Summary: Use your faith to serve. Then use your works to show that your faith is real. It will save you from a debilitating despair in the midst of your own trials.
A state trooper was parked on the side of the road, waiting to catch speeding drivers, when he saw a car puttering along at 22 mph. Knowing that a slow driver is just as dangerous as a speeder, the state trooper turned on his lights and pulled the car over.
As he approached the vehicle, the officer noticed five elderly ladies inside – two in the front seat and three in the back – wide-eyed and white as ghosts.
The driver, obviously confused, said, “Officer, I don't understand. I was going the exact speed limit. What seems to be the problem?”
The trooper, trying to contain a chuckle, explained to her that 22 was the route number – not the speed limit.
A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned and thanked the officer for pointing out her error.
“Before you go,” the officer said, “I have to ask: Is everyone in this car okay? These women seem awfully shaken.”
“Oh,” she answered, “they'll be all right, sir. We just got off of Route 127.” (Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; www. PreachingToday.com)
What you believe is vitally important, because it profoundly affects your behavior. And this is especially true in times of trial and pain. What you believe will profoundly affect how you handle the pain.
Do you want to pass the tests of life and come out on the other end of the trial more like Christ? Do you want to be saved from despair and disobedience in your pain? Then turn with me to James 2, James 2, where the Bible shows you the kind of faith that will save you from a debilitating despair.
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV)
Can that faith deliver him from giving into sin in hard times? Can that faith keep him from giving up in despair? James is not talking about your salvation from hell here. He is talking about your salvation from self-pity and sin during your trials. The context makes that very clear! Do you want to be saved from a debilitating despair in YOUR pain? Then…
USE YOUR FAITH TO SERVE.
Put your faith to work to help those in need. Don’t just SAY you believe; SHOW that you believe by loving others in THEIR pain. Otherwise, your faith is dead. It’s no good.
James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 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 is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV)
A belief that doesn’t behave is no belief at all; it’s dead! Just because you SAY something is so, doesn’t make it so. If you want to be saved from a debilitating despair in YOUR pain, then serve others in THEIR pain. Put your faith to work in a world full of need.
That’s what Harriet Tubman did. She was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1822. As she grew up, she was made to work driving oxen, trapping muskrats in the woods, and as a nursemaid. Harriet's owners frequently whipped her. And she endured the pain of seeing three of her sisters sold, never to be seen again. But when her owner tried to sell one of her brothers, Harriet's mother openly rebelled. The would-be buyer gave up after Harriet's mother told him, “The first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.”
Those were hard days, but Harriet's mother told her stories from the Bible, which developed in her a deep and abiding faith in God.
When Harriet was about 26 years old, she learned that she might be sold away from her family. The time had come to try to escape. She made her way some ninety miles along the Underground Railroad. She traveled at night to avoid slave catchers, following the North Star, until she reached Pennsylvania and freedom. Once there, she dared to make a dangerous decision: She risked her own freedom in order to give others theirs.
For eight years, she led scores of slaves north to freedom. During these trips, she relied upon God to guide and protect her. She never once lost a runaway slave. As Harriet herself later put it, “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
She gave all the credit to God, explaining, “Twant me, ‘twas the Lord. I always told him, ‘I trusts to you. I don't know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ and he always did.” (Eric Metaxas, “Harriet Tubman, on the Money,” Breakpoint, 5-6-16; www.PreachingToday.com)