The man who gets things from God will act out his faith. James 2:17–26: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” What is a dead faith? It is a faith that is not working. It is a faith that is not operative. Real faith is not a passive thing; it will act out what it believes. It is a practical thing. It does not expect God to do the thing that we alone can do. A believing person puts faith into action. When he has asked God for something, he proceeds as if he possesses. When he takes God at His Word on some promise, the word changes into works, so far as he is concerned, and he proceeds exactly as if he already possessed the thing which he desired (which by believing faith he surely does), though the natural senses may deny every step of the way that which faith has claimed is true. This is often called the “stand of faith.”
A splendid illustration of this thought is the part of scripture where the lepers were told by Jesus to go show themselves to the priest for cleansing, and the scripture says, “as they went they were healed,” that is, as they put their faith into action God met them. If we put forth the effort of a believing will, God honors that step and meets us. In the case of the man with the withered arm, Jesus said, “Stretch forth thy hand.” It was really impossible for the man to stretch forth his hand, but when Christ commanded he made the effort and his hand was made perfectly whole.
The seat of faith is in the will, and I have found that God certainly expects us to put our faith into action. Some one has said, “When faith goes to market, it takes a basket along.” Like the old lady who was on the way to a prayer meeting, where they were going to pray for rain, for there was a drought, and it was very hot and dry. As she carried with her a fan, she was put to shame by her little faith, when she met on the way to this same meeting a little girl of eight, wearing overshoes, raincoat and carrying an umbrella. The following illustration is an example of what we mean by acting out your faith—proceeding as if possessing.
When pastor of a church in Wagoner, Oklahoma, there was a very consecrated Christian girl named Etta, who desired very much to go to Bible College and prepare for Christian service. For two years she prayed and waited for the money to come. In fact the last year that she remained at home praying and looking for the finances to be advanced for her schooling, she got deeply in debt, and it looked as though the schooling was an absolute impossibility. She came to me weeping and much discouraged. I asked her if she knew that it was God’s will for her to go, and she answered she was absolutely sure of that. Then I said, “I would certainly not wait any longer. You have been asking the Lord for the money for two years, but you have never really definitely claimed it or shown in any way by your actions that you are really expecting Him to send it. If you really believed He was going to answer your prayer and give you the funds for railroad fair, tuition, etc., what would you do?”
“I’d get my clothes ready and write the school that I was coming and make all the other arrangements preparatory to going,” she answered.
“Well, then that is exactly what I would do if I really believed God heard my prayer and it was His will for me to go. I would definitely stand on His promise and go right ahead making every arrangement, just as you would do, if you had the money in hand, for real faith will proceed as if it already had the money. If someone wired you they were sending the money, you would believe that little yellow slip of paper, only a telegram, but when God Himself has wired you through His precious Word and promised you most definitely to give you the desire of your heart, you do not believe Him but act exactly as if you were saying, ‘Oh, that’s only the Word of God; that doesn’t mean anything; I wish some man or woman would send me word they’d help me.’ “But, Mrs. Berg,” the dear girl answered, “I don’t feel that way about God’s Word. I’ll prove to you that I believe Him and trust His promises to the limit. I’m going home and pack my clothes and get ready now. School opens in a very short time, and I’ll have to hurry to get ready.” And that dear girl claimed a promise from God and never wavered from that moment. She went straight ahead with her preparations, just as if she already had the funds, so positive was she that God would not fail her, “And the bank of heaven would open its windows” (Malachi 3:10) at just the right time.
If this dear girl is reading this story now, she will smile with me as memory turns back to one peculiar incident that occurred during that preparation. She called me on the phone one day, in fact the very day before she was to leave, saying that her clothing was all ready, together with her other belongings, in neat piles in her room, but that she had no trunk. Over the phone we took the scripture promise “And He shall supply your every need, according to His riches in glory,” I went about my work forgetting the incident. About an hour later Mrs. Martin, a friend, called me over the phone, saying they were cleaning house and amongst a number of other things there was a trunk she had no use for, that was really in the way in the closet, and she wondered if I could use it. Laughingly, I told her she was filling an order from heaven, only she had the wrong address, and the Lord wanted the trunk sent to Etta’s home.
Next night a number of us went to the train to bid farewell to this dear girl, as she started to college. At the depot she whispered to me, “Sister Berg, the money hasn’t come yet, but I am not the least bit frightened, for I absolutely know the Lord has heard my prayer and I know ‘that I have the petition that I desired’“ (1 John 5:14–15). I will confess I was the least bit distressed and thought there must have been a mistake somewhere, for the Board of the church had told me they had taken up a little offering for her amongst themselves. As I was wondering about this, I heard the train whistle in the distance, and far away I saw the glow of the headlight. I noted Etta was earnestly watching my face. There was nothing to say. I could not help but wonder, but I knew that God did not dare fail such faith as hers. Suddenly a friend of ours, chairman of the Board at the time and a very active Christian worker, named Trollinger, came hurrying into the depot and up to us. He greeted us with these words, “I was doing some work at the office (just a couple of blocks away) when I heard the train whistle and thought of the money the men had given me to give to Etta, and here is some more, a gift from my wife and me.”
“And here is some,” said another voice—a friend of Mr. Trollinger who had met him hurrying to the depot.
“All aboard,” called the conductor, “all aboard.”
“All aboard God’s promises,” I said to Etta. “It pays, doesn’t it?”
“It’s wonderful,” she answered, “simply wonderful, what faith can do.”
And that is the story of one who dared to put faith into action; to proceed as if possessing; one who reckoned on the faithfulness of God.