The kids and I have been reading a book together called “Kisses From Katie”. It’s a story about Katie Davis who, at age 19 left her home in TN and became a missionary in Africa and within eight months began adopting 13 children and caring for hundreds more. It’s so important to read inspiring stories and not just for the sake of our kiddos but also for us! I think I am learning more than my kids. What is inspiring most of all is not the specific good works that Katie has done (which, by the way are truly amazing) but it’s her heart that shines and inspires me to think about my own life.
Katie traveled to Africa after high school planning to stay only one year. But very shortly into her stay the Lord began to change the passions and desires. She realized, it wasn’t enough to just pray for these people she needed to DO something about their needs.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
After reading a portion of the book the other evening, my seven year old daughter and I ended up having a very long conversation about works and faith. I could see the wheels turning in her brain and I remember asking the same questions as a child. “Am I doing enough good to go to heaven? What happens if I sin? Am I good enough?” “My friends say they are Christians but they don’t act like it.” “How do I know my friend is a real Christian?”
I have struggled with many of these same questions for nearly 3 decades and this passage in James has been a love hate relationship for me. Though I know I am justified by Jesus’ finished work on the cross, I still question am I doing enough. Is my faith really genuine? I am an all or nothing person so when I miss an opportunity to serve or worse, when I sin, I feel doomed. It was in explaining to my daughter the beauty of God’s grace, Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy of serving Christ that I was able to realize the truth for myself.
Katie’s story left me asking questions of myself and my family. Am I (are we) intentional with my time, money, resources, and love? When I (we) hear of or see a need around me do I respond quickly with love, compassion and resources or do I (we) offer a quick prayer and move on? Not all of us will be called to be full time missionaries to Africa or to adopt thirteen children but ALL Christians are called to love everyone like Christ loves. That can be sticky and hard and ugly and beautiful and joyous! Good works are the fruits of our genuine faith in a God that gave the ultimate sacrifice. They come from a heart that desires what God desires not our own selfish desires that store up treasures on earth. Genuine faith says, “yes” to God when he asks us for our time, our resources, our love.
Like Katie, I am flabbergasted by the statistics. There are more than 2 billion people claiming to be Christians. If only 8% of them provided food for 1 child, there would be no more starving children IN THE WORLD. Modern day Christianity has become watered down and easy, particularity in the US. We offer our prayers and canned goods but only if we have time to stop by the local grocery store and grab a few items. Many people believe in Jesus but so do the demons. This Thanksgiving and Christmas our family is taking more time to first of all, appreciate this season and worship our Lord and Savior but also be more intentional. The shoeboxes we packed for Operation Christmas child looked different than before. The amount of money we will spend on gift giving will be different as well as the source they gifts are coming from. Not all of us will become missionaries in a foreign country but God’s people are everywhere and the needs are great. We will start by opening our eyes and hears and meeting the needs of the people God places in front of us today.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice that granted me eternal life. Thank you for the privilege to participate in doing kingdom work, not out of obligation but love. Help us to serve your people with the royal law of love and place their needs above our own. Amen.