After defeating the British at Saratoga, General Gates dispatched a courier to Philadelphia with the news. But he travelled so leisurely that the victory was announced in Congress before he arrived. It had long been a tradition to honor faithful army messengers, one delegate proposed a gift of a sword to the courier. However, since the man’s behavior had betrayed his trust; since he had been ordered to report good news to the colonies in a timely way, and he took his time doing it; since where action was demanded, he lingered, where haste was expected, he dawdled, John Witherspoon, a member of Congress, urged a substitute motion: give the courier, not a silver sword, but a pair of golden spurs.
The people of Israel in Isaiah’s time felt offended because the prophet kept criticizing their lives. What did God want anyway, they questioned? What did he expect from them? They believed; they offered sacrifices; they fasted. What more could God demand?
Action, Isaiah replied, 58:6-7. Life-altering, behavior-modifying action that turned faith into deeds and confession into practice. Where needs existed, to meet them; where help was demanded, to give it. But, above all, to act.
We are similar to the Israelites. We often substitute theory for fact and compliments for obedience. How easy it is to be moved to tears by the sight of hungry children; or by the benefits of starting new churches; or by the self-destructive behavior people practice, which conversion would begin remedying. But will we open our checkbooks and offer solid, personal assistance? Or, as needed, volunteer to be a servant of the Christ?
On movie locations, the last words before the Camera rolls are “Lights…Action….” Lights first so what is filmed can be seen. Action second so what’s filmed is in motion before Cameras roll. All three phases give the film its reality. Discipleship also involves three phases. One, learn about Jesus. Two, strategize how to effectively teach what we learned. Three, DO IT! All three together achieve Christ’s purpose in each disciple. Leaving any out limits our witness.