In high school I was pathetic when it came to buying gifts for my family at Christmas time. I worked at an outdoor equipment store and so Christmas meant a lot of hours and that meant more money to spend over the holidays. However, it also meant that I didn’t have very much time to go shopping for the family gifts. So one year (and I’m not proud of this) on Christmas Eve, on my way home from work I stopped at a gas station and purchased all of my presents. Mom got an oven mitt (only one) because I remembered she had burned her hands cooking a meal earlier, my sister got one of those cheap, fake roses next to the cash register (cuz our last name is “Roes”), and I don’t even remember what I got my dad – probably a fishing lure as I almost always give him something to do with fishing. I actually did think about a reason for why everyone got what they got and as everyone says, “It’s the thought that counts!” But did it?
One of my favorite scenes of the movie “The Passion of the Christ” is when Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane and he’s praying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” [Luke 22:42 ESV] Then in the movie, they show Jesus stomping the heel of his foot on the head of a snake that is representing Satan. I believe that this scene is metaphorically so “right on” here – that it really was at the point that Jesus said that he was determine to do his Father’s bidding, rather than his own, that it counted & Satan was defeated. It was the thought that really counted there. But did the victory over evil have any substance? Any real power at that point? If it did, then why did Jesus have to continue through the arrest, the humiliation, the torture, the death and the resurrection?
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” [James 2:17 ESV] See Jesus had the faith in God (and not just because he IS God but as he is also fully man) that Jesus desired to be in God’s will no matter what. Even if it meant living through some serious unpleasantries.
Most of the world’s faith is in themselves – as all religions, even humanism & atheism, are about seeing what a person can do to please their god and gain their god’s favor (for humanism & atheism, they are their own “god” or better said their knowledge is their “god”), with the exception of following Christ. If faith is in oneself, then their will is going to be followed and it’s going to be mainly about what pleases their self. If they have “works”, they’ll be looking for the return for themselves. While they might be a part of charity, it’s for whatever pleasure they can receive out of it or for status within the community because of it.
If you are a follower of Christ then you have declared that your faith is in God and your desire is to live His will, not your own. Our faith in Him is not to gain is His favor but because He is the God of the universe, creator of ALL and yet He desires to know each one of us in an intimately, loving way. Therefore our response to Him is to put our faith in Him and He gives us a new life (spiritually speaking) in Christ from which to live in His will. Since He is a loving God, there are many pleasures His will will bring to you. But because He is a holy God and this is a sinful world, His will will also take you through many unpleasantries. It’s in both the pleasures and the unpleasantries that our faith is lived out in “works”. Many people’s faith is only lived out in the “pleasures” within God’s will – especially in Western cultures. I believe that this type of faith is the “it’s the thought that counts” type faith. But is it really faith in God if we say, “I’m only going to have faith in you to a point”? Is it really faith in God if we say “I’ll go to church and be friends with Christians and have family values but I won’t do [blank].”
When is it for you that God’s will is too much? When God’s will asks you to give a person who’s going through a tough time a hug and some of your time? When God’s will asks you to regularly give of yourself to make lunches for kids through the summer or serve the homeless treating them to a banquet fit for a king? When God’s will asks you to take the lesser paying job so that you have more time to give to your family and those needing a friend? When God’s will asks you to invite your kid’s soccer team and their parents to your house for a bar-b-que? When God’s will asks you to do more than pray?
This is where I sit. Is God’s will asking too much? God’s will asked Jesus to go through death and Jesus’ faith was lived out in that work. I’m a follower of Christ. May my faith be lived out in God’s will in whatever “work” that manifests itself in.