Sunday, May 25, 2008

Faith and Works

Recently I have been discussing with other bloggers the question of whether belief alone is enough, or whether something more is required. As I have thought about this, I decided to write a separate post on this issue. I believe that faith is the first fundamental prinicple of the Gospel, but I believe that other principles also follow.

Let me begin by telling you of a conversation I had with my friend JJJ. I hope he won't mind my sharing this with you. One day he was very upset and told me about a news story that he had read about a man and woman whose daughter died from something related to her diabetes. Being an athiest, JJJ was most upset because this man and woman had refused to take their daughter to the doctor on the grounds that they believed their faith in God was enough to heal her. While I cannot fault these parents for wanting to show their faith in God, the question must be asked, is belief alone enough?

I submit to you that faith is more than just a belief. True faith is found in our works. Ruth mentioned the scripture James 2:23, "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God." The two verses before that read, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" We can even back up one more scripture to verse 20 which reads, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?". I believe that true faith is exhibited in our works. Until we show in our actions, we don't really exhibit true faith.

To illustrate this point, I want to share a personal experience with you. I have to admit that this experience is very sacred to me, so sharing it here is difficult, but I trust that my readers will treat it with respect. Years ago, when my oldest three children were small, we were living in Beijing, China. We were there with my husband's business. In the spring, it occurred to me that we needed to file our taxes the the IRS in the States. I knew that to do this, we needed our children's social security numbers. To this day, I'm not sure why we did things this way, but we had copied their social security numbers down on to a small piece of paper, and left our main records in storage in the states. At the time I was still young and had never heard about filing for an extension, so I believed that in order to file our taxes, I must find that piece of paper in time. I knew what the paper looked like, and I began to search for it. I prayed for help, telling God of my feelings of urgency. Then I searched for quite some time, but to no avail. I had always been taught that faith without works is dead, so I felt it important to do everything within my power to find the paper. I decided that I would search out each room of our apartment and look at every piece of paper in every drawer and on every desk. I felt that if I demonstrated my faith by doing all I could, the God would help me.

I did search every room. I looked at every scrap of paper. I searched everywhere I could think of.. When I would finish with a room, I would move on to the next, confident that the paper wasn't in that room. Finally, I came to accept the fact that I had done all I could do. I went to God in prayer again, and told Him that I had done all I could do, and that I knew that I needed His help because I still couldn't find it. As I prayed, a picture came in to my mind and in it I saw myself pulling the drawer all the way out of the nightstand in my room. I got up, and pulled the drawer out, and there, stuck in the back , bottom crack of the drawer, poking out through the back, was the piece of paper I had been searching for. I would not have been able to see it without pulling the drawer all the way out, because it was sticking down through the crack.

I do not fault the parents of the little girl who died. for wanting to show their faith, but I echo the sentiment of James who said, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." James 2:17,18 How might their story have been different had they done all within their own power and faith to get help for the little girl? I firmly believe that if I had not put forth the effort of faith to search for the numbers, that I would not have been shown where to find them. I know this because I began my search with prayer, and it wasn't until I exerted my faith through my works that I was given the answer.

James also makes another point on this matter. He said, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." James 2:19 The devil and his angels believe there is a God. We have an example of this in Mark 1:23-26. "And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him." The devil and his angels also believe, but they chose not to obey.

We have another example in the scriptures. In John chapter 9 we read that Jesus came upon a man who was blind from birth. Jesus took some clay and annointed the man's eyes, then told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Why did He require something of the man beyond just belief? By going and washing, the man was demonstrating through his works that he had faith.

Some people get very upset when talking about faith and works because they feel that saying we must have works with our faith somehow negates the grace of Jesus Christ. I would like to make clear that I firmly believe that without the atonement of Jesus Christ, we cannot be saved, no matter how many good works we do in this life. It is only through his atoning sacrifice that we have any hope of being saved. This gift of grace is offered to everyone. But I do believe that our faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ isn't made perfect until we show by our works that we believe. How do we show faith by our works? By obeying the commandments and by repenting, and by living what Jesus taught. It is not enough to say that we believe, we must demonstrate it in who we are becoming.

What commandments do we obey? In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught the ten commandments, but also took them to a deeper level. He also said, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:19 He also commanded, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt 5:48 Will we be able to be perfect in this life? No, only One was perfect. But we must keep trying, and move forward with faith and obedience, relying upon Him who is mighty to save.

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