“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:32)
THE Lord Jesus Christ has given us salvation with all its blessings like a gift of land. We can turn the good soil up and over, manure it with honest sweat, plant in it good seed of a living faith, water it with patience, and look to Him to bring forth fruit to His own glory. Or we can ignore the gift, let it be controlled by bush, thorns and centipedes of neglect. The Christian life is one of work. We work the gift of salvation we have been given by God’s grace alone. We are expected to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12, 13).
There is a principle here for productive and meaningful growth in our Christian churches. Believers must be encouraged to actively work with Biblical truths and their implications for daily living. Preaching and teaching should be part of a larger co-operative study and discussion of Scripture. This must find completion in the active practice of Biblical truth. Christianity is fruitful as it is applied to the private personal life. And there is the fundamental, basic challenge faced by all believers. Faithful servanthood and witness must begin in our own hidden, secret hearts. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). The heart, the deep emotional life, is the real battleground of faith and practice.
From deep within us, our hearts, we practice our faith in daily relations with intimates, family, neighborhood, fellow employees, the person in the street, enemies. As James put it bluntly, “…show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). We are far from perfect. Indwelling, besetting sin remains a problem. We are challenged to at least make an honest effort to walk in obedience to the faith we hold.
Is it possible that our professed faith is largely without works? Is it possible that our witness is not supported by a visible, self-sacrificing servanthood? Jesus called Paul on the Damascus Road to be a “servant and a witness.” (Acts 26:16). Through his self-forgetful servanthood and his bold, uncompromising witness, Paul would go on to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:18).
Our Lord Jesus had set the perfect example: “He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38). From the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus placed witness alongside service. He “went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come’ He said, ‘The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:14). Jesus’ witness was fulfilled and completed in His servanthood. As ours also must be.
Three times in the Book of James, Chapter 2, the Holy Spirit emphasizes, “faith without works is dead.” (vv17, 20, 26). The importance of works of faith, the power of selfless service to other human beings is emphasized by Jesus when He says to the Jews, “Do not believe Me unless I do what My Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe Me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.” (John 10:37, 38). We are declared just, righteous, by faith alone. As was Abraham (Galatians 3:6,11). But the works we do prove that we have been blessed with saving faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Our witness is fulfilled in our servanthood. If we serve our fellow human beings, at the points of their need, because we believe in the God of the Bible, then we give a dynamic proof of the power of our faith. This is practical, visible love. The second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus still says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).
The servanthood of Christianity is very hard work. The hearts of human beings are hard. Thankless ingratitude is everywhere apparent. One needs to learn the hard road of patience if one is to endure. The Christian also needs to remember the purpose of his calling: to be a servant and witness of Jesus Christ. The disciple is to be under the discipline of his Master. The vision of faith, the conviction of witness is the strength of the personal discipline by which the servant carries the burden of self-less giving. The Church must always be remembering that it belongs to Christ, not to hierarchies of its leadership or its formulations of statutes that may contradict Scripture. It exists to glorify the risen and reigning Christ, and has been given the task of being the Hand of God in the world. A loving, kind, guiding hand, not a hand of theocratic authoritarianism.
For faithful witnesses and servants, there is an end in view. Our Lord encourages, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58). This world and life are temporary. Young and old die. The powerful today are the forgotten of tomorrow. “The things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Our witness as believers is to the eternal Kingdom of God over which Jesus reigns now. Our faithful servanthood is visible proof of this. Though this world be a hard, cruel, thankless place, there are rewards waiting for the faithful servants of Christ. We are not perfect. Often weak. Prone to sin. But in spite of all, we are witness and servants kept by the Holy Spirit of His never-ending grace. “Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not faint.” (Galatians 6:9).