If you have been in the church at all you have probably heard the quote, “Faith without works is dead.” I have struggled with this quote for a long time, but this morning it was almost like a light bulb turned on in my mind. To some it may seem elementary, but maybe you will realize the same things as I did while driving to work this morning.
I try not to write a lot about “religious” things in my blog, because I don’t want to come across as “religious”. Religion has done more damage to people than probably any other single thing in my opinion. I do not equate a relationship with God as religion by the way. Religion is a set of rules, traditions and demands that pull you farther away from relationship and push you into becoming a robot that acts on commands and has no heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone who is religious has no heart, but I have found that if you focus on following a bunch of rules, you become more judgmental toward yourself and others and therefore have a harder time truly loving people.
What does all this have to do with faith and works? A lot really. When I was growing up in a really religious environment, I saw everything that I was taught as rules. Everything, and I mean everything, was about obedience. If you accidentally knocked over a lamp because you were horsing around in the living room, it was because you were not obeying the rule “no horsing around in the living room”. A result of this was that as I grew up I related being a good Christian to being perfect. There was no room for accidents or mistakes or miscalculations….it was all disobedience, and disobedience had to be punished. When it comes to faith and works, I always looked at it as a punishment. You have to work hard to be accepted, to be loved, to be good enough. So when I would hear “faith without works is dead”, I heard “Your faith isn’t enough, because you’re not working hard enough. You’re not getting anywhere in life because you’re not working hard enough to go along with your faith”. Everything seemed to be contingent on my working hard, because just having faith wasn’t enough, and well, my faith was pretty weak most of the time anyway.
How does this relate to health and wellness? I know a lot of people in the Christian community who have “claimed their healing”. They have prayed, cried, begged God, believed that they have received their healing and some have even fasted and gone without sleep, but they are still experiencing the symptoms of their illness. Some may tell them that they just have to believe they are healed and rebuke the symptoms, have more faith. I would say that maybe this is where the faith may need some works to live.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let’s say there is a man who is struggling with diabetes and he really does want to be healed from it. That may sound like a given, but I also believe there are people who don’t really want to be healed from their illnesses and diseases because it brings attention to them and they don’t want to lose that, but that’s another subject. So, let’s call this man Sam. Sam goes to the Doctor and the doctor tells him he needs to take a prescription to bring down his blood sugar. Sam probably doesn’t doubt that the doctor is telling him the truth, so he goes to the pharmacy and he orders the prescription that the doctor prescribes. He goes home and immediately starts taking the pills and checking his blood sugar the way his doctor instructed him to do. I want to point out that the doctor has not told this man that the pills will cure his diabetes, only that it will control it, and keep his blood sugar regulated hopefully. I will give the benefit of the doubt to the doctor that he at least suggested that Sam go on a diet and try to lose some weight, maybe if he has a really good doctor he will have suggested changing his lifestyle altogether. Unfortunately, Sam loves to eat the foods that are really bad for him and he really doesn’t want to change his eating habits, and exercise? Forget it! Sunday morning rolls around and Sam goes to church and requests prayer for healing from his new diagnosis. Many of the elders and other people in the church gather around him and pray for his healing. Several of them rebuke the sickness in his body and all of them claim his healing. Sam goes home from church that day and eats three biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy and several pieces of fried chicken for lunch, then he settles into his recliner with his 20 oz. Dr. Pepper and “rests” for the rest of the day. I know what you may be thinking, God is not limited by our behavior, and I totally agree. But God is limited by his own “laws” if you will. God created our bodies to work a certain way and to use a certain fuel, but if we choose to misuse our bodies on a daily basis, what choice does God have but to allow us to suffer the consequences of our poor choices? So even though Sam really does want to be healed, and he really doesn’t want to take pills for the rest of his life, there is something he must do in order for that to take place. He must change his eating habits and add some exercise into his lifestyle in order for the healing to be lasting. Hypothetically, God could have healed Sam the instant he asked for healing, but if he continues to abuse his body, will he not continue to suffer the consequences? If you cut yourself, will you not bleed? Although your body will heal eventually, if you continue to cut yourself, you will continue to bleed and God will not cause this process to change just because you ask him to.
I know this sounds kind of harsh, and I am only using this example to get a point across. And I chose Type 2 Diabetes to use as an example because in the majority of cases, it is totally preventable. My first husband was very similar to this man; he wanted to be healed, but he didn’t want to change his lifestyle. This is where I believe that faith without works is dead. You may have to do something, or stop doing something, for faith to live. If you truly want to be healthy, you can believe you are healed all you want, but if you are doing something that is causing your illness to return, something that you have control over, you need to make that change.
I will give you another example. I started my own business a little over a year ago and I have been trying to consistently work my business while still working a full time job. It has been slow, but I am seeing some steady growth in my business. If I were to just sit down and ask God to bless my business, but I do not talk to anyone about it, or show anyone what I’m doing or at least attempt to get some customers, is it sensible to believe that I am just going to get customers out of the woodwork? While I recognize that God can and often does do many things that defy our own logic, there are many things that work a certain way. Gravity is a good example of this; if you jump off a ten story building, you will fall and it will hurt and possibly kill you. Some things simply are the way they are because of the master plan.
In the end, faith without works really is dead, but we don’t have to look at that as a punishment. We don’t have to look at it as another inadequacy in ourselves. That is how I’ve looked at it for much of my life, just one more way I don’t measure up. Now I see it differently. We don’t have to have huge faith to accomplish a lot, it’s just like when we teach our children to do new things. The more they learn, and the more they succeed, the more they believe that they can do. Faith is like that. The more we have faith, then we do the things we believe can be done, then we succeed….the stronger our faith becomes. This is true in our spiritual lives as well as our physical lives.
I cannot promise you that if you take better care of your health that you will never get sick or that you will live forever. What I can promise you is that if you take better care of your health that you will feel better and the life that you do live will be more abundant. We’ve all heard that Jesus came to give us life and that more abundantly. I believe that with my whole heart. I believe that he has given all of us the ability to learn what we can do to be healthy both physically as well as spiritually, and sometimes that means learning some new things and unlearning some old things. If you are want to learn more about how you can take better care of yourself please contact me, that’s what I’m here for.