Your Faith Is Showing

What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? Most people would probably say, “Happiness.”  My answer is a little different.  I strive to know that when I sit in front of the throne of God, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) My faith shows in the things I do. So does yours!

This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. Like Paul, I believe my faith will get me to heaven. (Romans 3:28)

But the works I perform are the result of the faithful life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live a life of Jesus.

James, the Brother of Jesus. Italy, artist unknown.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the life of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven. You need to give up your soul.” And in my belief, that’s true. Paul and James agreed on this.

But while Paul was talking about giving up your soul and becoming a believer, James was talking to the believers, the ones that had already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

What lifestyle was James talking about? Just as Paul said, once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Do you now say, “Oh, I can just sit around and do whatever I want. My salvation is all about grace, so I can go ahead and live my life just the way I like.”

Paul and James and all the other disciples had one word for that: No! And the proof is in the lives they lived as disciples of Jesus.  They lived lives of sacrifice, and they were persecuted for it. They were definitely not persecuted because they did whatever they felt like doing! They gave their lives to Jesus. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. They showed us the life of a believer.

It was this lifestyle that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The disciples were living a lifestyle that shook people up! They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”

The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t go out and live for Jesus? That’s not Christianity. You say you have faith, but who can see it? We’re called to so much more.

When you show people your faith through your works, it might change you.  More on this next time.  See you Monday.

What Is Success?

If you think success is having tons of money, you’re going to find yourself in a very, very sad place. Success is not about having millions of dollars. I know all kinds of people from all walks of life that have plenty of joy, and not one of them has even close to a million dollars. Why are they so joyful? It’s because they don’t find their joy in money.

Joseph was successful because the Lord was with him. When he went to work, his bosses looked at him favorably. I think his fellow workers probably appreciated him and enjoyed his company. He didn’t upset them. He said things that encouraged them. And when he did something at work, it produced good results.

All of this happened because Joseph relied on the wisdom of God. Joseph didn’t do what he thought was right. He did what God said is right. Joseph asked God for wisdom.

You can be just as successful as Joseph! You can say to God, “Help me make a decision. Help me to make a decision that will allow things to prosper in my place of work.” Then your work will prosper, because you allowed God to talk to you and guide you in it. You allowed Him to show you what you need to do to help your employers succeed.

That’s how Joseph gained favor in the eyes of his bosses. God showed him what to do, and he worked hard at it. So he succeeded!

This is how I focus my efforts. If I went to the field every day and work really hard on being a side-armed pitcher, I would not find success, because that’s not what I’ve been asked to do. Or I could say, “I’m going to learn to throw a knuckleball,” and then I could work really hard on that. But if that’s not the wisdom that God is giving me, I’m not going to be very good. It wouldn’t matter how hard I worked at it!

It’s not just about working hard. It’s about working wisely. It’s about using the wisdom that God has given you.

I know what you’re saying right about now. What about all the nonbelievers that have tons of success? Of course a nonbeliever can still succeed in his work! He probably works really hard in certain areas that he knows brings success. He goes to work and says, “I know what works so that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to work really hard at it and do it well.” And he does.

But now think about this. What if he finds Jesus? What if he then uses the wisdom that God gives him? Not only does he use his own wisdom, he also uses God’s wisdom. And then what happens? Now he not only does his own work, but he does the Lord’s work too. He finds a joy he couldn’t have known in any other way. It’s a joy that you cannot match, and that is success!

See you Monday.

The Holiness of Success

Sometimes people wonder what keeps me focused on social justice. They ask me, “What makes you do all this for other people?” Well, I do it because I care about other people. I love them, and I love the God that created them. It’s the same God that created me. He saved my life! So I want to help save others.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I focus on success because I want to achieve something, not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m talking about those who do not have food, or clean water, or a mom and dad to love them, or even basic freedom.

I’d love to see that same approach to success take root in the world on a global scale. Continue reading

What Is Success?

If you think success is having tons of money, you’re going to find yourself in a very, very sad place. Success is not about having millions of dollars. I know all kinds of people from all walks of life that have plenty of joy, and not one of them has even close to a million dollars. Why are they so joyful? It’s because they don’t find their joy in money.

Joseph was successful because the Lord was with him. When he went to work, his bosses looked at him favorably. I think his fellow workers probably appreciated him and enjoyed his company. He didn’t upset them. He said things that encouraged them. And when he did something at work, it produced good results. Continue reading

Grace At Work – Part 2

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to GOD! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life! Proverbs 3:5-8

There’s a difference between going to work with a grace-based mentality, and going to work with a legalistic mentality. A person living in grace will say, “God will show me how to work to become successful.” But legalism says, “I will work hard, so that God will see how hard I work and make me successful.” Continue reading

Grace At Work – Part 1

Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”

And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”

So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.” Genesis 40:5-8

When we are learning about grace, the story of Joseph has so much to teach us. It is such an apt illustration of what life can be like if we live by the Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, our deeds will reflect that. If we live in grace, then we will live a righteous life. We don’t need the law to tell us what to do. In the Spirit-led life, we know what to do. Continue reading

From Prison to Palace: Joseph’s Life in Grace

I’ve been writing so much about grace in family life, but God gives us grace in our work too. Make yourself available to hear His wisdom, and He’ll show you where to focus your efforts. The next thing you know, you’ll succeed in everything you do.

Just look at what the story of Joseph can teach us. It’s such a good story! But it’s more than that. There is so much wisdom in it. There is so much to Joseph.

The story goes like this: Joseph’s brothers are jealous of him, so they sell him to some traders who take him to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph is sold into the household of Potiphar, who managed the Pharaoh’s household. Continue reading