Thursday, November 15, 2012

Faith Made Complete

James 2 claims that both faith and deeds must be present in our lives if we are to be true followers of Jesus. We talked about this in Bible study and a beautiful pattern of a faith that pours forth love and "good deeds" emerged. As our faith in God grows, He fills our hearts and in response our world view changes. We see need around us and a desire grows to help. It's really beautiful when you think of the healthy church living in such a way.
Abraham is given as an example of being "considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the alter" James 2:21. Abraham was a man who had a relationship with God. They spoke together, God gave Abraham the promise of a son and it was fulfilled. It took time and questioning and trying to figure it out, but Abraham had history with God. Now God says to Abraham "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Gen. 22:2 And Abraham obeyed. God acknowledges that Abraham loved his son. This is the son promised by God. No doubt Abraham loved him more than any other thing on this earth. And God asks him to do the impossible, to hand him back over to God. To let go and say goodbye. Genesis even tells us how his son, Isaac, asked where the sacrifice was. Abraham replies that "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." vrs. 8 Can you even imagine that walk up the mountain? Isaac must have been able to sense the heaviness weighing on his father's heart.
Hebrews gives us a bit of insight into what was going on inside Abraham's mind. "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead". Where did Abraham get that? Who had God raised from the dead? This is the exact sort of thing my mind does. When I am working on having faith in God and I can not see the outcome, my mind works up all types of fantastical ways that God can save the day! There is a moment when that step of faith is taken and although I have no idea how the details will work out, the God I have can handle it.
I also don't believe that God is bothered by the shadow of doubt that may cross my mind as I am walking forward in faith. There is a curious little verse thrown in James that has occupied my thoughts for the past day as I work through what it means. "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did." James 2:22 Doesn't this verse imply that his faith was not complete until he took some action? Possibly it took the full action of walking up the mountain with his son, gathering wood and laying Isaac on the alter with tears running down his face all done in faith but with the human side of a sliver of doubt. The question of "how are you going to work this one out God?". But in faith. Faith that if he sacrificed his son God could do what had never been done - raise him from the dead. If God choose not to raise Isaac from the dead then faith that there would be another answer. Faith that God was still his God.
We get another spin on this idea when Jesus is asked to cast a demon out of a boy. Jesus tells the father "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:23-24 Wow, the faith was not made complete until the action was complete.
Personally I find great comfort in the humanness of the process. God acknowledges and understands our struggle. God rewards those steps of faith that are taken with heavy feet not seeing the end of the path. Right now that is the path I am on. Three posts that no one else will take. Two daughters that will come with us. I am a typical, concerned mom thinking only of how this will affect the girls. But I also have this weird peace. God has the situation and our family where he wants us. For me the heavy footsteps are a sore jaw and headaches. But the promise is that as I continue to have faith and take the action of remaining calm, continuing on in a focused life here, God will build my faith and bring it to completeness.

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