What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17 NKJV
As I think back to my early years as a believer, and the first time I thought seriously about this passage and the subject of works, I recall thinking that the idea of works was referring to something great and marvelous accomplished in service to God. The problem with what I was thinking, however, was that I was thinking in terms of what might be great in the eyes of the world rather than in the eyes of God. I think it possible that many of us believe we lack what is necessary to accomplish great things for God when a close look at this passage reveals that simple acts of kindness are seen as great in God’s eyes.
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20 NKJV
I confess that I have often looked at others that God has blessed with ministries which reach thousands and felt that what little I might manage to accomplish in serving God is somehow inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. Yet if you look closely, there are numerous examples in the Word of recognition given to people for doing the smallest and simplest of things in service to God. Paul is a perfect example of someone we look at as accomplishing great things for God, who when approaching his death, took the time to specifically thank by name all of those who had done the little, simple acts of kindness which helped him in his ministry.
All believers are expected to produce good works for the glory of our Father in heaven. We all are also equipped by God to perform whatever work He has planned for us. Simple or complex, great or small, every work done for His glory is important in His eyes and can be used by Him to accomplish great things. Nothing done for the glory of God will ever be too small or inconsequential in His eyes. Yet in order to produce the good works that God intends for us, we must first prepare ourselves in order to be ready for God to use us. Here are just three steps I believe that the Word tells us are essential for preparing to serve God.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 NKJV
Cleanse implies making the choice to do what is necessary in order to be used by God for His purposes. We take a shower or bath because we acknowledge the fact that left to itself, the body will naturally begin to produce an odor. Our spiritual body will, if not cleansed of sin, produce an odor as well. We need to understand that in order for God to use us, we must confess our sin, and allow Him to cleanse us so that He can use us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NKJV
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV
Flee means to turn our back on what is wrong, in order to be used by God for what is right. The Greek word for flee means to run away from or seek safety by flight. The idea here is not just to mentally acknowledge something might be wrong, but to physically turn your back on, and run away from, whatever could turn you away from serving God. It is a total change of direction. Say no to wrong first, then we can say yes to right.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 NKJV
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 NKJV
Pursue, as it is used here, means to run swiftly after in order to catch. I think many times we as believers might fall into the trap of thinking that these attributes are simply gifts given to us and will appear as needed. Paul makes it clear to Timothy, and to us, that these are things that we will need to strive to catch in order to make a part of our lives.
Righteousness is right behavior. Doing good works starts with simply doing what is right in God’s eyes. Godliness is reverence and respect for God as the motivation to do good works. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Spending time in God’s Word shows us what our faith is in. Love is a choice. Good works should be directed towards all, no matter who or what they may be. Patience is steadfast endurance, understanding that no matter how it is received, God is glorified by our efforts. Gentleness is the spirit we will obtain as a result of all of these.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
People remember the smallest acts of kindness. May we be remembered as believers who cared enough to do the little things for those around us, just as Jesus did.