“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have
faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (James 2:14, NLT)
It’s official: the world is coming to an end.
At least that is what a lot of people are talking about these days. The latest end-of-the-world fad surrounds the date of December 21, 2012. Apparently Nostradamus and the ancient Mayans are in agreement on this one, so more people claim to believe it. There’s even a movie coming out this fall called “2012,” so we can all get a sneak preview of our demise.
But it’s not just limited to ancient pagan cultures and mystics. Google “end times” and you will find dozens of books purportedly by Christians that will tell you of the coming apocalypse. (There is one still for sale that claims God will destroy the world in 2008, but I’m sure the author has a good explanation for that one.)
I have no desire to ignite an end times debate, but recently my pastor said something in passing that caught my attention. He said that the word “believe” essentially means “by live.” While not completely etymologically accurate, it is true that what we really believe is what we will really live by — or at least try. Let’s face it, if people really believed that the world was coming to an end in the near future, would they go to work? If I really thought that there would be no 2013, I would not save money, send my kids to school, bother paying taxes or even mow my lawn. If I believed that the end was near, I would live that way.
Worldwide destruction aside, there is an important daily application of this principle. It’s easy to say that we believe the Bible, but sometimes it seems difficult to live by it. Which raises the question: what do we really believe?
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith,” Paul wrote in Second Corinthians. He realized that our beliefs should translate to our thoughts, words and actions. Otherwise, it raises doubts as to what we really believe. Of course, none of us is perfect, so there is a lifelong struggle to align our old nature with our new spirit. So I have developed a new exercise for self-examination that I will share with you.
From now on, substitute the word “believe” with the phrase “live by.” Instead of saying, “I believe in daily prayer,” say, “I live by daily prayer.” If the second declaration is true, then so is the first one. If not, there is a disconnection. I’m not trying to put anyone on a guilt trip, because I’m primarily talking to myself. When I ran through a short list of things I believe, it forced me to examine my certitude when making the substitution. For example:
- I “live by” studying God’s Word every day.
- I “live by” the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
- I “live by” the omnipresence of God. He is with me every moment of the day.
- I “live by” an unashamed witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) In other words, if we believe that we love him, we will live by his commandments. How can something so simple seem so hard? Just before Paul tells us to examine ourselves, he says that “we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him….” This natural weakness can only be overcome by a supernatural presence. In a sense, Paul is calling our bluff. It’s easy to talk a big game, but what do we have when we hit the field?
There has always been criticism of hypocrisy among Christians. Of course, that is true because we hold to a standard that is beyond our own capabilities. If we believed that right and wrong did not exist, I suppose we could escape all form of hypocrisy and let all evil run rampant, but we choose to follow God’s Word and strive to align our lives accordingly, even though we sometimes fail. This is where the glory lies. Yes, we believe in something that is more wonderful than human nature. Yes, we believe that we can be transformed by the grace of God into better people. And that is why it should be a daily exercise to turn what we “believe” into what we “by live.”
Examine your beliefs and see if they translate into your words, thoughts and actions.
“Jesus, transform my life every day so that I live by Your words. Help me declare what I believe in how I live.”