“Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)
As a Christian, this verse has always left me a bit squirmy in my seat, I mean, we have Grace, the free gift of eternal life from God. We don’t have to do anything to earn a clean slate. We just receive it. So, to read the word works in the New Testament, sort of sends Christians into this paradox of, if we don’t need to work for the gift, then why is our faith dead if we don’t work? I know, for me, it’s always been one of those, “it’s not works for your salvation from hell” kind of works, it’s more of, “if you love God, then you will do the good deeds” kind of works.
It leaves us in this limbo of what are we working for, then?
This past year, Matt and I have been on a journey to change the essence of our lives. We’ve spent most of our lives wandering in poverty, depression (me!), and fear (me, again!). We’re so over that miserable life. Been there. Done that. Burning the T-shirt. With that, we’ve read quite a few books, watched countless YouTube videos, and listened plethora of audio books on how to change your life. We’ve began to study the lives of successful people, and we’re listening to what it takes to create that same success in our lives.
There are many things they’re telling people to do, but I’ve boiled it down to three basic things it takes to live the life you desire:
1. You are Not a Victim in Your Life.
You are responsible for your life’s outcome and state of being. So, whatever state you are in, the only person you can blame (or congratulate) is yourself. I’ve been the queen of victim. I believed life happened to me, thus causing me to hate my life and live under depression. Realizing I’m the one to blame for my plight was a bitter pill to swallow, because it feels so much better pointing fingers at every Tom, Dick, and Government for all the bad, instead of myself, but accepting personal responsibility has given me so much power and freedom to change my life. My favorite scripture that reminds me that it’s all up to me is, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) It’s up to me. It’s up to you.
2. You Must Believe First.
If there is something in your life that you want to happen, you must first believe it has already happened in your mind. It’s this sense of painting the picture in your mind, believing it is already reality, and then living as if it is already established. This has been the biggie for me, because my thoughts have always been filled with negative and fear driven thoughts, and as long as I thought of myself as a victim, I never took responsibility for my thoughts, so I always allowed my thoughts to run amuck, thus manifesting a life gone amuck. The same is true for a beautiful and successful life. For instance, if you’d like to start a business, you must first see yourself starting the business and being successful at running it, before you can ever start the successful business. The same goes for any other life changes. You must first believe you can, you must “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) before you will see it happen in your life.
3. Make it Happen.
Get off your duff, and do the work it takes to make the desires of your heart come true. Again, this puts the responsibility on yourself. Do the research to learn how to start a business, and then go out and do it. You believe you are debt free? Then, you must start practicing healthy financial decisions. You can believe all day long in your mind that something is going to happen, but like the quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says, “a goal without a plan is just a wish”.
I am at this stage right now. I’m passed the needing to take responsibility for my life, and I’m in a good place with my thoughts, now I just need to do the work to make it happen. So, last week, I started writing a book (Eeek! It’s happening!). To make things happen takes work… hard work… hard work everyday, and you keep doing the daily hard work long before you see the vision from your mind come true, but everyday you must go back to number 2 and renew your mind. Then, you will see what already exists in your mind exist on earth.
This is the stage that is the hardest for most us, me included, because this is part of the curse of Adam, the “you will make your dreams come true by the sweat of your brow” (I may have paraphrased a bit), but it’s through hard work we manifest the lives we desire.
Now back to the original scripture that I mentioned — faith without works is dead. I think we’ve over spiritualized this scripture. I think we’ve made it something way more complicated than it really is. Could it be that Paul was simply defining a universal law set in place by God, you know, like the law of gravity or the law of inertia? It’s a principle on how to live the life you were meant to live — the law of faith and works. Works are just the tool to manifest your faith here on earth.
You see, faith simply is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It’s believing before seeing. Faith is seeing yourself healthy and fit in our mind, while you’re 40 pounds overweight. Faith is being sure you live a debt free life in your mind, while a mountain of bills pile up. Faith is you being certain you live a life of love and service in your mind, while you lose your temper. The perfect example is the building of a house. A house never exists on the land until first it is made reality in the architect’s mind. Then, it’s up the the builders to take that plan and make it a reality. It doesn’t take much to paint this picture in your mind, Jesus said it only takes the size of a mustard seed.
The problem with us is we reverse numbers two and three. Going back to the house example, we look around the empty plot of land and say, “God promised me a house, but I don’t see a house. So, we lament and cry and pray for God to provide us a house. We ask for more faith or patience or something, but all we need to do is form the house in our minds. See it, believe the future house exists now. Then, we work to make that house become a reality. Meaning we live as though it already were. This is why Paul tells us, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” (2 Corn. 4:18) He’s telling us the secret to living the life we so desperately desire to live. He’s telling us how we can be the light of the world. He’s telling us how to live an abundant life. It all starts in your mind.
Get the picture firm in your mind. You are to see yourself living debt free, healthy and fit, strong, courageous, starting a business, loving your neighbor as yourself, traveling the world, whatever it is. You must have faith first!
Then, don’t let your faith die there. Go, get your shovel, and move that mountain.