There is one fundamental point we need to recognize from James’ letter: We cannot know God unless our faith is put into action. It is not possible to know God in a theoretical manner. More importantly, we cannot know God if we are not working to establish the reign of God. If we are not a part of “Bringing good news to the oppressed, binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives and comforting those who mourn;” then we will be incapable of knowing or understanding God’s presence.
This is one of the challenges we find among Western Christians today. There is a tendency to equate our practice of our faith with attending worship, or with other ways of nurturing our personal spiritual life through prayer or studying scripture. While these are also very important parts of a healthy Christian life, they are not effective unless we are working to accomplish bringing Christ’s love into the world.
We fill this need for placing our faith into motion when we are using our particular gifts or abilities to serve God. Sometimes finding our gift, and discovering our unique ways of serving God takes some practice and discernment. It is a question of what makes “our heart sing.” In some circumstances it is a gift which we use in the context of everyday life. There are many people whose vocation involves working with people, and their gift is to offer Christ’s love and compassion in their everyday communication. There are others for whom their gifts involve working toward particular projects or missions. Still others have gifts that equip other Christians to serve or learn. What is important is that you are using your gifts, fulfilling the purpose and personal mission that connects you to the heart of God.
This need and ability is not age related or affected by our own impairments. Everyone has a role to serve God and opportunities to do so. Our challenge is to be willing and open to God’s direction. We need to be prepared to learn how God might use us. That preparation includes listening to our own heart, asking individuals who know us well and who are wise about what gifts they see within us, and trying new things. The Apostle Paul identified a range of gifts (1 Corinthians 12) including leadership, preaching, teaching, hospitality (which is more than just throwing a party), prophecy, and others; all which he considered essential. The different gifts were complimentary, but each unique. All of these gifts flowed out of the relationship of the individual’s relationship with God. We need to be more expectant that all those in the church will be using their own gifts to serve and to accomplish Christ’s work.
As we continue through this time of focusing upon our relationship with Christ and our role as stewards, I invite you to consider, “What is your personal mission and purpose?” What has God uniquely empowered you to accomplish, what gifts have you been given to use. And then, as the Holy Spirit leads, look forward to growing through the joy of being part of God’s love coming into the world.