We often confuse works with leveraging our faith. Yes, both works and faith are intertwined with one another, and it’s easy to assume these are the same things. But they’re not.
Off the bat, we can never do enough works. Indeed, there’s always something more we can strive for. Always something more we could have done or should have done, but due to our own failings we never finished or never got started.
Living a works based life is a trap. If Jesus saves based on our works, every believer in Him is finished. We’re toast and we know it because if works are the standard, we can never measure up. EVER! Relying on works means you’re not trusting in the relationship that Jesus promises to everyone who believes in Him. And by definition this is a lack of faith! For faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we don’t see. It’s about embracing God’s promises and His personal, intimate relationship with us. It’s not about chomping at the bit and trying to please God so He’ll accept us more.
Jesus Himself said apart from me you can do nothing. And that without faith it is impossible to please God. But strangely, even faith itself is a gift. We can ask God for more faith. But we can’t make it out of nothing. And we certainly don’t earn it.
In Ephesians 2:8-10, Scripture says for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So while we are to do works, works are simply the fruit, not the root. The root is faith. But how do we know we have faith? And doesn’t faith mean works or at least some sort of action? The answer is sometimes yes. And sometimes no.
Exercising Our Faith Muscle
Everything we do in life takes practice. And faith is no different. Key is leveraging what we believe to be true and acting on it. Sometimes faith requires that we act upon what we already know. For example: Forgiving, loving our neighbor, giving, abstaining, apologizing… When we act upon our faith it often shows (to us) that we have the faith in the first place. As James says, this action based on faith completes and strengthens our faith. And if we never have this action, our faith is dead.
But faith is more than action. It’s more than works. There are many times where faith requires we quietly sit still and wait. And while we wait in faith, we actively press into Jesus, the God who instills our faith.
This means that even when we’re taking no overt action, we’re still praising Him. We’re reading in Scripture what He did while on Earth; we’re meditating on His Holy Word, and asking Him to reveal to us His personhood and His character. Faith is taking the time out to seek His face. And to get to know His heart. It’s praying this not just for yourself, but also for your spouse and for those people around you, including your enemies. Faith is building a routine of this. And budgeting the time in your day so you give the Lord your first fruits, not your last.
After all, if you knew that every hour with God would be another $1000 in the bank, wouldn’t you somehow find the time to do these things? And the reality is that His promises are true. Jesus is certainly worth our time. And it is an act of faith to build this time into your schedule before things get busy again. This is leveraging your faith.
Yes, you may not have much faith to begin with; but there’s no excuse for not leveraging the faith you already have. And the Lord will bless you for it immensely. He’s just asking you to take baby steps with what you already know! So be bold and embrace His promises. You won’t regret it.