“faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” ~ James 2: 17
It’s the age old debate. Which is more real, more right, more likely to save us: faith or deeds? Well, Christians believe it is Christ who saves us. And today He looks very much to me like a baton. You know. The kind that baton twirlers twist and turn and throw up in the air, spinning a million miles per second? I remember having one of those as a child and trying to spin it that way. Except I didn’t know how, so I tried to twist it back and forth really fast. To give the illusion it was spinning round and round. Inevitably it clattered to the ground.
That baton had rubber tips at each end (thank goodness) and I picture one of those tips as belief and one as act. They are connected firmly by the metal rod between. Inseparable from each other. Move one and the other moves. In the same direction, keeping exactly the same distance.
I think I have been confused about believing. Believing today seems to mean gathering evidence to support your case. “I am a believer” means I am investigating how true something is. Heaping more and more support onto the pile. Tipping the balance toward what seems to be true.
But when is the time to act on that belief? How much evidence do you need? How many facts? How sure do you need to be? For some of us, that can be a very long wait. We procrastinate because we can’t be sure. We don’t act. Or our on-going investigation becomes our action or excuse for further action.
Yesterday I called myself to task on this. I was dragging my feet on submitting a proposal. Evidence gathering. Phone calling. Thinking. Penciling in. Drawing flow charts. Making notes. Trying to sketch out all the possibilities, so I could get that proposal just right. Then, that very authoritative voice in my head asked, “Do you believe yourself?”
Did I believe what I was proposing? Did I believe, fully believe, that I could do what I said I could do? That what I said I could provide, I could provide? That the outcome I proposed, given the application of my program, would really come to pass? Did I believe myself?
This hesitation that I had named lack of confidence or procrastination or perfectionism was none of these. I lacked belief. Because when you fully believe, you don’t hesitate to act. In fact, in the moment you fully believe, you are already in action. You’re moving. Believing doesn’t make it true or effective, it enacts it. And I suspect these are not cause and effect. It is not believe first, then act. They are one motion. One continuous motion. Like the twirl of the baton.
I love the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc where Harrison Ford waivers at the edge of the chasm and then realizes that he must believe that a way across will appear when he steps off the ledge. And it does. The moment of complete belief, do or die faith, absent of all doubt, is simultaneous with the way forward appearing. He wouldn’t have seen it had he not stepped out.
So, whatever I am not doing, not acting on, is really a matter of trust. In the matter of God’s will, if I am completely trusting, I will be completely obedient. In perfect step. If I am out of step, faltering, or shuffling my feet, I need to look at that question: Do I believe myself when I say, “I believe God put me up to this.”
Not the success of my proposal but the act of submission. Who’s idea was this? If it was His, and I believe, then I act. All at once. And this turns round and round. The second I fully believe, I AM able. I AM capable. I AM acting.
When Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” He was proving existence.
I’ll go him one better. I think, therefore I am His. That’s the power to turn that baton. Now, getting into that smooth effortless rhythm. That’s the trick.