Last year, we studied the book of James. James was Jesus' half brother, the son of Mary and Joseph. James didn't believe Jesus was who He said He was until James saw his brother risen from the dead. Then James went on to spend the rest of his life encouraging other believers in the truth. He ultimately gave his life for the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. This fact makes the book of James all the more poignant and meaningful to me, because it was written by a man who grew up with Jesus, in his own house, who came to thoroughly understand the truth once it was revealed to him. What a rich experience that must have been! James made it his life to further the salvation that Jesus died for, that all might know the grace that is available through the sacrifice of Christ. James lived a life of obedience and sacrifice to further God's truth because of his faith. He knew it was true. It was worth dying for.
But this post is about shoes... isn't it?
We were studying in the book of James how true faith is expressed in actions. What you believe, you do. If you want to know where your beliefs are, look at what you do. What you do reveals what you believe. Ultimately, true faith acts:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
I was thinking on these things throughout my day a few months ago, when I found myself distracted in the grocery store with three young children. Sama was in the grocery cart. Dylan was pushing Jacob in the umbrella stroller. With budgets, menus, choices, children's behavior and time all on my mind, I didn't notice Jacob taking off his flip-flop in the produce department. Further down the isle we were stopped when a little old lady said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but your son dropped his shoe." "Oh! Thank you!" I said, relieved to have it back. As I turned and knelt down in front of Jacob to put his shoe back on, I said to him, "Jacob, you don't want to lose a shoe. What good is just one shoe? We might as well throw away your other shoe because without them both, you don't have any shoes!" Well, you should have heard the gravity with which that statement hit my heart. "Just as faith is worthless without action, you must have both to be effective in this world. To have effective faith, you must obey my Word." Oh my, suddenly it was so clear, just how useless is that one shoe!
Well, now its about 9 months to a year later, and I'm still learning this lesson. And God is still using shoes to demonstrate it in my life. Last week I had a run-in with Sam's shoes and Jacob's shoes in the same day. I bought Sam a new pair of shoes and didn't come home from the store with them. When I realized we'd left them, we immediately went back to the store, sans naptime. Well long story short, we did finally find the shoes I paid for, thankfully. At this point, with everyone up, I had to go to the local grocery store to get the things that the first store didn't have, so on we went to the next store. When we got there, I realized Sam didn't have on any shoes! So on went the new shoes from the previous store. After picking up the last few things at the second store, we unloaded into the van with a one-shoed Jacob. I knew he had taken off his shoe in the cart. I made a mental note to retrieve it and promptly left without it! Once home, with a one-shoed Jacob, back to the second store I went again to get his flop out of the cart in the parking lot. And, thankfully, there it was! I found myself asking again, "What good is just one shoe??" I can tell you. It's no good. Now, Dylan's newest flip-flops are down a shoe. Just one lies in the middle of the dining room floor, very lonely and very useless. Just like my faith, if I don't learn, desire, to obey all that I have been revealed from studying God's holy Word.
Dylan hasn't worn that one shoe out of the house in weeks. He can't find the other one. Every once in a while he'll go around the house with that lone shoe on his foot, limping about. What use is just one shoe? What use is it to say you have faith, but have no deeds or any actions that show others and even yourself, that you believe in the Living God?? What good is it to tell everyone about who Jesus is, which is true, but then go on to act like you don't believe it, which makes it seem untrue. Actions speak louder than words. You have to have the shoe of faith to have effective actions, but without the shoe of actions, your shoe of faith has no pair, no mate that makes it worthwhile or effective to you or anyone else. And isn't that what faith is all about? Something that effects your life and how you live it. Not just talking the talk, but more importantly, walking the walk. Funny how God used shoes to illustrate this lesson...!
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Words versus actions. Actions, obedience to God's Word, they are the evidence of a true faith. They are what affects others for Christ.
I pray we find Dylan's missing shoe. I pray that I apply this lesson to my own life and never step out without both the shoe of faith, and the shoe of obedience. If you truly believe it, you will act accordingly, especially before expecting anyone else to take your word for it. I must remember this.
You wouldn't go into battle with just one shoe on, would you? It's not safe! Your steps would not be sure. You wouldn't try to run a race with just one shoe? You won't get very far. And it would hurt! Yet we are called to do both in this new life, to fight the good fight and run the race with endurance. For these, we need both of our shoes. Faith and Obedience.
Help me, Lord, to love and teach my children with both shoes on, the effective pair of faith and obedience. May the next step I take be done in faithful obedience and love for You and Your Word. May I be inspired by the life of James, the brother and willing bond-servant of Jesus Christ.
I'm looking forward to that other shoe dropping, the shoe of action and obedience. After all, what is the next step for a faithful child studying the Word of the Living God? :-)
Thank You, Jesus for Your Word. Your Word is truth.
I love and adoration, Amen.