Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he “has faith” if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul? If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that? Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like—useless and dead. If we only “have faith” a man could easily challenge us by saying, “you say that you have faith and I have merely good actions. Well, all you can do is to show me a faith without corresponding actions, but I can show you by my actions that I have faith as well.” James 2:14-18
As I swam back and forth today, praying for my students, I was filled with a definite bubbling up joy. I am confident that God is going to show His face over the next two weeks as a few of them step out in good actions, no matter how shakily. It is a scary thing to be a slightly dorky freshman trying to talk over the buzz of big scary upperclassman who don’t even pause to look up at you when you are shaking in front of the classroom, making a challenge. And the bright green pledge cards, pledging to fast from all drinks besides tap water, are hole-punched and hanging by bright red ribbon outside my classroom door. And the strands of baby steps, baby steps grow every period.
And our thinking, what we believe is true, produces our actions. And quite honestly I think for many of my students, the word of God is useless and dead. It’s just what we talk about, what we say. What we really believe in is sipping frothed cappuccinos and extra large sodas from QT, exchanging instagram shots and blasting up to the next level in Candy Crush. That’s what we do.
But God is faithful.
And He says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
And He says, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
And it’s kind of funny. I was thinking about this verse too, as I was swimming back and forth under the just rising sun. And how all of this started for me, this life of corresponding actions.
So I did this chapel talk this week. And my opening slide showed a wide-eyed and very young bride and groom. And because we were barely recovering from the seventies, I had flowers in my hair and Alan wore a homemade shirt and a black wool tuxedo that he bought from Goodwill for five bucks. For an outdoor wedding in May in Tucson, Arizona. Wide-eyed and ready for life.
And this verse about giving was the sort of leaping off point of our life together. And we were certainly wondering, wide-eyed, what it meant.
And then I clicked the PowerPoint clicker, and the line, “You never know when God will get your attention,” flashed up. And the next shot was Hurricane David. Getting my attention.
And Hurricane David was the strongest and deadliest hurricane of the 1979 hurricane season. And it slammed into the Dominican Republic as a Category 5 hurricane, and so many people were killed that the name David was retired for naming hurricanes. And I applied to go do a short-term mission thing there over Thanksgiving Break, and when I got selected, I had to go look up in my atlas where the Dominican Republic was, because I had no idea and I sort of thought it was near Africa, even though I was a senior in college.
And I was sitting in a cornfield behind the warehouse that the short-term team was sleeping in, being a good kid doing her quiet time and journaling because of an inspiring talk by Tony Campelo, when I heard God speak to me. Really. Totally random and out of the blue. The blue sky. In the middle of a cornfield.
And yes, this Voice quoted this verse to me, the Give and it will be given to you verse, in New American Standard Version because that is what we used at Wheaton College. And the Voice said that if Alan quoted this verse to me when I returned back to school, then I was to marry him. And, because I was a good kid, I wrote it down in my journal.
And when I got back to Wheaton, Alan was asleep on the couch, and I woke him up and said I was back. And he said, “Wait, wait, I have to tell you this dream I just had. I dreamed that I died and went to heaven and there was this big warehouse. Over the door were the words: Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
And Alan went into the warehouse and it was full of amazing wonderful heaping and overflowing things. And here our memories differ a bit. I remember him saying that he felt a little sad, because his pile was so small, and he remembers feeling a little sad because he had never received all of the things in his pile, but the feeling was the same.
Just then Jesus came in. And Alan knew He was Jesus, even though he had weird facial hair. And Jesus said, “Dear, beloved Alan. I had so much good for you. But remember, first you need to give it all to me. Remember, Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
And they hugged and that was the end of the dream.
And somehow after that, Alan and I found ourselves back in the cornfields of the Dominican Republic, learning how to give. And learning that God’s scoop is so much bigger and pressed down, shaken together, and running over that we can imagine.
And so I stand on tippy-toe, looking forward to this fast, the fast that He has chosen. And I have no idea what will happen, except for one thing. That He is faithful.
Faithful in chasing down His wandering, distracted sheep. Ready to open up the floodgate of blessing. If we can just glance up from our texting and instagrams.