Finding a balance between faith and works can be difficult. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting what we do instead of trusting what God has promised. Thankfully, there are examples of how faith and works unite to bring us into all God’s blessings.
God promises plainly.
God is very careful when he makes his promises because he plans to keep them. He promises very plainly and repeatedly so that his people know where and on what to put their hope. In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham a child, a nation, and land. He’s specific about the promises, and he repeats them to Abraham several times. Why? There are many reasons, but primarily so Abraham could remember the promise and who did the promising. It was God who would bring the child, establish the nation, and bring Abraham’s descendants into the promised land. While Abraham may not understand all the ramifications or details, he knows exactly what God has promised him. It would be impossible to have faith in God if we didn’t know who God was, what God promised, or what God expected. Thankfully, God is very careful to show us those things plainly and repeatedly.
God keeps his promises.
Abraham lived his life based on his trust that God would do what he said. When God called Abraham to go to a new home, he trusted and obeyed. He believed there was a place God was giving to him. Throughout the Bible, God keeps his promises. The Lord gave Abraham a child, brought Israel into the promised land, and established a nation with laws and priests to guide them. Joshua 21.45 even says, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” When God says he’s going to do something, God delivers. We have faith in God because God has proven himself worthy of our trust. From Genesis through Revelation, the Lord proves he fulfills his promises. God may not work in the time frame or way we expected, but God always works toward and precisely fulfills what he promised.
God expects effort.
The balance of faith and works does not exclude human effort. That should be obvious in the word “works”. When God brought Abraham to the promised land in Genesis 13, he says in verse 17, “Arise, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” This is strikingly similar to the promise God later gives to Israel in Deuteronomy 11.24 and Joshua 1.3: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” God was going to give the promised land to Israel, but they had to walk on it to get it. Did walking on the ground earn the land? Of course not! However, Israel had to keep that part of the promise. God only gave them the land they walked on. Nothing extra, nothing less. If they believed God, then they would walk everywhere the Lord told them to.
Faith and works unite and blessings.
When you look at maps of ancient Israel, they don’t match the borders of the land God promised. Why is that? God was true to his word; Israel only received a small portion of the Promised Land because they didn’t walk all over it. Their willingness to work corresponded directly to the blessings they received by promise. The more fully they trusted God and worked, the greater the blessing they received. Again, walking on the land didn’t earn it; every inch of dirt was a gift from the Lord. However, they were given nothing if they didn’t work faithfully. Rather than a battle between faith and works, the Scriptures show us that faith and works unite together to bring us into the fullness of God’s blessings.
Working and Walking in Faith
Ultimately, all the promises of God find their fulfillment in Jesus. Eternal life is the greatest blessing that God offers to us; we get to be with God forever. Just like the Israelites, God expects action on our part to receive that promise. If we sit idly by, we will miss out on the great blessings God offers through Christ. However, if we are faithful, then we will begin taking steps in our walk with Christ. The more we walk, the greater the blessings we receive. We aren’t earning our blessings any more than Israel earned the Promised Land, but if we don’t walk, we shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God.