Sometimes we envision faith and action as opposing weights on a scale.
The trick is to get them in the right balance with one another. We don’t want to work too much because that tips the scale and we’re admonished for relying on our own strength. But we also don’t want to work too little because then we’re told we’re lazy and foolish. Godliness, we think, is when faith and action reach equilibrium. When we’re putting in almost double full time hours on a project at work or studying for hours on end, we’re made to feel guilty about it. We’re told we’re “striving”; that we’re working too hard because we lack faith, and if we’d just let go and let God and rest in who he is, he’d provide in miraculous ways.
Worship is not praying and waiting on a miracle when the miracle is within your grasp. Worship is acknowledging that God made things a certain way and then following those ways in willing obedience. Worship is praying and working because we’re supposed to work and use common sense; they’re both part of intelligent design. We worship fully when we fully engage each aspect of our faculties.
What a great example we have in Nehemiah (ch. 4) and his rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall:
“When Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. From then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. All the builders had a sword belted to their side. During this time, none of us – not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me – ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.”
If we read this story with our modern views of faith, we’d chide Nehemiah for his lack of faith. But modern philosophy doesn’t determine biblical truth. Biblical truth determines itself. And this is an example of faithful action.
Faith and action are frequent biblical complements, so let’s worship with all our created faculties. Let’s strive. Let’s work. Let’s fight – not at the exclusion of our faith but for the completion of it.
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God.” – 1 Timothy 4:8-10