At the beginning of the year I found myself slightly annoyed with certain people in my life. The annoyance came because I felt like they were continuously asking for prayer. Prayer for healing and overall prayer for their needs etc. but they seemed to be making choices that were very contradictory to what they were asking prayer for. I was driving to work one morning when I realized that the reason this was so frustrating was cause I believe that we can pray for things but if we continue to partner with the enemy then those prayers are void. We must come into partnership with God to see the true changes in our lives. And our actions are the best inclination that this has happened.
I've had this portion of scripture stuck in my head for a few weeks now. And have just been meditating on it over and over and what it means to me. I want to share what God's been telling me in this because I had a message I thought I was gonna share, but realized there was more to it. Not just was there more, but I was slightly confused because I felt like I was seeing two different sides of a coin in a way. The first side was on serving and the importance of serving the Kingdom, our church and our community. But the other side was on not relying on those works to define us or prove our effectiveness or love for Christ.
Let me not get ahead of myself though. Let's start with this passage in John 21 verses 1-13
Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.
You see the disciples trying to work through their pain. Literally and figuratively in this setting. They just lost their leader, the man they thought would lead them out from under the oppression they were experiencing under the Roman rule. This is the 3rd time they've seen Him since His death and resurrection, but haven't been given direction yet.
The part that stood out to me though is verses 9 and 10 (highlighted above). I love this because I had this revelation that He already has breakfast prepared for them. He already has what's needed to satisfy them, what's needed to nurture them. Even had He not told them to recast their net on the other side and blessed them bountifully, He had what they needed.
But....He did. Why though? I believe it's because of a partnership that the Lord desires with us. Ephesians 2: 8-9 is very clear that our salvation is from faith in Christ and not in works.
But what about James 2:14-26
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Does this not feel somewhat contradictory to anyone else? It did for me at least. I think I related more to the section in James. I'm someone who needs to feel useful. I want to be valued by my works. I often find myself being so busy in the things of God and wanting to serve in whatever way I can that I can be consumed by it.
I'm reminded of when I worked retail and would often be sent to stores to train the staff or fill in when a store was short on help. I visited this store once and almost immediately upon walking into the store the district manager pulled me aside and briefed me on the needs of the store and the strengths and opportunities in the staff I'd be working with that day. I remember there was a particular girl who seemed to be working her butt off and I had mentioned that to the district manager. I'll never forget her response caught me off guard a little. She said, "oh she's really good at looking busy, but she's often busy doing nothing of purpose." What she meant by that was she's moving around a lot but lacks purpose.
I think that's kind of how I get and maybe some of you when it comes to serving God. I strongly believe that what's written in James is correct. When we have faith in Christ, it drives us to action. If we are saying we believe but our actions and our lack of service say otherwise then are we truly saved or is that faith dead? Our service to the Lord should be intentional but it also should be in acknowledgement that it's a partnership with Him.
He did the work on the cross. He prepared the fish for breakfast and doesn't need us or our work. But He blesses us and gifts us abundantly and sets an example of serving us, so that we will be inspired and motivated to bring forth the best of what we have and not come to Him empty handed. In the end we will have to stand before Him and give an account for what we did with what we were given. I want to hear well done my good a faithful servant. I want to know that, I took all that I was given and multiplied that. I believe that's what James is talking about. I believe that's why Jesus asks them to bring their catch too. The catch that wouldn't have happened without Him but that He desires to partake in with us.
Serving the Lord is important, not for the sake of salvation or acclamation, but because it's the example He set. Because our faith leads us to be more like Christ. Because it's an honor to be valued by Him enough that He wants to be yoked to us.
My prayer for each of us is that we come into partnership with Him through our actions, our service and our faith to do as He's called each of us to do. Praying for each of you with love!