When I grew up, many people tried to claim that all I had to do was believe in Jesus and pray the sinner’s prayer and I was good to go… forever. While that’s a great starting point, I was challenged by James’ words: “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” -James 2:17 (NLT)
And today, I ran across this Christian writer from antiquity who summed up the knowledge part of faith and the role of the “works” of faith really well:
“Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.” – St. Mark the Ascetic, Philokalia, vol. 1, p 126, #12.
Maybe “faith put into practice” is a better way of thinking about faith and works! If our faith is based on on our head knowledge, it’s dead! But if we can put the faith we believe into practice, then we’re REALLY living out our faith!
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
There’s a funny story that circulates around the internet about an atheist who is in court claiming discrimination since there are holidays for religious observances, but none for those who aren’t believers. The judge is reported to say that atheists in fact DO have a holiday: April Fool’s Day! The judge’s rationale is this verse from the Psalms.
It’s a cute story, even though I doubt it’s true.
As usual, April starts with this holiday celebrating foolishness and fun. But this year, within the first two weeks, we also have Easter. Holidays for non-believers AND believers alike!
But this idea of the fool has captured my attention. Nobody (that I know of) likes being called a fool. And yet, to the extent that we are still unbelievers… ones who doubt God… then we ARE fools.
Most of us involved with this church family would claim to be believer in God… in fact, we regularly use the Apostle’s Creed to reaffirm our beliefs. “I believe in God the Father… in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… in the Holy Spirit…” We believe.
But if we are really honest with ourselves, there are many moments when we’re not sure WHAT to believe. There are so many different opinions on what it means to be a Christian, what you’re allowed to do or say, even what you can wear if you’re going to be a member of this group of Christians or that other group down the street. Many people look at the very same Bible we read and get an entirely different meaning than we do. What are we to do?
Ultimately I find myself in those moments remembering the father of a sick child asking Jesus for help and for healing. Jesus asked him “Do you believe?” And that father replied “I do believe… Help my unbelief.”
Isn’t that our situation so often? We DO believe… yet there are so many areas where our faith needs to keep growing and our believing needs help. We, like that father, can honestly say, I believe… Help my unbelief.
It is only the foolish ones that categorically decree that there is nothing in which to believe. And they are known as fools.
Let’s respond to God and his offer of help and healing through Jesus with those words: “I do believe… Help my unbelief!”
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