Acts 9:34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up.
There are many records of healing in the Bible, and a common element is the afflicted person being told to do something. This isn’t the case every time, but action seems to give form to faith. When the 10 lepers asked Jesus for healing, He told them to go show themselves to the priest, and it was in the going that they realized they had received their healing. (Luke 17:11-19) On two different occasions Jesus also told a paralyzed man to take up their mat and walk, (Mark 2, John 5) and Peter was probably there both times. All of this ties into what James wrote about faith and actions. Protestations of faith aren’t very convincing without actions. We are spiritual beings, but we are also undeniably physical beings, and we can’t divorce the one from the other. Even in the 1st Century there was a heresy that said that because we were spiritual beings it didn’t matter what we did with our bodies, and that was used as an excuse for all sorts of debauchery. Paul addresses that in several of his letters, perhaps most notably in Romans 6. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by our activities, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but genuine faith will be active. (Ephesians 2:10) The flip side of that is another thing the Bible talks about a lot: empty activity. Doing things just for the sake of doing them doesn’t benefit anyone. More than one prophet relayed God’s instructions to stop religious rituals, even though they had been commanded in the books of Moses, because the people’s hearts weren’t in them, and/or their daily lives didn’t line up. The same thing applies to prayer. When we pray in genuine faith we will “put feet to our prayers,” acting in expectation of God being true to His Word and His character. If we feel God might be speaking to us, the best thing is generally to do whatever we think He might be saying, and He will confirm it to us.
The faith/works tension has existed throughout history, and I can’t ignore it. Not only do I need to be active in my own faith, as a pastor I need to be admonishing those in my care to do likewise. I’ve found, time and time again, that if I act like I believe, my tiny, shallow faith is grown and deepened. I frequently tell others that faith is like muscle: it needs to be exercised to be strengthened. I’ve certainly found that to be true in my own life. I am not to demand of others what I’m not doing in my own life. We all need to be growing together, as God’s children and His servants.
Father, thank You for all the opportunities You give me to exercise and grow my faith. Help me be Your agent to help those around me do likewise, so that all the lies of the devil may be defeated and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!