My friends, the Holy Spirit has me in several places in the Bible right now. Colossians, Genesis, 1 Corinthians along with dips into James and the Psalms. In short, my head is spinning a bit, trying to put the pieces together of whatever Lord Jesus is trying to teach me. And I say try, because I’m not sure I’m getting it quite yet.
However, I will try to share what I feel He is impressing upon me in one area. It’s a challenging one so bear with me. This piece of Scripture unfortunately has often been misused in teaching that “works” save us, so I want to be clear here that this is not what I believe, nor do I believe this is what the Bible teaches us. James was teaching a group of Jewish Christians whose background was Judaism—the Law, that by keeping the law perfectly (actions) they would be saved.
James wanted them to understand they didn’t need to apply this same belief system to salvation in Jesus Christ. Their actions, good works, desire to help others, etc. were the fruit that came from salvation in Christ and completed their faith. And he references Abraham to make his point:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”— and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. — James 2:21-24
First let me clarify that “justified” does not mean saved. The Greek word, dikaioō means to render (i.e. show or regard as) just or innocent: free, justify(ier), be righteous.
Therefore, our “works” do not save us but are the proof of our salvation and faith being alive and active. Our actions justify our salvation. I think most of us understand this, but as someone who has struggled with performance so much in the past (and still do at times), I want to be clear.
The part of this scriptural truth I want to try and focus on today is the completing part. James is saying that Abraham’s faith was completed by his works. What I find so interesting in this part of what James is saying is that it wasn’t the specific act of offering Isaac, his promised son on the altar (Gen. 22)—the son from whom God said he would bring Abraham more descendants than the stars or grains of sand on the beach but that Abraham believed God.
Let me say it again. He believed God. That is what made his faith complete and his action of obeying God was that proof. He believed God and trusted Him.
Right now, I’m struggling to be in that place. I think many of us are, because we are still in this place of waiting in the delivery room. But I’m also intrigued by this. I’ve sought God for understanding and this is what He told me.
This is the great disconnect. My children ask but continue to doubt. I want to them to ask and believe. I want you to ask and believe, Dineen.
Don’t ask, then wait to believe when you see evidence. Ask and believe together. Ask and then move forward in belief and trust.
Dear friends, I share this as I feel Abba is speaking to me and my heart. I see how I have waited to believe when I saw evidence. It’s a place we can wind up in when we ask for things we know is in alignment with God’s heart over and over again (like the salvation of our spouse), yet see no evidence of an answer or change. I’m right there with you, however…
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. — Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. — Hebrews 11:1 NLT
So, I am inspired to continue to ask, because in this “lesson” Abba has me in, I’m seeing my impatience for something to happen opens a door for the enemy to shoot his lie that my prayers haven’t mattered, so why keep trying? Sound familiar?
I find myself inspired by Noah who it’s estimated spent over a hundred years building the ark. I don’t know about you, but after about ten or 20 years I think I might have revisited the original convo with God and at least asked, “Did I hear you right?”
And trust me, I have had to go back and ask Abba about several words He’s given me about my husband, my future, my girls—those things I hold closest to my heart and agonize over.
Yes, agonize. As I can only imagine Abraham did with Isaac. And I do believe “the altar” is the place to put those things we hold most dear to the point of trusting in ourselves more than God. Or anything we want more than we want God, even the salvation of a loved one.
But the altar is not the place of death. It is the place of ultimate trust and the beginning of revelation and provision, as God defines and determines is needed. It is the place of changed perceptions and unexpected answers. It is the place where dying dreams can be reshaped or reborn.
I have no clear solution to solve that great disconnect other that what God has told me to do. Believe and trust. And this is where I stopped my post on Monday, to simmer, pray and consider. Tuesday morning I was greeted with a devotional starting with Hebrews 11:1 and a message about raising my expectations of God. I shook my head and laughed.
Tuesday was also my day to work at the healing rooms, so I dared to pray specifically for someone we have prayed for many times for healing and deliverance from deep depression. I’ve been desperate to see this person freed. My prayer was, “Lord, I want this person healed. If today is his day of healing, bring him to the healing rooms.”
Later that morning at the end our worship and prayer time, he walked in the door. God had big plans for him, my friends. This man was delivered of lies and darkness that have bound him for years.
I am stunned, not just for this person but for myself. God not only answered our prayers for this person, but He answered mine as well—my cry to step out in faith just a little bit more boldly and to believe God—before I saw any evidence.
Dear friends, my faith has been strengthened through this to boldly ask for more. I know there will be times of discouragement, but I’d like to think I’ll remember to keep contending and keep pressing in. God never gives up. And neither will I.