“Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all?” (James 2:20)
So what do I always say when I perform a wedding ceremony? I look the trembling, starry-eyed, goose-bumped, giddy-with-joy couple right in the eyes and say with sober seriousness: “Make no mistake about it: marriage is hard work!”
Call me cruel or a kill joy. That’s okay; I just consider myself a realist. What’s at stake here is not merely the construction of a romantic moment, but the building of a highway that leads to healthy life together and away from the hell of divorce.
After all, it’s not how much money you spend on the ceremony that makes the vows last. It’s not how many people show up or what gifts they bring that will keep your love intact and thriving through thick and thin times. It’s not the extravagance of the honeymoon destination that welds two into one. All of those things have no real value when it comes to signing, sealing, and delivering a lay-down-your-life-for-another sort of love every day for a lifetime.
No, we all know what’s required. It’s work. It’s trying. It’s effort. It’s action. And it’s doing all of that over and over and over again until death you do part.
We understand that when it comes to placing our faith in another human bring. Well, the same is true when it comes to placing our faith in the living God. Faith calls for faithfulness or else it is no faith at all.
That’s what my brother James, the realist, is saying here. And he’s not alone in saying it.
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to.” (Luke 13:24)
“… make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” (Ephesians 4:3)
“… we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
“Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker …” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“… let’s make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience …” (Hebrews 4:11)
“God isn’t unjust so that he forgets your efforts and the love you have shown for his name’s sake when you served and continue to serve God’s holy people. But we desperately want each of you to show the same effort to make your hope sure until the end.” (Hebrews 6:10-11)
“This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
“… make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless.” (2 Peter 3:14)
Putting your faith in God and then living out that faith, that’s what it’s all about. In sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth. It’s saying “I do” and then, well, doing it.
“Are you honestly this slow to catch on? Must you be shown that believing without behaving is worthless?” (James 2:20 DSV)
Father God, in the name of Jesus, may I make a real effort today to show you just how much I love you. Amen.