More often than not, I believe we have a difficult time distinguishing between what we must do to be saved, and how we ought to live on this earth. Scripture tells us that salvation is by grace through faith alone. Most would consider salvation by grace through faith alone to be essential Christian doctrine. Salvation by any other means implies we can somehow earn God’s grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10
To distill all this; you can study Scripture, pray diligently, give your money to charity, and serve those around you: that’s not what’s going to save you. It is by grace through faith alone that we are saved. But, my guess is the majority of you reading this know that. I mean, that’s Sunday School 101, right?
We understand that our works won’t save us, but they do matter. As Martin Luther says: God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does. Luther didn’t come up with that. It’s Biblical.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 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 they needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17
Now, are there situations where all we can do is pray? Absolutely. There are times where there isn’t much we can do to help the situation besides pray. But, how often are we able to help a situation and we just…don’t. We assure the person we’ll pray for them instead of helping that person.
For example, a few months ago, a friend of mine made me aware that her niece was having heart surgery. Her niece is a baby. If you know me personally, you know I have perpetual baby-fever. I mean, I just love babies. To think of a baby going through such a major surgery…I’m getting a little teary-eyed just typing this. I can’t handle sick babies.
When it came to the baby’s health, all we could do was pray. We prayed for every doctor and nurse who would be operating on that child. We prayed God would steady their hands and sharpen their minds. We prayed for the parents; that God would give them comfort and peace during such a difficult time.
However, we knew this child’s mom and dad were struggling. They had taken much time off work, had traveled back and forth quite a bit, and were eating many meals at restaurants. On top of having a sick child, they were stressing about finances. So, we got organized and collected some money for them. We wrote them a check and got them a few gift cards for gas stations and restaurants. I don’t say this to brag, I say this to remind us all that there is usually something we can do.
Opportunities to serve are all around us, try not to miss them
Now, how does all this relate to God’s sovereignty? How often do we hear Christians say, “Well, it’s all in God’s hands” or “Let go and let God”? Generally speaking, these are not bad sentiments, but if we examine them contextually, they have the potential to generate an attitude of laziness.
Recently, a member of my Bible study was telling me a story. She said that her husband wanted to buy some sort of new electronic that was on that market. She reminded her husband that this device was not in their budget. He replied by saying, “Well, God will provide!”. Her response was: “Umm…that’s not how it works. We can’t spent our money on our wants instead of our needs and expect God to magically refill our bank account.” She was correct.
I also heard a pastor say that many Christians will pray over their finances. Sometimes, God answers their prayer by pointing them to a job opportunity. They don’t take it. That’s not what they want. They want to find a winning lottery ticket or a sack full of money laying on their porch. That’s rarely how God works. His sovereignty shouldn’t make us lazy.
We need to obey God. That’s what it all comes down to. Yes, God is sovereign, He is in control. That doesn’t mean the rest of our life is a vacation where in which we have no responsibilities. It also doesn’t mean we refuse to serve those in need because God will handle it. Perhaps, God will use you to answer someone’s prayers.
Matthew 20:28 says that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. We should follow his example.
Take care and God bless