Right now in Wisconsin it is the holiest of times, Packers training camp has begun. This signals that another most holy of things is not far away, football season. Even as the Packers have begun training camp thousands of people turn out each day to go and watch the Packers practice and prepare to defend their Super Bowl Title. Watching the Packers is a sport in Wisconsin. People have whole rooms of their house for watching football, special decorations, thousands of dollars of gear used just to tailgate, brand new TVs, surround sound, jerseys, face paint, this is serious stuff.
Our faith can be remarkably similar if we are not careful. We have special seats we sit in at church (my “assigned” seat, and if I have to sit somewhere else, man let’s just not talk about it), special clothes we wear (that may only come out on Sunday), special language we use (we can swear at the TV on Sunday during football and smile and say God bless you on Sunday morning), special music we expect (if it’s wrong, then you have hampered my ability to grow in my faith) and even special causes that we like to send money to (often without any involvement on our part in that cause). But we are not the first or last people to slip into thinking that our faith is a spectator sport, an activity that we can watch like a Packer’s football game.
Two thousand years ago, a man named James wrote this, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them…In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 NIV) James wants to make the point that faith is not a spectator sport, but comes with a calling to get in the game. You may think, how can I get involved, I am not skilled enough, my way of helping is watching, and James would say this to you, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:18-19) It is not enough to just believe. To follow Jesus, and for Him to come into our hearts and our lives HAS to change us. Jesus final instructions to the disciples was this, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) What is his command, go do stuff, make disciples, teach people. We live in a nation where millions of people calls themselves “spiritual” and worship a “higher power,” so what makes us any different than them? James says we can see it in the way we live.
James would say if you want to give money to a local food pantry that is wonderful to be generous in that way, but also go down and work at the food pantry once a month, or help out in another way if you can. Come to church each week, and come looking to actively worship God, instead of measuring how well the service fits my consumer needs. If you have a passion for kids or youth, see how you can better serve that age group at your church, be a Sunday school teacher, volunteer to mentor a child at a local school or get involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. If you feel like you want to grow in your faith, don’t just blame the pastor or worship participants if that doesn’t happen the way you want. Take time outside of church to read the bible, seek out a small group, or listen to a podcast of another church so you can have a diversity of ways to grow.
James reminds us of the powerful opportunity we have been given to not just believe in God, but to be a part of His work in the world. Our faith is not a gift to put on the couch and watch, instead it is a living active thing. We each have different skills and passions so living out our faith may look different for different people, but the fact remains, there is no sit back and watch option. The question instead is how are you going to get in the game? How are you going to put your faith into action today?
1. Why do you think we tend to engage our faith passively?
2. What are some challenges you have to putting your faith into action? Make a list.
3. What is one way that you want to begin to put your faith into action? How can you do something about today?