Pastor Shawn Hannon, Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
We’re entering the time of resolution. Electronic cigarette sales are through the roof while time management books are flying off the shelves. People everywhere are setting goals to manage their stress, go back to school, or start another job. I myself have a resolution, but I would hardly call it new or identify it with the New Year. I want to lose weight and get in shape, and I know I’m not alone.
But there is one problem. On the eve of the first anniversary of my 29th birthday, I am having a harder time than ever accomplishing my never-ending goal to get in shape. You see, my workout plan has always been quite simple: workout often and hard enough so that I can eat anything I want. I am afraid, however, that this year’s supply of Christmas cookies may have something to say about that.
This reality, of course, leads to something that has always been a four-letter word in my book. It may be time to consider my diet too. You can get away with eating anything you want for a while, but real health means paying attention to both your diet and your exercise.
So often we look for health answers in workout programs like P90X or Zumba, but return home to half-gallons of ice cream or, in my case, one dozen extra-saucy, steroid-injected, delicious chicken wings. Or, on the other hand, we focus on the South Beach or Paleo-Diets but exercise as little as (or sometimes less than) before. But true health isn’t a choice between diet or exercise. True health means both.
I see and hear similar things from people when it comes to spirituality. There seems to be two camps of people—those of faith and those of works. The people of faith say, “I believe in a Creator,” and some are more specific saying, “I believe that Jesus died for me.” But, often those same people say, “…but I don’t feel the need to go to church to worship, or give my time and money to others.” These people are faithful people to be sure, but it is hard to see how it impacts their lives. On the other side of the argument are the people of works. They are folks who long to help those in need, but neglect to see what faith in Jesus has to do with that.
Obviously there is goodness in both groups, but often this dichotomy ends in both sides lifting up their stance and failing to see the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is, like physical health needing both diet and exercise, spiritual health needs both faith and works. Leaning on one may work for awhile (maybe even a lifetime), but it is not until we find balance in both that we live into the fullest measure of peace and joy that God wants for our lives.
2nd Corinthians 5:7 says, “…for we walk by faith…” Those five simple words sum it up nicely. How we live and the things we do must be informed by our faith, and, likewise, our faith is incomplete until it informs our ‘walk.’ For the best example of this we need only to look to Jesus whose faithfulness led him to the cross. We’re saved by both God’s faith and God’s work, and that’s how he calls us to live.
This isn’t a matter of salvation. Neither faith, works, or faith and works can merit us God’s grace. That’s his gift. And thank goodness because, like New Year’s resolutions, we will fail at our best attempts to ‘walk by faith’ far more often than we succeed. But unlike New Year’s resolutions, we don’t need to wait for January to start again. God’s grace comes to us new and calls us to live faithfully every day. So as we live into the New Year with our many resolutions, may we not forget this one: to grow in our faith as we increase our work.
Happy New Year,
Pastor Shawn Hannon