~ Coming Over and Overcoming ~
“My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn’t do any good things? Can this kind of faith save him? Suppose a believer, whether a man or woman, needs clothes or food and one of you tells that person, ‘God be with you! Stay warm and make sure you eat enough.’ If you don’t provide for that person’s physical needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn’t cause you to do any good things” (James 2:14-17, GW).
James’ point about faith applies to prayer as well. A weird scene it would be if someone told the needy person, “I’ll pray that God supplies you with some clothes and food,” then goes home to a house with a full refrigerator and closets full of clothes. We are the Body of Christ, His hands, feet, eyes and ears.
James also wrote, “Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world” (1:27, GW). Orphans and widows are typical biblical examples of the needy because the income providers were almost exclusively male and there were no funded shelters, homes, social security or welfare for children or women without husbands.
In addition to referring to several Old Testament passages by the qualifying “according to God our Father,” James is also indicating that this was God’s will. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done. But, we may think to ask, by whom?
Jesus explained, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:20-21, NIV). Jesus identified His followers as the light of the world and told us to let our light shine before others so that the Father may be praised (Matthew 5:14-16).
If this world is in darkness, if it isn’t blazing in the light of millions of Christians acting “through [or in union with] God,” are most of us hiding that light some place? We pray, “May Your will be done,” so why don’t we do it? We pray, “Give us our daily bread today” and many of us have our monthly or yearly stock already safely stored, be it the bread of physical needs, of emotional or spiritual gifts, of time, skill or money. How is God to give others today the daily bread they lack if we don’t do what James wrote was God’s definition of pure religion?
St. Paul asserted, “I may speak in the languages of humans and angels. But if I don’t have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, GW). John wrote “God is love” (1 John 4:16b, GW) and Jesus said living in His love means obedience to Him (John 15:9). So sadly, we have turned the sacred words of the divine mysteries into noise. “We are the Body of Christ.” Gong! “We are the light of the world.” Clash! “Jesus is our Lord.” Clang! “I love you in Christ.” Gong! The ears of God must hurt at our noisy, “holy” rhetoric that isn’t lived.
Many of the people God called as prophets or task-doers argued with Him about the mission, making excuses. Mature, powerful, accomplished men they were, like Moses or even Jonah who tried running away rather than do His will. (And most of us are even lesser servants than they.) But it was a female child, no more than fourteen years old, who offered no resistance and, with commitment and devotion, told God’s angelic messenger, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me” (Luke1:38, GW). Consequently, the Incarnate God was born into the human family. Mary wasn’t saying may God’s will be done through her, but to her.
In a very real sense, God depended on Mary, as He depended on Moses, Abraham, Elijah and others whom James observed were people “just like us.” We pray, “Your will be done” and God calls us to do it. We are the answers to our prayer, as the Body of His Son, the Christ Himself. Many who were called didn’t argue or make excuses. They said, “Here I am, Lord! Send me!” And they were sent, as prophets, witnesses, deliverers, martyrs. They prayed, “Your will be done and here I am to do it!” Their words were not clangs or gongs, but the love song of devotion and surrender at all cost.
These are people of the faith that James describes…Faith that doesn’t just sustain or helps one “get by” or “get through,” but faith that overcomes, faith that sends demons fleeing and mountains crumbling. Faith that gives life to the dead and sight to the blind. Faith that Christ said is ours if we would only believe and truly live in Him, forsaking all that is not of Him in our selves. It is the faith that John speaks about when he says, “Our faith is what wins the victory over this world” (1 John 5:4b, GW). Many translations render victory as overcoming.
The “coming over” to God’s call requires that overcoming faith. And this is no small thing in God’s eyes. In every one of Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Revelation, He details what He holds against them, and also the results of overcoming them. “To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God…will not be hurt at all by the second death…I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it…I will give authority over the nations…and the morning star…will be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels…I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the city of my God…and also write on him my new name…I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21, NIV).
In our journey of sanctification and following Jesus the Christ on the labyrinth of the narrow road, it seems, to me, more in the center of God’s will that we keep focused on the Christ of consolation than the consolations of Christ, on the God of mercy than on the mercy of God, on the kingdom of heaven than on the heaven of the kingdom. Our coming over to His call merges with our overcoming what He describes to the seven churches, overcoming our self-sufficiency, our self-centeredness, our self. All Christ promises to “he who overcomes” point to the same everlasting treasure, the gift of full and eternal union, as Bride and Bridegroom, with the triune God of our Father, our Christ, our Holy Spirit, one God, in us, through us, with us.
That is God’s will. Our Father, may Your will be done. Here we are! Do it in us! In Your grace…for Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © June 29, 2002
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.
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