“If you build it, he will come.” These mysterious words are spoken to the main character Ray in the opening of the classic movie, Field of Dreams. He first hears the line as he is walking through his corn field one evening just before sunset. The rest of the movie chronicles his journey to discern the meaning of the phrase and act accordingly. But imagine if the story were just about a man who hears strange voices and does nothing about them. It definitely wouldn’t be a very interesting movie. What draws in the audience is Ray’s desire to discern the meaning of the words and his efforts to obey.
In James 1 the author emphasizes the importance of doing something with what we hear. Like Ray, we are called by James to not only listen to the Word of God but do something with what we read.
James declares that anyone who only listens to the Word and does nothing with what he learns is deceiving himself. They may think their faith is sincere and true based upon the amount that they have heard and learned. However, if there is no action, no obedience to what is received, then their faith is shallow at best, and possibly fake.
James goes on to illustrate this point by comparing a hearer only to a man getting ready in the morning. He looks in the mirror before heading out the door. What he sees is not pretty. There is food in his teeth, his hair is a mess, he needs to shave, and there is even dirt on his face. He intently examines every area of need. But then he simply walks out the door, forgetting what he looks like, and doing nothing to change his appearance.
So is the person who spends time reading God’s Word, going to Bible studies, listening to sermons, and attending seminars. This person may even know the original languages of the text. But if they are not actually doing anything with that knowledge, well, their faith is shallow and phony.
To be clear, James is not at all against rigorous study of God’s Word, attending Bible studies, or listening to sermons. In fact he earlier mentions the importance of receiving with humility the truths of God’s Word and allowing them to sink deep into our souls. James simply does not want us to think the process is complete once we have received the Word. He is emphasizing the importance of letting the Word motivate us to action.
But let us not forget that the power and ability to do what the Word calls us to is not in and of ourselves. The same grace that saves us initially is the same grace we need to empower us to obey what we hear. And so, we must continually seek after God in prayer asking Him for the strength and power to obey what we hear in the Word.
But I think it is also important to allow others in on what God is saying to us through His Word. In Field of DreamsRay is quick to tell others of his experience. And it is with the help and support of his friends and family that Ray is able to unlock the mystery of the words. We too need help in our obedience to Scripture. It is vital for us to share with others what God is teaching us and humbly ask them to help us follow through with God’s leading.
What have you read or heard that you need to put into practice? Take time to ask God for the grace and power to do what He has called you to do. And then take a risk, reach out and share this plan with someone else who can help you and hold you accountable to what God is calling you to do.