I had the privilege this week of sharing with our Sunday School class a message I feel very passionate about and one that I believe we do not hear often enough.
I talked about faith and the importance of acting on our faith. Although in print it is quite lengthy, in my excitement about the message I hurriedly breezed through the lesson. So after class, I was asked for the referenced scripture and realized others may have missed them as well. Therefore I have edited the lesson to be presented in writing and posted it here.
In the book of James, we are told about the importance of action in connection with our faith. It even tells us that faith without action is dead. It is made clear in scripture that acting on faith is a part of our Christian walk even if it means walking on water as Peter did.
In James 2 it talks about the faith of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son Issac, his only son. Remember that this happened while he was an old man and his wife Sarah was an old woman. Yet God had promised him he would still be the father of many nations and when God asked Abraham to give up his son, he said yes, acting in faith that God would provide.
It says in verse 22: You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
That was faith in action. The illogical, insane action to do the unthinkable just because God told him to. That’s what made his faith complete. What would the world think of his decision? What would we think? Today, he’d be arrested for what he did in obedience.
There are many well understood instances in which deeds and action cooperate with faith. When preachers are called to preach and missionaries called to serve. Some are called to volunteer and others to teach, these situations have long been accepted as divine callings to which faith is put into action – and rightly so.
But, there is another avenue God uses to call us, which the world has seen fit to call selfish and greedy. Unfortunately due to fear or misguidance I believe many Christians have followed the world’s teaching and narrow mindedly cast judgment on those following God’s vision for their lives.
What I’m talking about is, God given desires, aka: ambition or goals. I grew up calling them dreams but this term doesn’t always sit well with others. They find it foolish, illogical and impossible – but that’s exactly how God works.
Ask a business owner and I’d be willing to bet they’ve had a few sleepless nights dreaming about the success of their business. Ask expectant parents and they have probably dreamed countless times about the child God has blessed them with. I believe God has placed a desire in each of our hearts in order to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
And in many instances, the examples I used will never encounter opposition or words of discouragement. Maybe no one will tell them they were foolish to believe in their dreams. But unfortunately, Brielle and I know from recent experience that sometimes even those close to you can quickly cast disparaging remarks.
Even in the delivery of this lesson, God’s timing has been perfect. I was told the date I would teach and I knew immediately that was the Sunday we had planned to make an announcement.
We knew this date well because on Friday, Brielle and I both gave notice to our employers. At the beginning of April we set sail on a voyage that we have both dreamed about for years, long before we were together. And from there, we will set off on a journey across Europe.
Although our families have been incredibly supportive, one of the very first reactions we received was extremely hurtful and discouraging. If we had less resolve or maybe if we had not placed monetary deposits, we may have been inclined to quit. And those words, uttered by Christian friends, could have destroyed our dreams forever. In fact, giving up would have been easy.
At that point, I realized that many Christians had not been taught the importance of dreams, of God-given desires. Now I’m not saying that God wants you to have a cherry-red Ferrari just because you want it. But there is a purpose hidden within our hearts which He placed us here on this earth to fulfill and I know that he has given us the ability to decipher what that purpose is and he has a plan for revealing it to each of us.
Let’s look at just a few examples of God’s promises for those who act on faith. Notice the importance placed in various scripture on human desire. Obviously these promises do not apply to every human desire but pay close attention to the conditions laid out in each verse.
- Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. – Psalm 37: 4-6
- The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
- Psalm 145: 18-19
- The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.
- Proverbs 11: 23
- This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
- 1 John 5: 14-15
Each of these verses contain a promise but each also contains a condition: Delight in the Lord, commit your your way, trust in him, call in truth, fear Him, righteous. But the words in 1 John give us a very large condition to fulfill. If we ask according to his will. Not ours, but His. Whatever we ask, we have.
It is made clear in other scripture that prayer that is unaligned with his will is not answered – at least not the way we want it to be. Even in the garden of Gethsemane when Christ himself prayed for the cup to pass if it were God’s will, He was not given the answer he sought. Instead he was strengthened by his Father to continue his purpose.
The consequence of following our own plan in life is ultimately failure, no way around it. But following in God’s plan leads to unending rewards, not always in this life and not always measurable by earthly standards but instead treasures in heaven, an eternal reward.
I’d be interested to know what life would look like if I had followed my own plans in just the last 5 years. That was about the time that I went out west with some friends to work on a ranch in Wyoming and by the time I got back we were all making bets as to who’d be the last to get hitched.
Well turns out I lost that one, and in-turn a thousand circumstances unfolded to lead me where I am today. Because I was engaged I began looking for a job, and during a deep recession I landed a position in my chosen field and am now one of very few in my graduating class actually using my degree. And wouldn’t you know it come to find out, my wife shares the same dreams and goals as I do. I honestly couldn’t have planned it better myself, and I’m glad I didn’t.
For those of you who don’t know, I lost my dad when I was 14, to a battle with cancer. He use to say “If it flows it’s from God and if it’s forced it’s from man.” And I’m here to tell you, the process for this trip has pretty much flowed and at some times it was obvious that someone had orchestrated the events.
Just last week I was prepared to give a three weeks notice and return in three months with no job. But instead, God’s timing was impeccable and I was granted a leave of absence, which is virtually unheard of in my line of work.
Guidance from above is no doubt exactly what we need when pursuing dreams big enough to change our lives. But the truth is, when we follow God-given desires, lives will be changed.
We’re all guilty of ignoring a dream whether it be big or small. Just the other day, Brielle and I talked about how we’d like to start volunteering more and that conversation was quickly followed by complaints and excuses about not having enough time, but nearly every weekend we find the time to do something else.
There’s a commercial out right now for AARP that illustrates this idea pretty well. A lot of different people stop what they’re doing at work to say what they want to do when they grow up. One wants to work on old houses, another wants to work with kids and so on. That’s how it is, we all know what we want to do but we don’t do it. And for many of us, those desires are founded in a righteous heart pointing us toward God’s purpose for our lives.
James 4: 13-17 says: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
We’ve all heard the argument that we should wait until retirement to pursue the dream that God has hidden in our hearts just as the commercial alludes to, but the fact is we don’t know if that day will come. Our life is like a mist. We must act on our faith and as the scripture says, do the good we ought to do.
My dad had a dream. He dreamed of writing a book, and he eventually did just a couple of years before he died. But the material used were letters he had written 12 years prior, he could have written it then but he put it off for seemingly no reason. The book, entitled Georgia Knights, has since his death been an incredible joy to read. From it I have gained knowledge, guidance and advice. Today, I know there was a reason he dreamed of writing a book, but at the time only God knew what that was.
In the end, my father’s dream was to write a book and his catalyst was cancer. Likewise, our heavenly father had a dream and his catalyst was a cross. From that dream a book was also born, the New Testament continues to give knowledge, guidance and advice and the Good News of the gospel still gives life to those who believe.
So if there’s a dream in your heart, don’t give up on it just because the world tells you it’s crazy or selfish or impossible. Instead, pray with a righteous heart and seek God’s will.