our minds.  Or as the older sisters in the church used to say, “its that stinking thinking baby.”  WE DON’T COUNT IT ALL JOY, we go on Facebook and Instagram where we complain and grumble.  Our tests today don’t seem to produce growth, they usually produce groaning and complaining which actually minimizes our maturity.  We’ve got to change our thinking CHURCH, Trials are not to be seen as troubles, but as tests.  The purpose of a test is to see if a student can pass, and let me say it in the voice of the older ladies at church, the test is not to make you feint baby. 

Child of God you’re gonna be ok.  The Global Pandemic is a test for growth.  The Economic Crisis is a test for growth.  The Racial Division is a test for growth.  This is not just for us individually but for the church collectively.  Maybe you’re thinking, Rudy, I see what you’re saying but I… I just don’t think like that.  That’s why there is a 2nd thing we need to do.

The second thing for us to do is to ask.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ASK God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ASK in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

James uses two illustrations to get us to understand how to ask.  We ask without doubting, and we ask from the reality of our situation.  This is not the wisdom to get activities done.  This is the wisdom to let faith do her work.  To receive this kind of wisdom, the child of God must be prudent in the asking.  First, we must ask from what faith wants, not from what we want.  Doubting, in this context, is when what we want disagrees with what faith wants.  Doubt (diakrinomenos), in this context means wavering and vacillating.  We dare not come to God being tossed side to side like a wave of the sea, or thrown up and down being blown and tossed by the wind.  Our God finds no joy with thedouble-minded (dipsychos)  which literally means two souled in this passage.  That person is unstable in all he/she does, he/she is like a spiritual staggering drunk.

One soul wants to make you happy, the other wants to make you holy

Second, we must ask from the reality of our current situation.  Poor & Rich represent the current and actual reality of those who have been scattered.  James is not saying the poor should desire to remain poor or that the rich should desire to give up being rich.  He is saying each situation creates the posture of prayer (asking).  By the way, if you look in the closet and you have 20 shirts and you say, “I have nothing to wear,”  you are the rich in this scenario.   The poor should post because his/her situation in life is a constant trial from which God is using to create growth.  From that place one should pray.  The rich should boast in their humiliation because they must push away from, or humiliate themselves by creating situations from which to struggle.  They must be generous, walk away from constant convenience and learn to depend on God.  The best situations are not always what’s best for us.  The easy life creates flowers that wither away.  God’s trying to create silver that lasts forever.

The first thing we have to be is tested.

3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Testing is what silversmiths would do to purify silver.  The word James uses was common amongst the profession.   They would ignite the fire and at a certain temperature, the impurities would rise to the top.  The worker would look at the silver and say the silver is not ready.  So they would initiate the process again.  If the silver was ready this time, they would initiate the process again.  On the third time, if the silversmith could see his reflection, then they would know it was ready.  God takes a similar process with trials for us, His children.  He places us in the fire.  He looks and says, we’re not ready.  He turns up the heat, He looks and says we’re not ready.  Then on that third go around, He looks and sees the image of God!  Now He knows that we are ready! Tested became simultaneous for proven!  The Silversmith would know it was pure, when he could see his own reflection in the silver, in a similar God uses this process for us.  God doesn’t want the low goal of making us happy, God wants to make us holy.

The second thing we want to be is blessed.

James uses the beattitudinal structure of, happy is he in verse 12.  He’s making a play on this word happy to get you where God wants you to be, which is holy.  Let me say it this way, If you get the test, you get the blessed.  I know this isn’t good English, but it’s good preaching!  Blessed comes from the test.  Now you see why we can count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds?!  Blessed is not the comfortable life.  Blessed is not the convenient life.  Blessed is not the easy life.  Blessed is the Holy life!   We just gotta let it!  Let It Do Its Work!  Faith has its own goal!

Let me calm down.  There is a war going on within us.  It is a war between what we want, and what our faith wants.  That’s why James says, Let it do its work.  God’s desire is not to make us HAPPY, God’s desire is to make us HOLY.  Oh and by the way, Holy people are usually happier people too.  Because faith is ALWAYS fruitful.

Well, If you let it…

The post “Let It Do Its Work” appeared first in the December edition of the Christian Standard