The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
September 27, 2020
How we act demonstrates how much we believe, and also develops how much we believe.
When we trust God, we obey God; but after we obey God, we trust God even more. For to follow God’s will is to walk with God, and to walk with God is to get to know God better in all His loving kindness and trustworthiness. David saw this, and thus in this scripture’s last verse he declared, despite his distresses and dangers, “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep his covenant and decrees.” In difficult days David held on to his faith by seeking God’s help to stick to the “paths” of obedience and so keep close to the Lord he trusted. David grasped that to believe is to act and to act is to come to believe even more. For how we choose to live, not only expresses our faith, but expands our faith – or, with the wrong choices, contracts our faith.
To believe is to act. If we refuse to do what God commands us, we weaken what faith we have.
Faith is less on display in what we say than in how we stay on God’s way!
A rich Christian businessman, who had made gobs of money, was giving the stewardship pitch at his church. He said, “I attribute my financial success to my total commitment to God. The first month my company showed any profit, I emptied my bank account and gave all I had to the church. Because I gave all I had, though back then it wasn’t much, I now have much. I dare you to follow my example and today give God all you have” – to which someone in the back of the Sanctuary yelled, “I will if you now do that a second time!”
To believe is to act, and to keep believing is to keep acting.
Why, even the regular practices of the Christian life that seem purely spiritual will, if authentic, produce concrete habits of action. Thomas More used to ask God: “The things that we pray for, give us the grace to labor for.”
A little girl who lived out in the country and had a brother who trapped animals such as rabbits understood More’s approach perfectly. She loved bunnies and meant to protect them against predators, including her brother Tommy. One night, her mother overheard her praying, “Lord, please stop Tommy from trapping rabbits. I know you’ll do it! Thank you, Lord!” Proud of her daughter’s strong faith, but aware of her son’s skill with traps, the mother asked her how she could be so sure God would answer her prayer. She replied, “I’ve got a stick and I’m springing all his traps!”
That girl was wise in the ways of God. She saw how praying for something to happen involves our offering ourselves to be part of the answer to our prayer and help it happen. Yes, sometimes God does it all, but more often He wants to collaborate with us in bringing about what we request. Because God wants to deepen His relationship with us, and He knows a partnership in a shared concern draws us into a closer relationship, He prefers to work with us to achieve His will.
To believe is to act. Moreover, to act is to believe even more. For when we follow God’s will in our action, we keep God’s company; and, when we keep God’s company, we come to know Him in new ways that build our faith.
Dan Price is a follower of Jesus who has experienced this firsthand. A few years ago, he was the kind of person about whom everyone would say he “has it all”. He led a successful business, received a million-dollar salary, and lived in a mansion overlooking Puget Sound outside Seattle. But Dan came to realize two things: First, having more money wasn’t making him happier; and second, having not enough money was making his employees less happy than they could be. Dan figured out that there’s an income number where, should you go over it, more money doesn’t increase your level of happiness; and another number where, should you go under it – especially in a high cost-of-living place like Seattle – less money decreases your level of happiness.
So Dan prayed, and then did something unthinkable. In 2015 he cut his million-dollar salary down 90% so as to provide his workers a minimum salary of $70,000.
Dan enacted his faith, and blessed his employees. The year he began doing this, more than 10% of them purchased a house for the very first time. Personal individual 401K contributions more than doubled, and over 70% of workers with debt significantly reduced it. Other happy changes occurred as well: The number of babies born among the staff increased from less than one a year to over six a year. One employee said, “I no longer have to choose between gas and groceries, or worry about an unexpected emergency.”
Dan admits to sometimes missing some of the money he used to have, but he soon remembers how his practice of greater generosity has made his life “so much better”. It’s become better, he says, because as he’s enacted his faith more, he’s come to know Jesus more; and knowing Jesus more has strengthened in him the faith that fills his heart with grateful joy, tranquil peace and an abiding sense of the presence of the best Friend one could ever have.
To believe is to act; and to act, to believe as never before. Let us trust and obey to be happy in Jesus as never before!